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Washington Kayak Club
Fun and safe kayaking through trips, education, skill development, and conservation

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Kayak Fishing

Thursday, February 5, 2015
By Tomas Tabisola 
 
Greetings fellow fishermen (women included) and kayakers. This is simply to let you know that WKC has opened a new category within Sea Kayak Trips -- Kayak Fishing. This is for fishermen who like to kayak and kayakers who like to fish. I'm one of the former who learned and enjoyed how to fish at an early age. As I grew older I incorporated those skills onto a boat, albeit one that's a bit larger than a kayak. Then as I started kayaking a few years ago, it was with the thought of using kayaking to fish from or to get me to where I would want to fish. More on this later.

Then there are those who have been kayaking for many years and for wont of something to do while on a kayak trip be it camping or otherwise, brought along a fishing rod to catch fish to supplement a freeze dried dinner or to cook it in lieu of that package meal. Either way, it can only be a good thing when you combine these two activities, kayaking and fishing.

We've formalized the club's Kayak Fishing segment and I as its self-appointed chair through the Paddle Board's approval. As far as I'm concerned, I think that is going to be the only part that is formal. I'm hoping that you'll join me in keeping this as informal and as much fun as it can be.

I know there's quite a few of you who are interested in kayak fishing as I've heard directly and indirectly that you would like to learn how to do it so you can go out and do some fishing and/or crabbing and come back with some moderation of success. Yes, I did say crabbing. We're going to do this too! I did have one paddler say he didn't like to eat fish but loved crabs and shrimp. Well, we won't be doing any shrimping as that typically involves going down some 200 foot depths and more which is way beyond what we can do on a kayak but crabbing is and those good eating crustaceans are very much within a kayakers reach. You can in fact wade and catch them by hand. I'll show you one day this summer.

You may already know that kayak fishing is a fast growing sport as you must have noticed the many sea and whitewater kayak makers are now producing fishing kayaks -- Wilderness Systems, Hobie, and Dagger to name a few. Most of them are SOT (Sit On Top) boats, a bit shorter and somewhat wider than our sea kayaks. You won't need to get one of these SOTs for what we're going to be doing -- a sea kayak will be more than capable. However, I would like to point out that from personal experience, it's a lot easier to fish from a platform that's difficult to flip over even when it gets a bit choppy.

By the time you read this, there will already be some fishing trips posted into our calendar. You are welcome to join me on these trips. Some of you have approached me with questions about gear and technique, what kinds of bait to use, and where to go. I'm not a total expert but I've been fishing for a long time and I've found out that many of my learned skills simply have to be adapted to being in a sitting position in a boat that can roll, turn and even bounce in choppy water. It can get a little challenging when you latch on to a fish that's big enough to easily tow your kayak around. In any event, I'm here to help you make some of those decisions on what equipment and gear you should have and then I'd like to put on some clinics or have get togethers to share and exchange ideas on the what, how, why and where of kayak fishing. I'm a bit excited and am anxious to get started.

Although we're in the middle of winter, the openings for the various kinds of fishing will quickly arrive. I'm sure you'd like to be geared out and ready to be out there in May for a chance to get at some delicious ling cod and halibut. Then in July, the crab season opens in the Puget Sound and wouldn't it be great if we can go out there and catch our limits for a crab feed! Although these fishing opportunities are months from now, this is a great time to get your gear, get them ready, and learn how to use them. You'll need to learn how to tie a few knots and rig your kayak for fishing.

After doing all this, can we do some fishing in the meantime? Of course we can! Washington divides the ocean waters close to shore and Puget Sound into Marine Areas 1-13 from Ilwaco all the way to the South Puget Sound, each with its own set of rules and regulations, and sometimes different opening dates for the various kinds of fish that are in each Marine Area. There are many Marine Areas that are open year round for bottom fishing and the technique to catch them is the same as for ling cod and halibut.

If you're more interested in salmon, there are different times of the year when each of the five Pacific salmon become available in Washington. This should be a great year for pink salmon, the smallest but most abundant of the salmon. They will make their appearance into the Puget Sound in July and head into its rivers in August/September. The prized King Salmon are here year round as juveniles and are called blackmouths. Those returning to spawn come into the Strait of Juan de Fuca in July as they head towards their respective rivers they originally came from. There is an early run of King Salmon that are called springers and they come into the Columbia River and some of the Olympic rivers in April/May. We will cover all the species of salmon here and learn their different times of arrival and some of the techniques we can use to fish for them in a kayak. Most of our efforts will be geared towards catching them while they're still in salt water, that is the Puget Sound.

You're going to find out that there are a lot of rules and regulations in fishing. Sport fishing is a billion dollar industry upon a resource that needs to be protected and managed. The rules are there to ensure that there's going to be fish for our children's children. I mentioned earlier that you can use a kayak to get to where the fish are. This applies when fishing rivers for steelhead and salmon. There are rivers here in Washington where you can't fish from a floating device but you can use it to get to a fishing hole, get out and fish that hole from the banks. The Green River is one of these rivers.

Besides fishing and crabbing, there's also some other delicacies we can go after in our rich and abundant ocean especially when there's a very low tide -- clams and mussels. We'll have some clinics on the gear and technique for gathering them. Still yet there's another very healthy and nutritious resource literally for the picking -- seaweed. Would you like to know how to identify the ones that you can eat, knowing that if you were stranded on an island, this could save your life? We'll bring in an expert and show you how.

I mentioned a crab feed earlier. Well, do you know how to cook crabs? And what about the fish, clams, mussels and seaweed? How do you prepare them to eat? What do you do to a fish after you catch it, how do you gut and clean it, what can you do to keep it fresh, and finally, how do you cook it? We'll try to cover all these questions and actually put them into practice with the real fish and crabs. Hope you're looking forward to it. I am.

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