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  • Another moonless night in December

    Another moonless night in December
    By Darren Mikula
    I launched from one of my usual spot on the south shore around eight o’clock PM; high tide was at 10:30 so I hurried into the darkness to catch the last two hours of the flood tide.

    Once again it was another wicked dark night, the moon had still not risen from the eastern sky and the clouds were doing their best not to allow any star light through.
    To add to my blindness, I would not get any help from my electronics. Despite a fully charged battery and re-checking all the connections, this was a problem that would have to wait ‘til the light of day to resolve. I am no stranger to going without the aid of electronics, but will admit that I enjoy knowing surface water temperature, ground speed, and my depth… not to mention a GPS to confirm my location. I could do without some of the trivial information but I would need to know where I was going and more importantly, how to get back. So I took stock of some of the shore based lights and buoys in the area and was able to guide myself the old fashioned way.

    Leaving the protective cove I passed a large shoal that jutted out into the bay, I turned south and ran parallel to the shore about one-hundred and fifty yards out. I was already trolling my live eel, but at the speed I was traveling I am sure that it was being pulled along the surface like an unwilling water skier.

    With the help of a super bright “sure fire” flashlight I was able to find the channel marker that I was looking for. I change my coarse and headed due south. My intention was to pass the boating channel then continue heading west to troll along an area of skinny water.

    Well less than two minutes into my crossing I see something out of the corner of my eye. Despite the darkness it was quite obvious that there was something at the surface that was not there just moments before. I quickly reach for my flashlight and shined it in the direction of the basket ball sized object in the water. To my surprise it had two huge eyes and they where looking right at me. I knew almost instantly that it was a seal, but was very startled never the less. In my experience with seals they are very curious creatures, but normally from some distance. This particular seal was less than six feet and coming straight at my kayak. I turned hard to port keeping the flashlight directly on it. I watched as it slipped just beneath the waters surface coming after me, easily doubling my fastest speed and putting my maneuverability to shame. By now my adrenalin is pumping pretty hard, I am very unsure of this animal’s intention. Was it just curiously playing in the wake that my kayak was making or was it being territorial of its new fishing grounds?

    I did not want to take any chances seeing how the air temperature was hovering in the mid thirties and the water temperature in the upper forties. Even with my protective clothing an unexpected dip could have proven to be fatal. With my Hobbie Mirage drive I was able to convert my adrenalin into peddling power, maneuver, and still keep a light on my new friend. It seemed undisturbed by my bright LED light and repeated shouts of “Hey get outta here”! Finally after a few more “to close for comfort” encounters it slipped under the waves and finally disappeared from sight.

    It was just a few days prior while fishing with some friends in the same area that we noticed a lone seal within the proximity of my encounter. I can only assume that it was one and the same. Perhaps it had laid claim to that area and was letting me know that trespassers will not be tolerated. Needless to say I am quite embarrassed to have been so afraid of such a cute and loved animal but I am sure that most people in my position would have felt the same way. That being those people who would go kayak fishing on a moonless night in December alone.

    Well after my brief but terrifying experience I was back to the business of “fishing”. Once I reached the spot where a friend of mine caught his personal best from his kayak, a forty four inch stripped bass weighing 26 pounds, just the other day, I tried to stop thinking that every crashing wave was not the crazed seal coming to finish me off. I finally heard the sound that I truly love, line rapidly ripping from my reel. Yes… I was into a fish and yes… I did wonder whether or not my seal had acquired the taste for fresh eel before I set the hook. It was a short but exciting fight, so many emotions in such a short period of time; anticipation, fear, excitement, adrenalin and endorphins where definitely pumping through my body. I landed the fish and it’s a fat thirty two inch bass. Once the hook was safely removed, the fish was placed back in the water and happily splashed me with its tail as it swam out of site.

    By this time the clouds started to disburse but with the clear skies came the wind. It was blowing ten to fifteen knots with stronger gusts, but the area that I was fishing was slightly protected from waves so I re-baited my hook and began another drift. By now most of the clouds were gone reveling a beautiful star lit sky. The stars seemed to be distant and did not provide much help with the darkness but were still a welcomed sight. Within thirty minutes of releasing my catch another fish had shown interest in the bait and the adrenalin was pumping again. This time the fight was a little more intense, two nice run offs and a lot of surface splashing, it seemed like this was a much bigger fish than the last and my excitement grew as I got closer to landing it.

    It turned out to be only two inches longer than my first fish but clearly had much more fight in it. Another clean hook in the lip so this fish would also be set free. By now the winds are starting to howl, the high pitch wine that comes from the wind blowing through my braided line is getting louder and my safety flag joins in with some loud flapping of its own. The wind increased the size of the waves and now I am surrounded by crashing white caps. I decided to call it a night and begin to battle my way cross the wind swept waves to the safety of the cove that I launched from. The kayak is pitching and rolling and there are waves breaking over the side. Finally I reached the cove and notice the moon rising to the east. It was an omnibus orange red and split perfectly ,diagonally in half. It looks surreal like something from a science fiction movie.

    A large white crane takes flight and a group of swans reluctantly move out of my way. Just a few more minutes and I will be on my way home to my family. I slow my pace and begon to think about how soon winter’s grip will prevent me from enjoying my solitude on the water. In my mind I relive the night that I just had and try to retain all the details, not just for the sake of writing, but to truly savor the pursuit of my passion, for tomorrow will surely be another hectic day.
    This article is (C) by Darren Mikula and reprinted with his permission. Darren is a KFA-NY member and serves on the Board of Directors.