TopKayaker.Net: Guide To Kayak Fishing

Kayak Fisherman in OK Prowler Yak Attack! By John D. Clapp
A La Jolla fisherman hires a guide to help him find out if kayak fishing is for him.

To get started, kayak fishing you may decide to hire a kayak fishing guide. This is supposing that you already have a few kayaking skills under your belt. If not see: TWO SIMPLE GUIDELINES BEFORE DIVING OR FISHING FROM A KAYAK by Tom Holtey. John Clapp of La Jolla California did hire a kayak fishing guide. Here is his story, along with some tips from a Kayak Fishing Guide well recommended in his community.

The daydream went something like this: I am fishing alone on a beautiful kelp paddy, atop a plastic kayak a couple of inches off the calm water. A cute seal basks in the morning sun in an adjacent kelp paddy. As the birds circle above, my line tightens then the glorious clicking sound of my drag being tested breaks the silence. Photo by Tom Holtey, "Chuck & Scupper Pro at Ka'awa"

Somewhere in the depths below me a large white sea bass is pulling on my line. Maybe she is 50 pounds. I fight the fish for a few exhilarating minutes before gaffing my trophy for the day. Taking a breath and admiring the beautiful setting, I think, "This really beats the damn cattle boats. This is what fishing is meant to be.

That was my vision of open water kayak fishing. I'd read in the paper about local San Diego anglers landing big thresher sharks and yellowtail from kayaks. One local guide even hooked into a marlin that towed him eight miles out into the Pacific before breaking off! Kayak fishing seemed like it had it all-it was inexpensive, you could get to big fish on the ocean or back into the tullies on a lake, it had an element of adventure to it, and you didn't have to hassle with the endless tangles experienced on the half-day charter boats.

As a gear junkie, the thought of all the new toys associated with this new type of fishing made me giddy. The idea was so appealing, in fact, that only the fear of my wife's wrath kept from running out and buying a kayak. After much restraint and mental debate, I decided it was best to take a guided lesson before buying a "yak." After some research, I chose to spend a day at "kayak school" with one of California's leading kayak fishing outfitters.

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I met my guide at the La Jolla Shores boat launch area at 6:15 a.m. When I pulled my truck onto the beach, the sky was gray and the sea air had a slight nip to it. The sight and smell of the ocean was both exciting and anxiety provoking. The possibilities of big fish coupled with a slight fear of the ocean clashed within my mind. My guide, Chris, was about 28 years old, tall, slim, friendly, and professional. Chris spent the first hour of the morning explaining various types of rigging, gear and fishing tactics specific to open ocean kayak fishing.

The key points of the morning's lecture were that everything must be lashed to the deck, water sensitive items must be stowed in dry bags or waterproof boxes, and the surf zone is the most challenging aspect of this type of fishing. We talked at length about Fish Trap lures, Penn reels, rod holders, paddle clips, paddles, kayak brands and the like. I was impressed by the thought that went into rigging the kayak to make it functional and safe for ocean fishing. This technical portion of the day appealed to my gear fetish and helped calm my anxiety.

Unfortunately, my anxiety rocketed back when Chris ended the lecture with a warning: "There has been a lot of shark activity out here lately and some of them get pretty big and aggressive. Those bull sea lions can get nasty too. When you hook or gaff a fish, you need to contain the bleeding. If a sea lion or shark wants your fish let 'em take it." Taking his warning to heart, I had to wonder what kind of psycho would fight a shark or a 600-pound bull sea lion for a fish?

The butterflies continued as I entered my kayak-an Ocean Scrambler XT-and the cold water slapped my knees. Anxiety turned to terror, then quickly to survival concentration as my yak and I were pummeled by a set of waves that was double the size of all the previous sets that morning. As I made my way outside of the surf line, I was drenched by a large wave that broke over the bow and my head, almost pitch-poling the kayak. Wet, cold, adrenaline pumping, I waited for Chris to launch and wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into. Chris joined me about five minutes later commenting that my launch was really good given that "the surf really picked up when you headed out."

John Steinbeck wrote about La Jolla cove in Cannery Row. In his early 20th century California, La Jolla was an undeveloped wilderness that butted up to the sea. Now, La Jolla is home to outrageously expensive condos and resorts on the east shore (beach) and multi-million dollar homes and swanky business on the cliffs that line the cove to the south. Similar to Steinbeck's time, the cliffs still soar to over 100 feet, with sea caves scattered along their base. The setting is still dramatic and beautiful, if not somewhat spoiled by urbanization.

Much of the La Jolla Shores is a game preserve, so we had to paddle close to a mile to reach an area that where fishing was legal. The paddling was actually fairly easy and the boat felt pretty stable as we made our way out to the kelp beds. However, at 240lbs plus an additional 20 or so in gear, I knew I was pushing the yak's weight limit.

The swell was one to three feet (average size according to Chris) and coming in regular, quick sets (more frequent than normal according to Chris). With each roller, Chris disappeared from view, his image being replaced by a wall of water. At one point, I began to feel seasick and a bit panicky. Given that I already had on a seasick prevention patch, I was even more concerned. Paddling and puking did not seem like a fun combination. Luckily this feeling passed quickly and the patch did its thing at the critical time. For those few tense and anxious moments, I was glad I had a first aid kit loaded with drugs for maladies ranging from seasickness and panic to snake bites.

After about twenty minutes of paddling, we arrived at the kelp beds. Chris noted that the bird activity was a great sign. In fact, chasing swarming birds is the best way to find fish while kayak fishing. Unfortunately, the birds must have been wrong, because Chris and I had little luck at the first spot we tried. The only sea life we encountered was a couple of California sea lions. Although less disconcerting than sharks, the thought of a big sea lion crashing into the small piece of plastic I was sitting on was unnerving. Suddenly my romantic mental image of seals being cute little playful creatures was replaced by something more akin to an ocean pit bull.

My concern escalated when a very large sea lion popped up within a few inches of my boat and gave me the once over with a maniacal look in his cold black eyes and a toothy grin. Without any of the concern I was feeling Chris noted, "Wow, they really seem to like you. They usually don't come that close to the kayaks."

We tried a few more spots. After an hour without luck, Chris suggested that we "make bait." Making bait entails chumming with bread to bring smelt and anchovies to the surface, then catching them with a rig that has five small jigs on it. Bait making was going slowly, with Chris chumming and me jigging. What should have been an easy and uneventful process, was made much more exciting when I managed to capsize my kayak and go head first into a kelp paddy that was, only seconds before, home to two fairly large sea lions.

After I bobbed up (my life vest worked!), Chris and I exchanged shocked looks. He then calmly talked me through saving our gear (miraculously we lost nothing) and getting back onto the yak. Soaked to the bone and fearing a rouge sea lion attack, I managed to get back on the boat on my first try. I took little solace in the fact that I was, as Chris observed, "one of the best 'self-rescuers'" he had seen. He told me that his clients fell off the yaks all the time, and while they could typically right the boat, they often experienced problems getting back on. Perhaps these clients were sleeping through the shark portion of his lecture.

We tried several more spots parallel to La Jolla Shores. Our last spot was a deep canyon about a mile off shore. The swell had grown as the morning progressed and I was getting a little concerned about the landing portion of the day. I was not looking forward to another dunking. However, sitting off shore on a fifty pound plastic boat was oddly calming as well. Despite all my fears-sharks, capsize, "ocean pit bulls", seasickness-I felt somehow relaxed. There was a very basic pleasure associated with being on the open sea in such a small craft, making the last half-hour of fishing strangely peaceful.

Finally, wet and tired, skunked and dunked, I called it a day and we headed in. Chris would have kept trying if I had suggested it; guides don't like striking out. Our landing was uneventful. It was easier to time swells from the backside and getting to the beach was aided by the surf. As we parted, Chris offered to let me participate in future "kayak schools" at no charge. I thanked him and headed home pondering whether yak fishing was for me.

About a $1000.00 and one month later, I was the proud owner of a fully rigged Cobra Fish N' Dive. Quickly tiring of fishing alone, a couple of months after that, I convinced my wife she needed her own kayak. I now own two fully rigged fishing yaks. My wife has only been out once, but her brother has been enjoying the fishing. As I've gained experience (I survived my first clash over a fish with a sea lion), landed some fish (still no monsters), and learned to control my boat (I haven't flipped since that first trip), my romantic vision of yak fishing is beginning to merge with reality. The only thing left is that trophy fish...

John D. Clapp is a professor who lives, teaches and fishes in the San Diego area. He is eagerly awaiting the time when technology will allow him to teach via "kayak cam."

Related Article: "Tips For Hiring A Kayak Fishing Guide" - Getting Started Kayak Fishing By Jim Sammons

Books / Video / DVD are available at Tom's TopKaker Shop:

by Tom Holtey

GeoOdyssey Publications,
ISBN 0-9668655-0-2

The best selling,
most complete book available for the beginner sit-on-top solo paddler.
Clicking on the book will bring you to our detailed discription, page samples & reviews, as well as a link to purchase.

dennis spike videoTHE KAYAK FISHING VIDEO / DVD:
Retails for $29.95

This is famed kayak fisherman Dennis Spike's instruction video. Filmed on the Sea of Cortez and California's Eastern Pacific.

ken daubertKayak Fishing for Tarpon DVD w/ Ken Daubert$29.95
From the author of the book KAYAKFISHING: The Revolution, Capt Ken Daubert gives the viewers an up close and personal kayak fishing for tarpon experience complete with all of the overhead jumps, strikes and rolls, including full body slams on the kayak.

by Ken Daubert
ISBN 0967809827
Geared for the Sit-on-top Kayaker, Mr. Daubert has created a unique and badly needed resource for the kayak fisherman. There is just about everything a fisherperson could need to know to integrate fishing with the popular sport of kayaking. Read An Excerpt

FISH THE FORUMS to get answers to your kayak fishing & diving questions.

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