Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Offshore Family Time

There are a few things in life that you cherish every second of.
 Those moments are different for everybody, but in the end, everybody experiences the moment when you wish time stood still.
It's no secret that I have a passion for the water an everything that goes with it. Sharing that passion with those that are close to you takes the experience to a whole new indescribable level. It's sort of a warm fuzzy with a slight bit of euphoria mixed in.
Over Labor Day weekend, my best friend and brother-in-law, Duke Herman, made a stop at Casa De-Bekolay in Navarre Florida for a some R&R, cold beer, and a little offshore kayak fishing. Duke has never kayak fished before so it was only right to start him off by going a few miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Along with Duke, my wife Amanda Kaye, has never been kayak fishing offshore. Time to make this a family outing.
We launched with little expectations other than hopefully hooking up with a fish while spending time together. The mahi bite has been on fire so we were hoping that our trolling rigs would entice a strike.
Amanda was the first, and only one, to hook up with a nice mahi on a cigar minnow tipped duster rig. The fish gave her one hell of a fight! It was tough to try and land the fish for her so I made the best attempt at gaffing it when I came close to the surface. I struck a little of the fish but not enough to stick. Before we could get the beautiful mahi on the gaff, it pulled the hook with another crazy run. That was it for that day.
Duke and I had a strategic plan for Saturday. Since this was the second season red snapper opener, we wanted to take advantage of it. The plan was to get a limit of snapper, then troll for pelagics.
We launched at day break and caught a lot of bait in no time. Stuffed bait tubes meant it was time to head to the snapper spot. Less than a 1/2 mile away from the reef a power boat motors in, drops anchor, and sets up to spear fish.
You got to be F&#%!@G kidding me!

It made no sense to try and fish that spot so we let out our trolling lines and paddled back towards the beach. The trolling bite was tough but I was able to get a nice mahi to give us a nice aerial display. It's always fun watching a mahi give you jump after jump!
As we were trolling, we noticed the spear fishing boat headed off the spot leaving the reef vacant. We kept trolling to no avail and decided to make way back to the reef. The draw of the red snapper was just too strong!
Just as scripted, my Humminbird 698 HD SI lit up like a Christmas tree when I got on the spot. Snapper and trigger fish were everywhere! We threw out chunk bait with weightless circle hooks and held on. Duke hooked up and immediately had his rod tipped yanked into the water by a strong red snapper!

We got our 2 man limit of red snapper (2 fish a piece) and headed back to the beach. The sun was blistering and we were wore out! With a mahi and 4 decent sized red snappers in the ole' Death Chamber, it was time for some hot wings and cold beer! 

Sadly, Duke had to leave but not after he got his first limit of kayak red snapper. Well done brother! Monday rolled around and Amanda and I decided to fish the last few hours of daylight when the winds were supposed to lay down.

We launched and headed to the end of the second bar. In no time, I hear, "I got one". I paddle over to see her fighting a nice spanish mackerel. Her first fish landed offshore!

She follows that fish up with a second spanish mackerel as we paddled to the snapper spot. Damn, my wife is out-fishing me. I'm down 0-2 at this point. Amanda had the hot hand which was fine by me! I was loving watching her fight and land these beautiful fish.

We got to the snapper spot with high hopes. The sun was slowly setting and the reef was covered in suspended red snapper and trigger fish. Both armed with chunk baited circle hooks, I carpet bombed the surface with handfuls of fresh chunk bait as we deployed our baits in the mix. Wouldn't you know it, Amanda's rod doubles over. I thought it was a good snapper only to be surprised by the biggest trigger fish that I have ever seen!

At this point, I'm as giddy as I could be! It was so cool watching Amanda fight this huge trigger! The fish gave her numerous runs that pinned the rod on the side of the kayak as the drag was getting ripped out.

With an activated feeding frenzy, we wasted no time in re-baiting and getting back after it! Another round of handfuls of chunks with our baits mixed in...

Drags were screaming and rods were bowed over! These red snapper gave us a blood pumping battle to be remembered!
The sun was setting and it was time to head in. The light was fading leaving a beautiful sunset to cap off an afternoon of fishing that I will never forget. Spending precious time with your loved ones while doing something that you love is beyond words. Seeing the look on Amanda's face said it all. Not only did we spend valuable time together, we had a great an amazing experience with the double on red snapper.
What a fitting way to end an amazing weekend. Duke and Amanda got their first fish out of a kayak offshore and we were able to spend time together filled with jokes and laughter. One thing is for certain...
I can't wait to spend more family time offshore!

 See ya on the water!


Monday, August 31, 2015

Weekend Grocery Shopping

Chores, we all have them.
Young or old, boys or girls, we all have chores to do.
My lone chore this weekend was actually a pretty easy one...grocery shopping on Sunday, that's it!
Before I headed to my favorite grocery store, I figured I would try my luck at another tarpon.
Marty Mood and I hit the spot, but the Silver Kings didn't want to shows themselves.
We saw dozens of nice reds, so I figured I would break the monotony with a cast to a hungry one.
Sunday roles around and it's time to hit the ole' supermarket.
I saw that Brandon Barton and crew were wearing out the mahi off of Navarre Beach.
It just so happens that I live 10 minutes from Navarre Beach and I wanted fresh fish.
I needed to go grocery shopping...so I did...for fresh mahi filets.

 The bite was fast and furious!
It didn't take long for feeding mahi to smash my cigar minnow tipped duster while trolling.
Then I had about 15 mahi circling my kayak when I was re-rigging.
Long story short, I lost 3 and brought home 6.

Shopping list complete!

The mahi paired quite nice with the dorado patterned Orion 25qt cooler. Match made in heaven!

 See ya on the water!

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Challenge of Monster Tarpon

As the silver beast slowly made his way into the deep abyss, I sat there in awe by the beauty and utter size of this magnificent creature.

"What just happened? Really, what the hell just happened?!" 

As anglers, we like a challenge. Think about it...even the beginner that buys a $20 setup at Walmart likes the challenge of catching a fish. It's much easier buying fresh fish to eat or spending the money on a "guaranteed" thrill. The challenge of fishing, whether big or small, is what consistently draws us back to the water time and time again.

When some anglers gain knowledge from experiences and the time they put in, they seemingly up the ante to the angling challenge. Speaking for myself, I've always wanted to "up my game" in the kayak fishing world. For example; I transitioned from fresh water to salt water, went from fishing protected bodies of water to the open ocean, and added the pursuit of larger species compared to being content on the species that I had dialed in.

Some call catching a tarpon from a kayak as a "bucket list" item. I originally said that but honestly, the idea of catching a tarpon out of my kayak is fairly new compared to others. I love challenges and always want a new one. That's what catching a monster tarpon out of kayak was for me...a new, yet daunting challenge!

My good friend and fishing partner, Marty Mood, and I had planned on going after these behemoths for some time now. We didn't waste the opportunity when our schedules finally aligned. We were armed with heavy artillery and a willingness to get the job done at all costs. The waters of Pensacola Florida welcomed us with open arms. Meticulously searching the surface finally yielded what we came there for. It didn't take long for Marty to yell, "FISH ON". Shortly after speaking his last word, a 100+ pound silver king explodes out of the water not 10 feet in front of me, almost landing in my kayak! WOW! From that point forward, the image of that monster tarpon was tattooed in the front of my memory bank. The fish ended up spitting the hook a few jumps later, but that moment fueled a newly lit fire.

It was on like Donkey Kong...I'm going to catch a tarpon!!!
I found myself going solo back to the same spot only a couple of days later. I couldn't stop thinking about these gigantic fish and the possibility of landing one from my kayak. Sight casting these fish at night, ALONE, and out of a kayak was by far the most challenging task I've yet to take on.
It didn't take long to make a cast on a monster, only to have the fish pay no attention. I saw another fish, only to have the same result. Instead of getting frustrated, I changed up the retrieve, that didn't work. I changed up the speed, that didn't work. I changed the depth of the lure, that didn't work. When I changed out to a different pattern...
Watching a monster tarpon follow his line, I waited to lead him with a perfect cast. The big soft plastic met his line of sight at the right time...BOOM, FISH ON! The sheer power of these fish is indescribable! My Old Town Predator 13 took off like a bat out of hell! When the huge tarpon jumped for the first time, my jawed dropped! 


The fish made run after run, jump after jump! 15 minutes or so go by and I finally see my leader with the emerging silver color in the beam of my head lamp. Finally, the fish is parallel with my kayak and I grab the leader. Knowing that if the fish makes a run that I won't be able to stop it, I grab the leader instead of wrapping my hand, good thing. As I grab the leader to gather the last two feet of line, he makes another run while soaking me in the process. Just as the line went tight, POP! My 80lb leader was cut like butter. My guess was it was wrapped in his gill plate when I went for the leader grab.

I tied on a new Tactical Anglers Clip to a fresh stretch of leader and went back at it. I already felt victory in my mind. Even though my hands were not locked on his jaws, I felt that I had won. At this point, I was as confident as anyone could be. Still respecting the power and size of these fish, I went right back it.

A few more fish showed themselves and showed no interest to my presentation. A perfect cast was the ticket on a fish that I previously threw at. FISH ON once again! This time the big tarpon made zig-zag runs in between the bridge and finally got the best of me. I opened the bail once I felt the line rub but it was too late. POP!

There is a reason that a big tarpon out of a kayak is considered tough. Even when you think you're in control, you're not! I regrouped and went back at it. This time I was towards the end of trip since it was so late. I continued standing up while scanning the surface. I finally saw another small group of huge fish. It only took one cast that ended up being The Cast.

My bait was slammed and in seconds a giant tarpon was shooting out of water! This time the fish headed away from the bridge only to double back and head right for it. I locked the drag of my Shimano Stradic 5000FJ to stay with the fish as best as I could. Once it cleared the other side of the bridge, it made a hard left and ripped a ton of line off as it doubled back once again. I could feel the line rub the pilings once again. Thinking to myself, Damn it not again, I opened my bail and pulled a ton of line out. I then paddled my butt off down two sets of pilings and slowly gathered my line back hoping to feel weight. I then saw my slack line traveling in between a piling set headed to the other side. Instead of putting the screws to the fish again, I gathered the line to stay on top of the fish, but not too piss him off. I one arm paddled with my Werner "Hooked" Cyprus about 100 feet with the fish away from the bridge. I engaged the reel and gave him hell once again. ROUND TWO...FIGHT!

Run after run, jump after jump, this fish was not giving up. After 18 minutes, I finally feel the fish swimming slowly as I pumped him up to the surface. He had one more jump with about 10 feet of line out. He was literally a couple of feet from hitting the Predator. After that jump, it was all she wrote. I grabbed the leader, and got my hand on the massive jaw.

Now the fun part...holding the jaw with one hand and setting up the picture with another. THANK GOD for the YakAttack Panfish Portrait! Without it, I wouldn't have been able to get the shot!

The pictures are not the greatest, but there was not much I could do. After the second picture, the hook came out and the fish shook out of my hands as I setup the third picture. I didn't care!
At the end of day I was left paddling back to the ramp yelling aimlessly with the feeling of accomplishment driven by pure adrenaline. I was still shaking for a couple of hours and could not go to sleep until the sun started to light the horizon.
"The newly found respect for that creature is something that I have for no other. I'm grateful for the opportunity to tangle with the silver king."
~See ya on the Water!
GEAR USED:Rods: Shimano Terez, 7' Med Hvy
Reels: Shimano Stradic 5000FJ
Line: 65lb Power Pro, 80lb leader
Lures: Big Soft Plastics
Kayak: Old Town Predator 13
Paddle: Werner Paddles 240cm "Hooked" Cyprus
Apparel: Kokatat Destination Paddling Trunks and Kokatat Lightweight Gloves
PFD: Kokatat Bahia Tour
Accessories: YakAttack Panfish Portrait, YakAttack GearTrac, YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Second Shift Slammin'

"The draw to the salty surf grows with each sunrise over the white sandy beaches."

The move to second shift not only gives me a chance to work with a different group of guys, but also gives me the opportunity to sneak in an offshore quickie...SCORE! 

As the first period of red snapper season draws to a close, I made sure to take advantage of any chance to get in the gulf. 

I'm not just a fan of the tasty red snapper fillets. My wife loves the amazing sashimi and other dishes that I have created. It's a serious bonus when the Mrs is all about it!

The first day went everything but as planned!

Marty Mood and I hit a few spots that showed little to no life at all...odd!

The 4th spot that we hit looked like it was going to be a dud. We threw out a bunch of chunk bait and Marty hooks up. What I thought would have been a red snapper proved to be something else...

The skying mahi mahi was a very welcomed surprise! 

Who would have thunk it.

I'll be damned, the day is not going to be a bust after all! 

The last spot only coughed up this mahi, so it was time to return to a spot that we passed without fishing.

I was cutting up a small but legal king to use as chunk bait when something off of my port side caught my eye...

HOLY $#%@, MAHI!

After a quick flip with a chunk of mackerel, ROUND TWO!

Watching the amazing aerial display of my first mahi mahi instantly carved a smile in my grill that would not go away!

It's amazing to watch these fish turn colors in front of your eyes!

That day ended with zero snapper, but 2 nice mahi mahi...I'll take it!

On to the next...

Having to be at work at 3pm gave me a nice window to hit the water before work. I decided to hit a different location that provided red snapper earlier this year. When you know of a good spot, you don't have to waste time searching.

 My Humminbird 698 HD SI said my coordinate was just short of two miles away. No problem with my Old Town Predator 13!

On the way to the spot, the king mackerel would not turn down a cigar minnow tipped duster rig.

It didn't take long to get my 2 fish limit of kings while heading to my snapper spot.

 Once I arrived to the spot, I knew it was on like Donkey Kong!

Fish were suspended from 25-40 feet, OH YEAH!

A handful of chunks mixed with a herring tipped circle hook triggered a feeding frenzy...which included my chunk!

Fish number two followed suit! 

A quick limit of king mackerel and red snapper before work made the paddle back a hell of a lot nicer!

On to day 3!

A fast approaching storm left Marty Mood and I questioning our decision to continue on to the spot that proved to be loaded with red snapper. 

The end of the rainbow highlighting our destination gave us a sign to continue on...good thing we did!

We battled off and on wind and rain. Once we each caught our 2 fish limit of red snapper, we headed in. The wind got crappy making paddle back to the beach quite the chore!

Well, we closed the first period of snapper season the way you would hope. We caught our limits, saw a lot of fish, and had a ton of fun with plenty of laughs! The second period starts in September and runs through the end of October. 

This week I saw fish over 30", and make no mistake...


See ya on the water!


Rods: Shimano Tallus, All Pro Rods, Shimano Terez
Reels: Shimano Thunnus 6000 Ci4, Shimano Stradic FJ 3000 & 5000
Line: 50lb Power Pro, 50lb Seagar Fluorocarbon leader
Lures: Duster rigs w/ cigar minnows, and fresh caught herring/cigar minnows on 6/0-8/0 circle hooks
Kayak: Old Town Predator 13
Electronics: Humminbird 698 HD SI
Paddle: Werner Paddles 240cm "Hooked" Cyprus
PFD: Kokatat Bahia Tour
Accessories: YakAttack (GearTrac, Rod Holders, ScrewBall, Predator Mounting Plates, etc)