It finally happened. My first ever kayak fishing trip. The decision was made to go all out and make it an open ocean, 3-mile paddle to the prime fishing grounds. After all, the “new guy” has to be initiated properly, right? Fortunately, my partner on this journey had the gear all taken care of, so all I had to do was show up.(One of the perks of working at ACK!)
We got an early jump by leaving the night before and doing some good old truck camping for the night. Not that much sleep was ever going to happen with the looming day ahead, but a nice little power nap did the trick. The gorgeous sunrise over the ocean will perk even the groggiest person, though. Once the light was upon us, it was time to break out the MSR Java Press to get the morning kick started. What a nice morning view over the glass like, dawn lit ocean. Coffee and morning views checked off, it was time to get to work.
The kayak I used was a Hobie Revolution 11 and my friend paddled a Hobie Outback. It was equipped with a fish bag, seat, basic PFD (first trip, no fishing PFD yet), and tackle box that fit in the dry well. Additions to my setup were 2 fishing rods (one for trolling, one for bottom fishing) with only one ACK Rod Leash (more on that later), Plano Dry Box for the cell phone, enough sunscreen for multiple applications, and plenty of water and snacks for a full day on the water.
As we began our 3-mile paddle out to the old oil rigs that would be our fishing grounds, I had some time to get used to the steering controls and paddling motion of the kayak. Just as I got comfortable, it was time to start trolling. I dropped the line and kept paddling and sure enough, maybe 15 minutes later, I got that exciting bend of the poll that indicates a fish on the line.
There it was, my first kayak fishing catch, a nice, tasty Spanish mackerel. Fish in the bag, line baited back up, it was time to do it again… and then it happened. When I began to paddle out, the kayak began to go in circles, instead of straight. My rudder was stuck! So I reeled in the line and got to work. Being a novice and about 2 miles from shore, there was no choice but to figure out the issue. I pulled up the rudder and put it back down, but in the process I leaned over to far to the right over I went. My first flip, about an hour into the trip. This was done strategically, to get it out of the way in the beginning, of course 😉 .
However, this is where the only one rod holder comes into play. Come to find out, unless a fishing rod has either a float or rod leash attached, it does not float. So my flip resulted in one lost rod and nothing else, which the guys say is relatively unscathed. Thank goodness for that dry box for the phone and that my fish bag was zipped.
Next up was my journey to find the rest of my group. We were near the first of 3 oil platforms and about an hour later, I found my group at the far side of the third and largest platform. All that work put in to find them, it was time to get my line wet again. Hooked up a bottom rig this time and hooked into a Saltwater Catfish this time. It is a good thing I had some experienced fisherman around me because they were able to aid me in unhooking it. If done improperly, this species of catfish can hit you with a poisonous barb that will leave you in 3 hours of agony. That doesn’t make for a fun trip, especially for a greenhorn.
After a bit of rig hopping, I switched back to the trolling rig at the large platform. A few passes back and forth and then my line took off. Either I was caught up on something or something large just took my bait. A lot of drag adjustments and reeling later, I finally saw what was on my line about 30 minutes later. It was a 5 foot, black tip shark. This is a strong animal with razors for teeth and now I had to figure out what I was going to do. I was 3 miles from shore on a kayak with a 5-foot shark at arm’s length away. I had a gaff onboard, but I didn’t have a bag large enough bag to store the beast in. Plus, the thought of pulling a shark onto my kayak or lap was slightly terrifying. We ended up cutting the line right at the mouth to minimize the negative impact on the animal. What an experience, my first ever kayak fishing trip and I catch a shark!
The rest of the day did not yield any more fish, but the day was already a success. Nonetheless, before we headed back to shore, my buddy brought along his spear gun and we paddled over a large school of Spade fish. This gave him the opportunity to use his toy and he was able to snorkel out and spear 2 of them. I held onto the boat and gear for good measure. Now it was time to paddle back in.
The paddle back in was pretty choppy, as opposed to the smooth glass-like water of the early morning. Aside from being a little testy on the nerves, we made it back to shore safely and nonetheless for the wear. I made it back with good stories and pictures of the successes. No tall fish stories here.
The whole experience of my first kayak fishing trip has only made me want to do it more. It had a little bit of everything and made for great conversations and a tasty weekend. I would say that my initiation was a great success.
Levi, Freshly minted kayak angler!