Kayak fishing is for those who like to catch fish as well as for those that like to just fish.
Those of us living in Del Norte county are very fortunate to live in an area where it’s easy to access prime fishing areas. Be warned though, a simple newfound interest can easily turn into an infatuation and then very shortly lead to an obsession.
Since we live near a crescent-shaped land formation, there are many areas to fish inside waters. For good reasons, these inside waters are not often frequented by motorized boats, so they do not receive much fishing pressure. The “floating” rocks just offshore are clues to the rocky bottom that underlies much of the area around them.
Much of the time when the wind is blowing from the northwest, as is common in the summer, the South Beach area is easily accessible and fishable. There are fewer rock structures and more sandy areas than off the area from Battery Point Lighthouse to Pebble Beach so fewer places to catch rockfish.
During the latter part of August and all of September California halibut and common shark can be caught in the sandy flat areas. Late summer and early fall comes with calm flat waters and light breezes. With that the larger lingcod move closer into shore.
There are many inside areas to fish from Battery Point Island to the Woody Island stairs just south of Pacific Avenue. Unfortunately for me, I think someone may have steepened up the stairs as I’ve become older and my kayak has gained weight.
The problem in this area is getting your kayak to the water’s edge and back again but the rewards are worth the effort. Choosing to fish at a higher tide reduces the distance one must pull their kayak across the rocks or soft sand. Also, being aware of any shore-break is important.
What doesn’t look like much of a shore-break wave takes on a more important meaning while sitting with your back to the incoming wave while you’re at water level in a kayak. It’s not as much fun as it sounds to broach and get dumped over in the surf. I find that while paddling in, the correct timing between waves rather than surfing them in gives my sphincter muscle less exercise.
The most important part of fishing gear while on the water is to always wear a Coast Guard approved life vest and better yet a full dry suit or wetsuit. Buddy fishing brings an increased degree of safety to the experience as well as shared enjoyment from fishing. Small two-way radios allow you to easily keep in touch.
Always being aware of your sense of place is prudent. Not being between an incoming swell and a rock is important, as well as not being too close to a wash-rock and end up on top of it when the swell goes through.
Fishing gear is the same except for a few exceptions. I like to use a short fishing pole, so when I am landing a fish I can net or gaff it easier than with a long pole. Also, I tend to use a 12-15 pound test line so it’s easier to break off, if needed, than a heavier line while sitting in the kayak. Another advantage when fishing from a kayak is being able to easily paddle back over the area where you’re snagged to retrieve your lure.
Electronics have become smaller and more efficient. You can now install small depth/fish finders that don’t take up too much room, even on the limited area of a kayak deck. Many of the small units even have GPS capabilities.
Much like fishing from a motorized boat, at times when there are no rockfish in areas where you’ve caught them before and are AWOL, you have to “prospect” other areas.
The pursuit more than the purpose sometimes unknowingly becomes the goal. It may not quite become an addiction but rather a calling; a calling to the water. Being around water has long been believed to be a form of mediation, a calming time, a time where one can think nothing but can sense the answer to many problems.
Many times when a person is able to put-in early in the morning they are rewarded with a lake-like surface of water reflecting images of strings of migrating birds and morning clouds. On other days when it’s very foggy you are enveloped by a soft mist and you can easily lose track of any reference marks. The only things to orient you are the far off clanging of the buoys inside the harbor and the lonely fog horn at the end of the jetty. The white-appearing orb in the eastern sky trying to burn its way through can also be a general direction indicator.
Oystercatchers and other feeding birds are often seen feeding on the kelp covered rocks, allowing one to really appreciate the effort that they have to go through to get a meal. Migrating birds, many times, appear to purposely fly right over the top of you to check you out. Even when the catching isn’t good the fishing is still a great experience.
Yes, we have everything we really need in Crescent City, and it’s close to everything else.
Jim Hooper lives in Crescent City.