I had the opportunity to take a wonderful group of eleven clients sea kayaking and camping in the San Juan Islands in Northern Puget Sound this past week. We spent five days enjoying seventy-five degree sun-filled, windless weather; Ideal conditions to say the least.
This was the largest group we've had on this type of trip, so instead of just myself and another guide, we had the added bonus of a third guide, plus my girlfriend. This meant that instead of working non-stop for fifteen hours a day, one or two of us could handle whatever task needed to be done while the other could do their own thing for a few minutes.
What this meant to me was time to fish. I've been a guide on several of these trips, but until now never managed more than ten to twenty minutes of fishing the entire trip. I brought my hand-line and three buzz bombs with me, but was not really expecting to do much fishing.
I spoke with a woman working at the resort we launched from, and she told me that pink salmon were running, and recommended trolling a two and a half ounce pink buzz bomb. Who am I to argue with local knowledge? I picked up the buzz bomb and trolled for seven miles between the launch and our destination with nothing to show but sea weed.
The next day I managed to scarf down my lunch fast enough to get fishing while the group finished up. I dropped the buzz bomb to the bottom, maybe twenty feet deep and began jigging. On my second pull I had a white-spotted greenling. After the first couple of fish, I realized I shouldn't have a treble hook with barbs, and replaced it with a single siwash with the barb pinched; All the fish were released unharmed.
The water is so clear in the San Juans that I could sight fish depths to about twenty five feet. I maneuvered my kayak from sand and kelp, over some rocks and caught a few small rockfish:
Every time we took a brake, I dropped my lure down and caught fish. After the first dozen or so I stopped taking pictures, and gave the hand-line to my fellow guide Chris, who had never fished before. He bought a ten day license at my urging thinking he was wasting money, and ended up catching his first fish with the hand-line. Now he's completley hooked on fishing.
That evening we worked a deal with my girlfriend and Shawn the other guide; They would cook dinner while we fished, and we would clean and do dishes while they relaxed after dinner. We had heard from a few people on the island that they were seeing pink salmon jumping by the eddy line on the North West edge of the island. We paddled out at sunset to see if we could get into them. I began mootching and trolling the eddyine when this nice little thirty inch lingcod struck:
Lingcod are out of season, so we quickly released it after snapping the pictures. I repositioned on the edge of the eddy line and began mootching again. Three or four pulls later something huge slammed my lure and pulled hard on the line. I pulled back hard and the fish took off. Within another two seconds my twenty-pound-line snapped. Whatever it was, it was big, and it definitely got my adrenaline pumping.
We fished for another twenty minutes or so with no results, but the sunset was magnificent:
I'd say using a hand line from a sea kayak while multi-day touring is definitely worth while. I need to spend a little more time with it to work out the drag so I can fight larger fish, but it is coming along nicely. I can't wait to get back to the San Juans when lingcod is in season. Fresh fish & chips at camp will be incredible!
I am headed to Alaska in October to fish for silver salmon for five days. I have been dreaming about fishing Alaska for more than ten years, and I intend to soak up as much as I can while I am there. I will post a full report with pictures upon my return.
Also coming up the weekend of October 16-18 I will be teaching "Sit-on-Tops in the Surf" and "Coastal Kayak Fishing" at the "Lumpy Water Symposium" at Pacific City on the Oregon Coast. Come out and join me if you are in the Pacific Northwest!
Until next time,