From the Locks to the Rocks

By Capt. Craig Hensel

What’s going on guys and gals! I hope everyone is doing wonderful and enjoying their summer! Things are definitely heating up; I mean just a month ago we were enjoying those nice brisk mornings and then BAM—SUMMER!!! Well it’s here to stay for hopefully a short time. These temperatures have had things all sorts of messed up. From the rain, flooding, humidity and triple digit heat indexes ugh.. Like a good friend of mine Robert Kitchen says we should change our State name from North Carolina to North Carizona.

Well let’s jump right into things. So with the highs being in the 90’s our water temperatures have skyrocketed overnight. I have been doing more nighttime fishing trips than day trips here recently, but I did have an amazing trip here recently that I want to share with you guys. I received a phone call from a young lady wanting to book a trip for her husband and three boys for an experience. She explained to me that none of them have ever been fishing before. She also explained that the kids have never been on a boat before. The first thing I told her was, “ok, no pressure,” ha-ha. So after meeting with her and letting her see the vessel and going over what the day would consist of she was like let’s do it.

Well she told me that it was going to be a surprise to all of them, she was going to wake them up at 6:30 in the morning and drive them to the boat ramp. I was like oh boy, they’re either going to be for it or against it. Let’s hope for the best plan for the worst. Well that night I could hardly sleep. I planned on where I was going to take them so that they could get on a variety of fish and stay busy reeling fish in all morning and let me tell you that’s exactly what happened.

So I’m on the water at 6 am getting everything ready, doing my rigging, getting life jackets ready all that good stuff. Well they show up before their scheduled time and I could hear them from the parking lot full of excitement. Hearing that got me more excited to get them on board. Well as they walked down the dock I think it hit them, oh man what are we about to do, who is this guy and that’s a lot of water under that boat. I could see the kids were a little nervous at that moment, but I broke that nervousness instantly with a little joking around.

As the kids boarded the boat I had them don their life vests and explained a few safety things and told them at any point they feel nervous to say something and we will come back to the dock. Well as we shove off I explained that I was not going to go very fast at first that we would work up to it. They were a bit hesitant at first but once we got on plane all I could hear behind me was, “FASTER!! FASTER!! FASTER!!” I looked over at the father and said, “Well I guess they’re good, are you good with going faster?” He says, “hit it.” So I lay into the throttle, and we are off!

I get it up to around 50mph and we are cruising. These kids are having the time of their life. I took them about 9 miles down the river to a guaranteed catch spot. As soon as I drop the trolling motor and put it on spot lock I turn around and have them pick a rod they wanted to use for the day and had them come to the front of the boat so I could explain how to cast and reel and bait their hooks, and what not to hook each other. I literally showed these boys one time and they took to it like they have done this before. I could not believe my eyes. As soon as their lines hit the water these boys were in the fish, back to back, none stop. Now I had to bait some hooks and undo lines around rod tips a few times. They kept me busy all morning netting fish, taking fish off the hooks, it was like this for a couple of hours. They booked a 4 hour trip, but these kids were having so much fun I gave them a little more time. I really didn’t want it to end more than they did.

Well as they’re catching fish the competitiveness started coming out and I just can’t explain how much fun these kids were having. Dad caught his fair share of fish, but he was having just as much fun as I was watching his boys wear the fish out. Now you know as well as I do, that when you have some first timers on the boat something amazing is going to happen. Well that finally happened. I was baiting a hook for the youngest boy and all of a sudden at the bow of the boat the oldest son yells, “I’ve got something BIG!!” Let me tell you guys that Zebco 33 reel was screaming as hard as it could almost to the point of smoking.

I turned and looked towards his line and this fish was heading for deep water under the boat. My first thought is, if he loses this fish I’m going in after it. So I had him come to the back of the boat with me and told him, “Hold that rod up and reel, reel, reel, you’re doing an awesome job.” Well it finally comes up beside the boat and it’s a big Hybrid Striped Bass for this stretch of river. This thing takes off again but this time straight for the motor, the line goes over the prop and I’m praying, LORD PLEASE don’t let this fish come off. I go to the back of the boat and before I could get back there, he gets that fish off the prop and pulls him to the side of the boat. I reached for the net and swooped him as fast as I could. He pulled that fish up on a number 2 Aberdeen hook with 6lb test.

Let me tell you when that fish hit the deck, World War 3 started among his other brothers, ha-ha. It was on from there. These boys fished their hearts out trying to beat their big brother. I couldn’t have been happier for them. Trips like this is what makes me want to get up every morning and do this for the rest of my life. I was so nervous that these kids weren’t going to be into fishing, but they sure had the time of their lives, and I’m so thankful to have been a part of it. These boys caught well over 100 fish that day.

Guys if you ever get the chance to take a kid fishing do not pass it up. They are the next generation coming up in this sport. It’s always a pleasure here at AWOL Fishing Charters to get families out on the water for memories like this. Until next time, keep those lines tight, rod tips up and catch a big’un! See y’all on the water!

Capt. Craig

Captain Craig Hensel, AWOL Fishing Charters with Capt. Craig Inc. – 910-916-3138.