Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Kayak fishing for sturgeon is something I've always wanted to do, especially since I found out from Brian there are good holes less than one mile from my house. These fish get very, very big. Sturgeon can weigh upwards of 1000 pounds, and grow 10 feet or larger over 100 years.
Most of the hogs have been fished out, or died due to pollution & loss of habitat. Don't get me wrong, there are still some 3-400 pounders in the Columbia & Willamette around Portland...but I digress.
I will admit, having to take a step back every now and then is a good thing. Sometimes, apparently, some of us have to be forced to do so. There is a saying among anglers, boaters, and any person into outdoor sports that enjoys the privilege of having a better half. The "Girlfriend Approval Factor", or GAF for short is a term widely used to describe the level of approval, and/or extremety of punnishment one incrues from participating in any given sporting-activity, with or without your signifgant other.
I knew my GAF levels were running extremely low. I've been doing almost nothing recreationaly but kayaking and fishing for going on six years now, and dragging my girlfriend along for most of it. Granted, she enjoys boating, fishing, and the outdoors almost as much as I do, but she also does it because I love it so much. Who do you think takes all the pictures of me?
Since I've been off the water for a couple of weeks now, I've been forced to look at other things for entertainment. The weather in Portland has been magnificent. It's been quite a wonderful indian summer, with temperatures in the 60's and 70's, and loads of sunshine. The fall colors are peaking, and Shay and I walked over to Cathedral Park to test out the new camera, the Stylus 850SW from Olympus.
Here are a few pictures, from beautiful St. Johns and Cathedral park in Portland.
all photos copyright 2008 Jason Self/Shay Bickley
Needless to say, that walk in the park worked wonders for the relationship, but it also happens that there are two dock launches, and a nice, flat sand beach launch, with parking less than 100 ft. away. Just perfect for launching kayaks for sturgeon fishing.
I've also been digging through the photo archives, looking back on all the fun times had while kayak fishing. Here are a few of my old time favorites:
Some one recently asked me what it was that I liked so much about kayak fishing. It's hard to summarize why I love kayak fishing, so I thought long and hard about it.
The end result is that, I really just enjoy being out there...Anyone who hunts, fishes, chases waves, etc. knows that it's really just about being out there.... walking through the forest before dawn in the fall, watching the sun rise on the river in winter, and the sun set over the breakers on the ocean on a warm summer day. Kayak fishing to me is really about enjoying the beauty of nature, reflection, and having fun.
Slamming a 45 pound king salmon from a kayak ain't bad either.
PS: We'll get back to the serious stuff next week with a post on self and assisted re-entry techniques.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
While tying boats on a trailer, my left hand was pulling down on the rope as my right was pushing two boats together to get them nice and tight. My right hand slipped and I ran my fingers into the coming of one of the boats. This was the result:
I have to admit, I used to think the pinkie was an expendable digit; The biggest slacker of all the fingers. What I've come to realize is that pinkie is a VITAL member of the team. He's the helper, the assister, and deeply connected to the others.
Anyways, the doc snapped it back into place and splinted it up. In a few days I'm going to try to move it again, and hey, I got to use my new camera!
This got me thinking; What if this had happened while I was on the water by myself? What if I had done something worse, like dislocated a shoulder, or broke my entire hand or arm?
As a professional sea kayak guide and instructor, I have trained extensively to help others, but rarely do you think about how we would help ourselves if disaster struck.
The obvious response to an immobilizing injury while solo kayaking is to call for help. I am lucky enough to paddle where the coast guard is everywhere. A VHF marine radio set to emergency channel 16 has a pretty good chance of getting through to the coast guard, or other mariners in the area. A cell phone is also handy, and can be used to call friends, emergency services, etc.
A dislocated pinkie does not qualify for coast guard rescue. I probably would have called a friend on a cell phone and asked them to meet me at the nearest take out, and painfully paddled in to meet them.
The most important thing is to STAY CALM, clearly assess the situation, formulate a plan, and TAKE ACTION! Someone has to take charge of the situation, and it might be you, even if you are the one injured. Freaking out and panicking only clouds your judgment, and causes you to make irrational and/or illogical decisions. Adrenaline=good. Panic=bad.
KAYAK SAFETY GEAR: Emergency Kit
Let's talk about the basic safety kit. This may seem like overkill, until you have an accident. I always tell my students; "Do you plan on getting in a car wreck every time you put your seat belt on?" These are things I ALWAYS have in my boat, even if I'm paddling on a flat water lake:
Cell Phone: Fully charged with spare battery. Kept in a dry box, inside a dry bag, in my day hatch, or other easily accessible, but secure location.
VHF Marine Radio: Absolutely necessary for kayaking in any marine environment. Kept close at hand for communication between a group of separated paddlers, contacting the coast guard or other mariners close by, and for obtaining current weather and ocean conditions.
How to use a VHF: A call of pan-pan means there is an emergency on board kayak, boat, aircraft, or other vehicle but that, for the time being at least, there is no immediate danger to any one's life or to the vessel itself. This is referred to as a state of urgency. This is distinct from a call of mayday, which means that there is imminent danger to life or to the continued viability of the vessel itself. Thus 'pan-pan' will inform potential rescuers (including emergency services and other craft in the area) that a safety problem exists whereas 'mayday' will call upon them to drop all other activities and immediately instigate a rescue attempt.
A mayday situation is one in which a vessel, aircraft, vehicle, or person is in grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance. Examples of "grave and imminent danger" in which a mayday call would be appropriate include sinking, drowning, broken back...basically potential death.
Mayday calls can be made on any frequency, and when a mayday call is made no other radio traffic is permitted except to assist in the emergency. A mayday call may only be made when life or craft is in imminent danger of death or destruction.
Although a mayday call will be understood regardless of the radio frequency on which it is broadcast, first-line response organizations monitor designated channels: Marine VHF radio channel 16 (156.8 MHz). A mayday call is roughly equivalent of a Morse code SOS, or a telephone call to the emergency services.
When they receive a mayday call the coastguard may launch life boats and helicopters to assist the ship that is in trouble. Other ships that are nearby may divert course to assist the vessel broadcasting the Mayday.
Making a hoax mayday call is a criminal act in many countries because of the danger to the rescuers' lives that a search and rescue operation can create, as well as the very high costs of such rescue efforts. For example, making a false distress call in the U.S. is a federal crime carrying sanctions of up to six years imprisonment, and a fine of $250,000.
The coastguard can be contacted in situations that are not emergencies (out of fuel, etc.) by calling 'Coastguard, Coastguard, Coastguard, this is (name of vessel)', on VHF channel 16. In many countries special training and a license are required to use a mobile radio transmitter legally, although anyone may legally use one to summon help in a real emergency.
The recommended distress call format includes the word MAYDAY spoken three times (repeated twice), followed by the vessel's name or call sign, such as; "Kayak Vessel Explorer", also spoken three times, then MAYDAY and the name or call sign again. Vital information, including the position, nature of the emergency, assistance required and the number of people in the group, should follow. A typical message might be:
- "MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, this is Kayak Vessel Explorer, Kayak Vessel Explorer, Kayak Vessel Explorer. MAYDAY, Kayak Vessel Explorer. Position 54 25 North 016 33 West. My kayak is damaged and sinking. I require immediate assistance. I am by myself. OVER."
Click here to watch the coast guard rescue kayakers in distress.
Note: They don't save your boat.
Emergency Contacts/Action Plan: Names and numbers of emergency services specific to the area you are paddling. Laminate & keep with cell phone in a dry box, inside a dry bag.
Do you know where the nearest hospital, or coast guard station is and how to get there? Where are your emergency take outs along your intended route? Could you easily describe your location if the situation should arise?
Charts, Maps, & GPS: Having charts, maps, compass and/or a GPS on board, and knowing how to read and use them is vital.
Signaling Devices: Hand held smoke and aerial/parachute flares, dye markers, fire starter, signal mirror, whistle, LED light on my PFD, reflective tape on my dry suit, PFD, paddle, and kayak.
First Aid Kit: In a dry bag, inside a hatch. Don't skimp on this one. Buy a deluxe medical kit. Go through every item, and supplement for your personal needs. On a recent San Juan Island trip, I was stung inside my mouth by a yellow jacket. Crazy, I know. I dug through my deluxe med kit only to find that there was no antihistamine of any kind. I have since added many items to my kit to cover every situation I could think of.
Emergency Shelter: Storm cag, tarp, space blanket, sleeping bag: Some things to get you and others out of the elements and retain body heat. These items are available at most outdoory stores, such as REI, etc.
Extra Warm & Dry Clothes: Hypothermia is always a risk in the Pacific Northwest. I carry a spare fleece full body suit, long underwear, splash pants & top, gloves, and warm hats, inside a dry bag in a hatch.
Hot Drink: Taking tea bags and a thermos filled with hot water is always a good idea. A hypothermic person can "cuddle" with the hot bottle for warmth or have a hot drink. Caffeine can help stimulate the body. I will also take a stove, like the MSR pocket rocket, and fuel, on extended trips. A stove comes in handy for making hot food and drink in a pinch.
Sugary Snacks: Always lifts the spirits, give a quick boost of energy, or help a diabetic reaction. Remember when you were a kid and scraped your knee? Didn't a sweet treat from Mom always make it better? Who doesn't like chocolate?
KAYAK SAFETY GEAR: Personal Safety Items
Personal Floatation Device (PFD): A PFD is one of the most important items for safety. If you find yourself in the drink, it will float you with no effort from you. PFDs should be worn at all times, and are required by law in most states.
Paddle Float: Can be used to stabilize a kayak for re-entry, or a disabled paddlers boat for towing, and many other things. Should be secured to the deck or behind the seat. Must be accessible without opening a hatch while you are out of the kayak.
Bilge Pump: Necessary to drain a flooded kayak while still in the cockpit. Should be easily accessible.
Helmet: A helmet should be worn at all times in white water, and in moderate to big surf in and around rocky areas.
Tow Line: I prefer a waist mounted, quick release tow belt such as the one by Northwater.
Throw Bag: Nice to be able to throw someone a line if they get sucked away!
Dive Knife: There are lots of good dive knives on the market. Gerber makes some of my favorites. Make sure it is secured to your PFD so you can get to it in a pinch, say, if your tow line gets wrapped around your neck. If you are as clumsy as me, make sure you get one with a rounded tip, rather than a point.
Spare Paddle: A spare paddle should be kept on the deck securely. Make sure you can access & utilize while you are in the cockpit. You don't necessarily need a $400 carbon fiber paddle for your spare, but you don't want the cheapest one you can find either. Ask yourself; would I want to paddle with this thing in harsh conditions all day? If the answer is no, get a spare you are comfortable with. You'll thank yourself when you actually have to use it.
TIP: I like to keep my spare paddle & bilge pump on the front deck. In almost every situation, you want to try and keep the back deck of the kayak free of gear. The reason being that most re-entry techniques require the swimmer to belly up on the back deck in order to get back in the cockpit. The last thing you want if you've been bucked from the boat is to get your PFD hung up on all the junk on your back deck. KEEP IT CLEAR! Make sure what ever items you've chosen to keep on deck are secure. Punching out through surf, a wave breaking over the deck, or even a capsize will quickly send your gear sinking/sailing away. I call this a "yard sale".
VIDEO: Yard Sale: This guy needs to take a lesson. He is clearly out of his skill set. He's even holding the paddle upside down.
VIDEO: More wipe-outs from my kayak fishing brethren.
VIDEO: Finally a successful surf landing!
KAYAKING SAFETY GEAR: Clothing
You've probably heard the saying; "Dress for the swim, not the paddle." Well, it's true. It's important to assess conditions to determine proper kayaking attire. Here in Oregon, on the ocean I wear neoprene booties, wool socks, fleece bottoms & a fleece top under a Kokatat Gore-Tex dry suit pretty much year round. The sea water here rarely gets above 58 degrees, and a prolonged swim in water that cold can be debilitating. I generally believe it's better to be to warm than to cold, as it's pretty easy to cool off. Just roll your kayak and you're instantly cooler.
Wetsuits are another option for cold water. I don't find them as comfortable as a dry suit, but they are much more affordable, and can be layered with a neoprene top & splash gear to provide more warmth.
Dry tops & bibs/pants are OK, and will get you through most situations pretty dry. If you find yourself in the water for prolonged periods of time, they are likely to let some water in.
I usually don't wear gloves, but I always have a pair handy just in case.
KAYAK SAFETY GEAR: Summary
The key with your safety gear is to err on the side of caution. Don't get lazy or complacent, thinking that you won't need this stuff. It's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
It's also important to learn how to properly use these items. If you don't know how to use a paddle-float, flare, VHF, or find your position on a chart, take the time to learn now. There are plenty of resources available for instruction. Having all the gear in the world wont do you a bit of good if you don't know how to properly use it.
Take a CPR/First Aid class & stay current. Get familiar with your kit and where things are. Take rescue classes and practice with your paddling partners. Anyone who sits in a kayak has a responsibility to themselves, and our emergency services to understand and practice these scenarios.
Most importantly; Never put yourself in a situation above your experience level. Always train for it and work your way up to it. While you are developing your skill and understanding of the ocean, paddle with a more experienced partner.
Next week I will talk about self, and assisted rescue/re-entry techniques. Knowing how to get yourself and others back in their kayak is fundamental for all paddlers. I'm headed back to the Oregon Coast next weekend for another run at fishing for salmon from a kayak. There isn't much time left before the salmon are done, and I start white water kayak fishing for steelhead!
Thursday, October 9, 2008
I trolled the bay by kayak with my step-father on Sunday evening, and did not even see a roller. I decided to try again the next morning, thinking more salmon would enter the bay overnight, and on the next tide series.
I was wrong. I drove up river about 12 miles, and scouted for rollers the whole way down to the bay, and saw nothing. I hope this means a big push of silvers & king salmon are coming soon.
Although the kayak fishing was disappointing, the kayaking was not. I saw two other kayak anglers; a first for me. I've never seen another person kayak fishing that wasn't with me already. It's nice to know your not the only one!
I also discovered the Wheeler Lodge in Wheeler, OR on Nehalem Bay. Great prices, nice accommodations, and a launch 10 ft from your room on Nehalem Bay. They also let you use their recreational kayaks free when you book a room....pretty sweet deal. Check out http:\\wheeleronthebay.com They have some excellent specials running this fall.
I'm feeling pretty guilty about not having photos for you, so I'm digging into the archives over the next couple of days, and adding more pictures to the photo section at the bottom of the page.
I have to get crackin' on school for the next few weeks, so it will be a bit until I can get back to salmon fishing from a kayak. I will keep up with weekly posts, with information tips, techniques, and gear reviews.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Three days on the coast kayak fishing for salmon without a camera....What a drag.
I launched my new boat, an Ocean Kayak Prowler Trident 15, on the Nehalem river on Sunday morning. Amanda, who took the 3 star sea assessment with me, and Jeff Wong, who I guided kayak tours with a couple of years back met me at the put in.
We paddled down stream about a mile and ran into the fish. There were a few dark silvers rolling, and every now and then, a big, bright king would jump. We fished hard for a few hours before calling it a day. Nothing seemed to entice a strike. I had a feeling the fish would be off the bite with the 80 degree temps and sunshine. We decided to head into town for a nice meal, and save our strength for the next day.
The next morning, I crawled out of my tent at 5am, and scrambled over the dunes to check out the swell. If the fishing was no good, hopefully the surfing would be. I looked out over a completely flat sea. No swell. No surf. Usually I can't surf because the swell is to big and the period to short. A flat sea is quite a rarity in the Pacific Northwest.
I decided to head back to the river to try for more salmon. I paddled 6 or 7 miles down river and found no fish. Not even cutthroat. It was depressing. I talked to a few locals at the marina in town, who told me it was slow, but kings & cohos were taken in the bay that day.
The following morning I launched at the Nehalem boat ramp into the bay. Coho were everywhere, and a few trollers were hooking up with 30 pound kings. I knew this was going to be good.
I paddled along the pilings in the bay between Nehalem and Wheeler with a rainbow spinner on a 5 ft. leader, and a 1 ounce banana weight tied inline, and immediately hooked up with a coho. He managed to wrap my line around a stump after a brief battle, and I lost him.
I trolled for a couple more hours, and had 7 or 8 solid strikes that I missed, a few blown hookups, and managed to boat 3 nice native coho, around 10-12 pounds, which I released.... and that I have no pictures of!
I've definitely got it dialed now, the new boat makes fishing allot less work. I'm heading back this Sunday and Monday, with my camera, and will post fish pics as soon as I return.