By Jerry White
Let's first define "extreme" as it pertains to kayak fishing. To me, it translates to targeting fish that are potentially dangerous due to size, attitude, or armament. It can mean targeting any fish in areas that normally only motorized boats could or would venture. It can also mean angling using a kayak in a manner that would make your loved ones verify your life insurance policy premiums are up to date, or have you fitted for one of those fashionable white coats that tie in the back. Comparing this form of paddle angling to conventional fishing is like comparing quail hunting to Grizzly bear hunting. To my knowledge, no one ever got mauled by a ticked off quail.
Let's take a look at this emerging segment of the sport - first from a distance, and then close up.
Just as you learn to ride a bike with some help from training wheels, target and catch your extreme fish from a boat before you ever try it from a paddle craft. And if at all possible, use a guide. Guides target particular species every day, and they will be a great resource to help you understand how these fish behave when they're hooked and also where they can be found.
Most people that push the limits of kayak fishing do so because they've "been there and done that" with conventional methods. Every time we release a fish, we hope that the next cast will bring us an even larger fish. Catching large fish, sometimes in less than perfect conditions, can challenge your balance and endurance. So make sure you're fully prepared physically and mentally before you launch. When getting prepared for this sort of battle, the "what if" scenarios and corresponding safety concerns are many. Don't think I won't touch on some of those before we part company today. Ensuring a safe experience will need to be on the top of your "to do" list as you get ready to go.
Enough already, let's go fishing !
Who can forget the movie "Jaws" (1975), and the unforgettable quote by Chief Martin Brody - " … you're gonna need a bigger boat …". Here's a good one for ya Chief - " … how about a SMALLER boat ?" Admit it, you hear "that" music now too, don't you?
Sharks can and will bite you. That needs to be on your mind from the moment you set the hook until you cut it free. Sharks sometimes feed in schools, and attracting one with a chum slick can attract many, which may not be a great idea for someone in a plastic boat. They can bite their own tail, so handling is doubly dangerous. Be prepared to cut the line, because you really don't want to try and save that hook. They give a heavy tug with the ever present probability that they'll cut through your line. So even though you're applying constant pressure on the fish, be prepared in case that resistance disappears suddenly. This could lead to a premature departure from the vessel, and you may find yourself in shark infested waters. Sharks can and will bite you.
They jump high, swim fast, and fight hard. They also prefer some pretty deep water. They won't bite you like a shark will, but that bill needs to be given plenty of respect. Since these fish prefer deep offshore waters, paddle anglers normally pursue them with the help of a boat. The fight is still memorable for sure. But for me, I'd sure feel safer knowing a nice comfy boat was close at hand.
I've never caught one from a kayak, but based on the info I've gathered, in my opinion large tarpon are the most dangerous of the extreme fish to encounter, for a number of reasons:
This may not be "extreme", but it's certainly innovative. Many anglers use their paddle craft simply to access areas from which to wade or fish from the shore. But some use their boats to carry big baits off the beach in search of big game. This tactic can be very rewarding - you just never know what might be out there just past the breakers.
Hope for the best, but plan for the worst, as best you can. If you're lucky, the worst that will happen is that you'll hook in to that monster fish and it will break off. From there, the variables are virtually endless. Remember, the secret of success is not how well you do, but how well you recover. Know when to concede defeat, or at least call it a day. In some battles, you simply don't win. Remember, even with our intellect and technology, the fish always has the "home field advantage" - always.
WHY DO THIS? Most fish sought by extreme paddle anglers aren't table fare, so why bother? They do this truly for the sport. Many do it for the thrill, the challenge, the glory, and of course, the picture. In these digital days, if there's no picture, it didn't happen. So, make sure that you're properly prepared to make a high resolution pixilated memory of your catch. Better yet, make sure you have a buddy along that's ready to help, sort of like a designated driver. Only in this case, it's perfectly acceptable to post the resulting pictures on the Internet.
By making this the last thing you read I'm hoping it will be the first thing you remember after you finish reading this article. Whether you're a racing fan, a football/hockey fan, or just someone that drives a car, you know that most safety gear never gets used. But, when used properly, it can save your life. Safety awareness and proper gear is important with any paddle sport, but for these types of extreme angling, safety should be a major concern. I'll briefly touch on just a few safety items, but I hope that before you attempt to sample this side of the sport, you'll make a longer, more comprehensive list.
With proper planning, this segment of the sport can be relatively safe, and most assuredly exciting. I never really thought that much about doing this sort of paddle fishing, since I'm definitely a flat-water guy. But after browsing dozens of pictures and doing the required research, I gotta go. Shane, you've got mail!
See you out on the water …
Many thanks to Shane Edgar (www.hightailincharters.com), and to Jim Sammons (www.kayak4fish.com) for their input on this article. Thanks also go to Patrick Guillory and David McCleaf for not only providing great pictures that I used in this article, but also for being there in case their buddy got in trouble.
"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after" ~ Henry David Thoreau
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