Kayak Fishing: First Catch

Today I caught my first fish from the kayak. The rest is build up.

My old fishing buddy from another stage in my life used to say that fish respect an investment. You have to put in time, pay your dues. And then, after you’ve shown you mean it, that you’re dedicated, one will give in and get caught.

Maybe that isn’t true, but karmically, it feels right.

Proof positive: I put in seven and a half hours fishing from the kayak. Then I snagged one. A little guy. A toss-you-a-bone fish. Here’s the investment I put in.

First, I got up at 6 am one morning, which is like most people getting up at say 4 or 5. I got right to work: made some coffee, packed a lunch and the gear, put on the wheels, and pulled the kayak down the hill to the water. I was out in fishable depths by 7. So far so good.

Even better: fish were jumping all around me. Naturally, I threw them the only surface lure in my tackle box, a whopping big popper. I remember catching fish on a popper much like this. Huge bass were leaping out of the water around me, smacking their tails on the muddy surface. But they ignored what I had to offer.

Keep in mind that my only real experience fishing for bass before now has been in Massachusetts, mostly small lakes with lots of lilly pads. I used to pull in bass and pickerel almost every time out, fishing in my hip waders among those lilly pads. But the lake I’m in now has no lilly pads. And I don’t think pickerel exist down here in North Carolina. The days are hotter, the water’s different (a rusty mud color), and it seems to rain every day. The lake is bigger and more open, and it has a different feel and look. Plus, I’m in a kayak.

So you can understand why my old fishing buddy’s mantra rings true. I don’t yet know what I’m doing.

After a while I tried a rubber worm, just because it was the only other thing I’ve caught bass with. I worked those two lures up and down one of the shores. Mostly down. (I now have the current and the wind to contend with, plus any momentum kicked up by casting.) I tried a couple other things–rooster tail, Rapala (my only strike for the day). Nothing. At 11 am I threw in the towel. I had put in my first four hours. My butt ached and my back was sore, I was tired and starting to get cranky.

Pulled my thousand-pound kayak up the mount everest hill and went home.

Next day I rested. But the day after that, I was back out. I didn’t get up quite so early; didn’t get into the water until about 8 am. Fished along a different bank, mostly with rubber worms. Lost my Rapala on a bad cast. Let loose a few expletives.

After two hours of not even the slightest nibble of interest, I decided to paddle around for a while and enjoy the scenery. It’s something I always tell myself about fishing: even if I don’t catch anything, I get out in nature and see birds and things.

When I got across the main body of the lake (it was quiet; few motor boats), I decided to go ahead and throw my rubber worm at the sunny side. Right away I got a strike. Instantly, hope revived. I might catch something today! But after two more casts, I hadn’t snagged the thing. And I had drifted down on the current and out of range. So I kept fishing that bank. Got another strike (but no fish), and then into a cove where I got no action at all.

In that cove, my mind started working. Why would the fish be hanging out in sunny spots? And what about all those turtles over there?

Gradually my pride allowed the thought in that I hadn’t enticed any fish, despite my initial excitement. Nope. Those were turtle strikes, nothing more. (True fact: turtles eat worms. Look it up.)

There were no turtles in Massachusetts.

All right, so I crossed back to the boat ramp, came in a bit upstream. Fished my way back to the ramp.

I was proud of my seamanship. My kayak was drifting on its own right to the ramp. And I was getting those last couple of casts in. I saw an enticing dark, shady patch. Threw in my worm. And then it happened. The miracle catch. The fish I’d been waiting for. Three feet from the ramp I caught a little panfish, no bigger than my hand.

So there it is. My first catch.

Some take-aways after 7 hours:

1. I need an anchor. Currently I spend half of my time paddling back to where I was trying to fish. And I only get one cast (if that) in the spot I’m aiming for.

2. A strange, as-yet unknown relationship exists between the act of casting and what my kayak is going to do. Sometimes the boat moves toward the place I just cast. Sometimes it spins unpredictably away.

3. I need more tackle. I’ve lost some good lures and I need to try some new tactics down here.

4. It’s all right to get up a bit later. The fish are leaping around until 11 am. If I want to go under the surface with a lure, I may need to wait until after 10. (That’s a guess, of course.)

5. My kayak is great for maneuvering around. I can get about anywhere I want to.

 

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