Kayaking

Kayak kings 2

To keen fishos, catching the first kingfish is a milestone achievement. These fish have a well earned reputation and when you do hook up, even on your first rat king, you immediately understand as you experience the thrill of landing one of the hardest pulling fish (for their size) out there. This is all very true in a boat or on land however, when you hook up a king from a kayak it’s a whole new ball game. Other than catching other species from a kayak I have found a whole new dimension to the sport. Targeting kingfish in particular from my kayak has become my favourite and I thought I would share a story of one of my most recent experience with a king.

Thursday evening I answer the phone to the voice of fellow KFDU member and local fishing buddy Brian, telling me to check the local forecast as it was looking very favourable for offshore fishing on the following Saturday. A quick reference to all the usual sources confirms virtually no swell and barely a puff of wind.
There were recent reports that kingfish were being taken east of my home town of Wollongong on the South Coast of NSW. Brian and I had been talking about venturing out there for some time now so it was decided that we should seize this opportunity and go for it.
Friday evening my Hobie Revolution is strapped to the racks and the gear prepared and loaded for an early morning trip to the Port Kembla boat ramp, ten minutes south of Wollongong.
Arriving at the launch site at the ungodly hour of 4:30 in the morning I greet Brian with a sarcastic “good morning” as he unloads his kayak under the glow of the car park lights. I receive a croaky greeting in reply and as a pair of crazy fishos with a sense of purpose we prepare our kayaks for the journey ahead. We are both filled with a sense of excitement and confidence about the trip as there is not even the slightest hint of a breeze at the ramp.

Five a.m. and we’re ready to launch as planned. We quietly roll our kayaks down the ramp to the water’s edge, slipping between the motor boats lined up waiting to launch. Some frustrated captains label us as “shark bait” and fools to be venturing out on the deep blue in such minimalistic water craft. Some just look on in disbelief and others in disgust as we silently jump the queue at ease. I often find this at boat ramps particularly on those busy days when boat fishos are getting frustrated waiting to get their rigs into the water. I also have a boat and understand how they feel.

Once on the water a steady pace is assumed as we set our lines on the troll along the southern break wall to the Harbour entrance and some fifteen minutes later we round the end of the break wall and are beyond the protection of the harbour. The prophecy of the weather man had been fulfilled. The water like glass and the swell little more than enough to disturb the top layer set a scene of tranquillity. It is almost surreal to be cruising so silent through such calm waters as the dying moonlight shimmers on the glassy black surface ahead.
With renewed ambition we point our bows east to the horizon and for the next forty minutes cruise at around 2.5 knots trolling a variety of both plastic and metal lures behind. As we reach the shallower waters surrounding Pig Island my seven-foot Tierra suddenly arches back and the little 2500 spins in protest. I pull the rod from the forward holder and following an easy wind boat a healthy looking slimy mackerel who mouthed all three barbs of the treble hanging off my metal slice. Without delay I give him a 9/0 nose ring and send him back into the depths on a live bait rig. The great thing about fishing from a kayak is that you tend to travel at a perfect pace for trolling live baits. In particular those at depth which is where you really want your presentations to be as this is where the bigger kings generally hang.

As we head around to the northern side of the island we come across what seems like an armada of motor boats all awaiting the main event. By now the sun has raised its head above the spirit level horizon in a clique picture perfect sunrise. This is where Brian and I part for a short while as he calls out to tell me he is going to troll around the Island and see what he comes up with. I let him know I am going the Pinnacle, a well known spot a few hundred metres east of Pig Island. It is called this for obvious reasons and with a change in depth from 35 to 18 metres it is definite fish holding structure. You just have to make sure you are not there when it is crawling with divers.

Once over my spot I bring my slimy friend back up for inspection to find only a small part of his mouth left. Something with sharp teeth must have taken him clean off without finding the hook. I put the trolling gear away and set up for some bottom bashing. Straight to the bottom with a double paternoster on my 20lb Epix set up with some salted slimy. This rod sits in my forward right hand side holder and on my left I normally have a heavier set up in this type of territory. It is a 20lb overhead with a big slab of salted slimy on a solid 9/0 hook and just enough lead to get it down the column.

Not long after a few decent readings began to appear on the sounder and seconds later a hook up on the right hand side. Ripping the rod out of the holder I load up the drag a little and feeling the tell tale head shakes called snapper to myself. I like calling my fish to myself. For one I guess it is an excuse to talk to myself and a personal challenge to get the call right. This one was not overly big however as only a short fight pursued and a nice red of 40cm was on deck, de-hooked and into the ice bag. This continued for another snapper followed by another all of similar size. I soon realised I was sitting directly over a school of these fish and I could see Brian a few hundred metres northwest of me. So I tried to call him over to get into the action. However he didn’t hear and I gave up thinking. “what a gold mine”.

Then the third red was on and quickly dragged up from the depths and scooped into the net. This however was where things started to get interesting. I normally land this size fish in my net and then release the drag to pull some line off the reel to allow me to sit the rod back in the holder. While I do this I sit the net cradling the fish over my legs and remove the hook. Space is at a premium when fishing from a kayak and you tend to come up with methods that suit this style of fishing as you gain more experience.
As usual I reached for the pliers as the overhead on my left hand side came to life. The 10kg Ian Miller buckled over in pain and the overhead screamed in protest. The red would have to wait. I hastily threw the net and him on the forward hatch with hook and line still attached and ripped the screaming setup from the holder. I knew I had a few hundred metres of line on the reel however it was being peeled off at a rate of knots so I wound up the drag a little to try and slow this fish down.

Now you didn’t have to be the top of the class in physics to know that this of course placed more pressure on me and sitting on top of a kayak doesn’t leave you with much in the way of leverage: nowhere near the amount of leverage afforded by a boat. My first instinct is to turn the kayak so the fish is pulling me from the bow rather than sideways trying to roll me. I achieve this with a few power strokes from the MirageDrive and then let the fish do the rest. This is a good size fish and fortunately heading for clear water instead of structure. Once heading in the right direction I use the drag, rod and the resistance of the kayak through the water to slow the fish up and after some 10 minutes the tail beats have weakened and I begin to win more line. Another minute or so and I see that unmistakable shape and colour of a healthy kingfish.
As I bring the fish along side he finds a little more steam and rips some more line off the reel in his final dive for freedom. This is only a short burst and he is back up and glistening next to me in no time. This guy doesn’t look too far off a metre in length so is a definite gaff job. Nervously I guide him around to the side of the kayak, bring the gaff up under his belly with a positive strike and drag him over my legs and yell a big “woohoo!”. A quick measure once he settles and verify that I’ve bagged an 80cm king.

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You never know what lies ahead on a fishing trip. This anticipation and excitement is what it is all about. The primitive aspects of kayak fishing are an added bonus. Being so close to nature and using your own energy to get there. Having minimal advantages is a real man against beast scenario and the rewards of a feed of fresh fish is enhanced greatly by this feeling of unaided success. You conquered a large fish with little technology on a fairly level playing field. You also got some physical exercise and some relaxation as the sea rocked you silently. All that’s left is to bring home your bounty and feed the family and there is nothing more rewarding than to feel like the hunter once again.

 

 

 

 

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