Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts

The Top 10 Kayak Bass Fishing Lakes in Texas




Having lived in Texas all my life and kayak fished all over this great state the last 11 years, it's time that I let you in on my favorite hot spots. These lakes may or may not be places you are familiar with but you will definitely want to add them to your list. If you are searching for black bass out of the kayak, try these lakes.

New to Kayaking? Check the Law.

In the state of Texas, you don't have to register your kayak in most cases. If it has a motor, trolling or otherwise yes, but in most cases no. Laws are different in each state so make sure you check them out carefully before venturing out. Here is how it reads in Texas:



The following vessels when on Texas public water are required to have current registration, including when docked, moored, or stored.


  • All motorized boats, regardless of length;
  • All sailboats 14 feet in length or longer or any sailboat with an auxiliary engine(s); and
  • USCG Documented vessels (New — see section below).
  • Exempted vessels — Non-motorized canoes, kayaks, punts, rowboats, or rubber rafts (regardless of length) when paddled, poled, or oared and sailboats under 14 feet in length when windblown. Adding an outboard or trolling motor to one of these types requires titling and registration.
  • An exempt boat may have previously been titled as a motorboat. You can check whether a title has been issued for free.
That is great news but slow down for a second and let's really look at this. Just because you don't have to register your boat (as long as you meet the above criteria) doesn't mean you can stroll down to Mariner-Sails and pick a boat and a paddle and be on the lake before sunset. There are some other things to look at within the laws. 

Just to get on the water you need to read this:

All vessels, including canoes and kayaks, must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or V wearable PFD for each person on board. A Type V PFD is acceptable only if used in accordance with the specific instructions on the label of the device.

Need some help picking one out? Visit a kayak dealer and try some on. For more info, check out this post here. And if you want a direct link to a recommended manufacturer? You should check out NRS or Stohlquist. PFDs are what they do. 

If you are going to paddle at night:

Remember that you must carry one bright white light that can be exhibited in time to prevent a collision. It is recommended that you carry a lantern, flashlight, or other attached white light that will be visible from 360 degrees. Regulations state that canoes, kayaks, and all other manually driven vessels may exhibit sidelights and a sternlight, and shall exhibit at least one bright light, lantern, or flashlight from sunset to sunrise when not at dock.


Need some help? For the absolute best you need to look at the YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro Light. You can find it here with a Mighty Mount (others are available). It also has a hi-vis flag so people will see you during the day as well. 


A general warning to have your safety items:

Operating Vessels without Required Equipment is Prohibited - No person may operate or give permission for the operation of a vessel that is not provided with the required safety equipment. An operator may not permit a person under the age of 13 to be on board the vessel while the vessel is underway if the person is not wearing a USCG approved wearable PFD. Marine enforcement officers regularly perform vessel safety checks to ensure the safety of boat owners and passengers.

One more thing you will need by law:

Any vessel less than 12 meters in length (39.4 ft.) is required to carry a whistle or horn, or some other means to make an efficient sound to signal intentions and position in periods of reduced visibility.


As you are thinking about total purchase price, a weekend trip down the Brazos, Guad or just a play day at the lake, make sure you have a PFD (life jacket),  whistle, and if paddling at night, a 360 light. 

Stay safe, not only will it save you money but it might save your life!

Are You a Poser?

No one else is talking about it so I will.

Posing with fish. How do you feel about it?

I'm not talking about the "I just caught this huge fish or this cool fish" picture where a guy or gal is holding up something they feel is picture worthy. I'm talking about the one guy holding four or five really big fish in a picture at the end of the day.

The origins of these pictures came out the bass tournament world where guys would hold up fish that have just been weighed after a day in a livewell and will soon be released. The thing that kind of itches me wrong though is when it's done out of a kayak. I see more and more people posing with several big fish, caught from a kayak. How did you get those fish? Most likely not all at once. So you've been accumulating these fish on a stringer then?When you move from spot to spot or go back to the ramp, do you drag them behind you by the lip or gill through the water or do you put them in a fish bag?

As kayak fishermen we pride ourselves on our sensitivity to catch and release, doing what's right by the fish for survival and various other topics. Just ask a room full of people about how to hold a fish for a picture or measuring fish on a Hawg Trough and how it should and shouldn't be done. People will start talking about fish slime, mortality rates, elastic bands should be banned and issues I don't have time to dive into right now. So for all of that outrage at whether someone wet a measuring board before taking a length, I have heard almost nothing said about posing for stringer shots. Folks may ask if the fish were released but how much have they been through?

Granted a livewell isn't a great environment to keep a fish in all day but we are talking about kayaks. Is damage to the fish worth a picture so you can brag? Personally I'd rather see four individual fish pictures of some giants. A quick picture on a measuring board tells a ton about the size of the fish and adds perspective to the size.

It's been cool and a thing of lore in the past to take the pose from tourney fishermen but can we please stop. If you are keeping the fish to eat, ok. No harm done, but if the fish are going to be released, please don't leash them or bag them for hours only to take a picture with other fish you may or may not catch. The potential damage and possible mortality should be our concern.

So that's my take on it. What say you? Is there a strong case for multi-bass posing? Let me know what you think.

Got The Kayak! Now What?

Every year it happens. For the last decade that I have been around kayak fishing, Christmas brings a great new flood of people to the sport I love. Thousands of new anglers, looking for a way to get on the water or maybe a different way to get on the water, ask for and receive a kayak for Christmas.

Often times these gifted kayaks are not the $2,000 super decked out angler editions. They are sit-in or sit-on kayaks purchased at major chain stores. You know what? And hear me say this: THAT IS JUST FINE!

You don't need to have a BMW 7 Series car to drive on the highway and you don't need the Hobie Pro Angler 14 to get on the water. Would it be nice? Dang skippy. Is it necessary? Not even close.

I fished my first six, almost seven years out of a $200 sit in kayak from Academy Sports and Outdoors. And it was great. I fished differently then than I do now but every kayak owner fishes a little differently and some of that comes from the type of kayak they fish from. The important things to remember are safety, time on the water and customization to fit your needs.

These throngs of people often find their way to kayak forums and ask the same questions. That is when they get a good taste of what our sport is about. Sharing. More specifically, sharing information.

The questions typically revolve around accessories, where to try, and what is all this I hear about tipping over?

Today, I want to give you some of what I have learned both from the school of hard knocks and by others in the sport who have mentored me.

So I got a new kayak:

What accessories do I need? 


BB Angler Pro
PFD (Life Jacket)- Most people go straight for the paddle. The only reason I recommend a PFD first is safety. If you blow all of your money on a fancy paddle and end up paddling in an $8 PFD that fits like an albatross, you won't be paddling for long. Choose a good PFD and always wear it. Check out the NRS, MTI and Stohlquist PFDs. I also recommend a knife and a whistle to attach to the PFD so you can call for help or cut your way out of a tangle or hung anchor. If you are going to paddle at night, get a 360 degree light. The YakAttack Visicarbon Pro with Flag is a popular choice amongst kayakers everywhere.The PFD and whistle are legal requirements in Texas. The light is also if you are out at night.

Paddle- This is your motor. Use this paddle guide and find the right one for you. If you only have two upgrade things you can buy, they need to be a good PFD  and a paddle. That seems like a no-brainer but lots of people skimp on the first and sell their kayak shortly after from non-use. My favorite I just ordered is the Bending Branches Angler Pro in Sea Green (240cm).

Anchor Trolley- It seems strange to buy this before an anchor but believe me when I say you will be much happier if you do. An anchor trolley allows you to use a drift sock, stake out stick and anchor while positioning yourself to take advantage of the wind, not be a victim of it. This also will allow for a quick release if you get into trouble. This is the one I use. Inexpensive and easy to install.

Anchor- This is the most widely underpurchased item under $50. Anchors exist in all shapes and sizes. The most popular one is the collapsible anchor. If you are going to be in water eight feet deep or less, I suggest a YakAttack Park-N_Pole. It can double as a push pole, GoPro camera pole and many other things. Very versatile and it floats. It comes in three different lengths to fit exactly what your needs are.

Anchor Rope (and accessories)- Most anchors don't come with rope. If you are going to be fishing in any current or wind at all most people will recommend 2X the length of rope for the depth you are fishing. So if your fish are in 20 feet of water, you need at least 40 feet of rope. If you are fishing on the coast it is recommended 3X the depth. I like 3/16" rope but choose what you like. Just don't buy 1/16" rope and expect to raise a big anchor easily. While you are there in the rope section, pick up a carabiner and rope float to attach to these as well.

Super Nova Fishing Lights on my kayak
Rod Holders- These come in different varieties. You can get flush mount, rocket launchers, trolling rod holders for baitcasters and spinning, rail mount, and the list goes on and on. Look at some rigging pictures, sit in your boat, see where you can reach and then go buy one. Check out a Zooka Tube. They are my favorite rod holders.

Milk Crate- You can buy one or ask a retail grocer for one. Either way, you can strap this down to the back of most kayaks and hold tons of tackle and gear. You can also add some PVC to be additional rod holders. Cheapest investment you'll love forever. Eventually you may want to upgrade to a YakAttack BlackPak. This is the king of all packs to haul gear and hold rods.

LED Lights- This may not be first on your list but this is more than a night fishing accessory. If you buy good 5050 LED lights like SuperNova Fishing Lights, you are safer in low light to no light conditions. Folks will see you and you can see more too.

Everything Else-These things will get you going pretty well. After you have the above mentioned items, you should look at, in no particular order: a fish finder, stabilizers (depending on the kayak), drift sock, stake out stick, VHF handheld radio, scupper plugs (for sit on tops), waders, paddle gloves, really the list goes on and on.


Your fishing adventure is just that. Add things as you can and see what others are doing. Go to get togethers. Visit kayak shops like HOOK1 if you are in Oklahoma or Tennessee and Mariner-Sails if you are in Texas. Talk to guys who have years or even decades on the water. Talk to the new guys. See what's new, what's a need, what's a want and go for it. And if you buy something that doesn't work out, there is always the buy-sell-trade forums. Most of all, have fun and catch some fish!

Sunscreen in the Winter?

With winter upon us please remember, your face needs some help too. This mistake from last year left a scar on my nose. I won't be repeating it. 

It was chilly that morning, at least for Texas in October. Temperatures had just topped 40 degrees and the North wind was whipping at 15-20 mph. I had gloves on, a cold weather hat, three layers, wool socks and my bibs. I was determined to shoot some test footage with the two cameras I had in tow and wanted to get some time on the water and in my haste had hurried. As I unloaded the boat I went down my mental checklist and had my whistle, my PFD, my paddle, pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. The sun was coming out and I had high hopes it would warm up soon as I shoved off and began a great day on the water. 

Fast forward four hours and I was beaching the kayak and envisioning the footage I had shot. I backed down the ramp to load up and felt an itch on my nose. I scratched it and my face lit on fire! A glance into the mirror reminded me of what I forgot. Sunscreen. 

I have been a big advocate of SPF 80+ for several years and had been on a three year streak of no sunburns. The end of my nose is a thin venous covering because of the years of damage I did in my 20s. Skin cancer is less likely an if, but more of a when for me. I am trying to do everything I can but this English nose hides under few caps and without sunscreen it burns. 

I think my fatal flaw was not writing down a list. A mental checklist is only as good as the next distraction. Sunscreen didn't cross my mind because it was cold. That's stupid looking back on it. It's sunscreen, not heat screen. It is the light and reflection of light that chars me, not the presence of warmth. The sun reminded me of that. 

5 days later I was still dealing with the unsightly reminder of my blunder. Please remember to either sunscreen up before every trip or wear an item like a face Buff to protect you. A big wide brimmed hat can also help but is often left behind on a very windy day. 

The action you take today can yield better results down the road. Skin cancer is no joke. Safety is more than just a life jacket. Protect yourself out there. 

In the winter months a cold cream is very unpleasant (at least for me) to put on. Though some people dislike them, a spray sunscreen is much easier on a cold face. You can also put a cream sunscreen on in the car while you are warm if you think about it. (That's where that list comes in.)

One final note, if you can find it at sports stores, sunscreen is usually highly discounted this time of year. Even if it isn't, be safe and be smart. If you're outside, protect yourself. 

I Want You To Do This in 2014!

Making resolutions to ring in the new year has been around for more than 4,000 years now. How did it get it's start? According to 43things.com:

Revelry and resolutions have been essential to ringing in the New Year since 2000 B.C. when Babylonians held semi-annual festivals around the spring and autumn equinoxes. Back then, people marked the beginning of a New Year by paying off debts and returning borrowed goods. The practice carried over into Roman times with worshippers offering resolutions of good conduct to a double-faced deity named Janus, the god of beginnings and endings. When the Roman calendar was reformed, the first month of the year was renamed January in honor of Janus, establishing January 1 as the day of new beginnings.

One of my goals this year is to get you to do one of my resolutions with me. I'm not going to ask you to lose weight, stop smoking, drink less coffee or send me money. What I am going to ask you to do is this:

Take three people, who have never been, kayak fishing this year. 

Seems simple enough right? Not only will it bring others into the sport but it will also allow you to share your passion of the outdoors in a new way with these folks. 

Every time I take a new person out for that first paddle, they remark on the quiet, the peace and how close they feel to nature. Something about gliding across the top of the water where the sounds aren't horns and radios but birds and fish calms the soul. Why would you not share that? 

Take an afternoon or three and show someone why you love this sport. It will pay dividends down the road. 



Peer Pressure Kayak Purchases

Please stop.
Take a deep breath.
Count down from 10.

I'm going to save you some possible headache if you'll take 5 minutes and read this. I hope you take this advice to heart because I sure didn't. I've bone headed this scenario twice and finally learned my lesson. I'll try to save you the same trouble.

Here is how it starts:

Talking heads (yes me included), start telling you about all these cool new kayaks that are coming out. We show you fancy pictures. Then maybe you find a walk through video. "Man, that's a cool yak." You see some pretty cool features you like. "I might buy one of these!," you think while you try to figure out when the next lump sum of cash is coming in. Tax return? Christmas cash? Returning all the crappy gifts you got for your birthday and the three extra blenders from your wedding gifts.

Then you go look at the fishing forums. I wonder what the kayak guys think of this boat? So maybe you ask the question but you ask it too vaguely. Typing in "What do you think about a Great Fork Spearyak 13?" is too vague. What do you want to do in the kayak? What limitations do you have? I could go through a big long checklist here but I have already created it. Check it out:

Think about these questions and think about the answers specifically to the kayak you think is so cool. Does it fulfill my wants list? If so, it could be great. If not, better keep looking.

At this point you may be too deep in the hype and advertising to even listen. I know I was. I had decided that even though it wasn't everything I wanted and it might not deliver, I was going to buy Boat X. So I did. I bought into all the pomp and circumstance surrounding it. While it is a very good kayak for some people, for me it was awful. I hated it. It didn't do what I wanted it to do, I felt some of the things talked about were oversold, and the hype sucked me in. I was more attracted to a brand name than the function. 

What could have avoided all of this headache? A demo. 

I should have paddled the kayak first. That would have told me everything I needed to know but I didn't. I was anxious, in a hurry and didn't want the deal to get away. Whoops.

People who own a certain brand will inherently recommend the kayak they paddle (or pedal). It says they really enjoy the kayak they have and it fits what they want to do. A little quieter are the people who don't really like what they are in but made a HUGE ordeal when they bought Boat X so now they are a bit bashful. Somewhere in that mix are people who are looking for something else but don't want to say anything because they so highly recommended a different boat. 

The plain truth is, sometimes when you think you know what you want, and then you go paddle it, you change your mind. The time to change your mind is BEFORE money changes hands. Getting recommendations will be easy but it will be diverse. If you are going to ask questions on a public forum, make them as specific as possible. 

"How does the Spearyak 13 handle in wind on large open water?"

That is a direct and specific question. 

Additionally, make sure the person giving you the advice/opinion has actually paddled the kayak you are talking about. I've had a couple of dozen people ask me about the Predator from Old Town. I have looked one over but have not paddled one. I am very upfront with that info and recommend whenever possible a person to talk to about it. 

I now find myself with a primary kayak that not a ton of fishermen in Central Texas are paddling. I own a Malibu Stealth 12. It met more of my wants and needs than any other kayak I looked at. I think several eyebrows were raised when I didn't get another Hobie or a Wildy but for the fishing I do across the state, salt, fresh, the way I transport, the specific places and ways I fish, this was the best kayak for me right now. Will I always be in it? Don't know. Was it a better decision than one I would have made three or four years ago? Dang skippy. 

All of that to say, if at all possible, please demo a kayak before you buy. If you need to find someone who might can help with that, message me on Facebook. I'll try to do my best to find you a shop or person within an hour or so that has that kayak. If nothing else, I can find you someone to talk to about it. 

Be smarter than I was and be happier in your kayak. Don't peer pressure kayak purchase. 


Baby It's Cold Outside




The Arctic Armageddon is covering most of the country at this point and while it's on everyone's mind, we should talk about survival. Many of us will venture out to fish in the cold because our water temps are still warm enough to not need an auger. In doing so, we need to be prepared.

Numerous articles give you info about how to layer, stay away from cotton, wool is your friend etc etc. If you need help deciding how to dress, please seek one of those articles out. It will be different for every region so I won't attempt to make a generalized list here.

What I do want to bring to the forefront is universal however. If you get swamped, submerged or turtle into the water, how long do you have before death can occur?

The PFD Manufacturers Association compiled all of the data and shared some scary numbers.

"Cold water (less than 70° F) can lower your body temperature, causing hypothermia. If your body temperature drops too low, you may pass out and then drown. The human body cools 25 times faster in cold water than it does in air."

Water that is just above freezing temps (32.5F) has a survival time of less than 15 minutes.
Water up to 40F slightly increases that time to 30 minutes.
Water from 40-60F (where most of our waters are now) can cause death in 1 hour. 
Water from 60-70F has a 2 hour time window. 
Above 70F is typically survivable from the temperature though exhaustion can set in and cause drowning. 


What this assumes is that you stay in the water. If you get soaked, then back up on your kayak and the wind is blowing, the water in your clothes will not stay at that temp. It'll drop like a rock. 

The best plans are to carry a change of clothes, have a buddy near by and if you do turtle, get your butt back to the car. Once there, strip down, towel off, put on the dry clothes and blast the heater. 

Don't be a statistic by being stubborn. If you get soaked, get out. 

Winter Reel Maintenance

Frosty mornings mean we are creeping closer to winter every day. Some hardcore kayak fishing guys will get out through the winter and fish but a lot of folks just don't like the cold or being on the water in it. Each winter, fishermen start to get cabin fever and thinking about what they need to do. One of the first things many think of is maintenance.

Time to get those reels spiffed up, get that old line off, grease them up, oil them up and then organize some tackle. We also use this time to peruse the internet for new lures and gadgets to rig up our kayaks with. 

Have you ever done your own reel maintenance? Some people love it. Some people (ahem,cough,cough) hate it. I tried it twice. One time about three years ago I decided to try to clean up an old Calcutta I had that was getting pretty grungy. That failed and I had to have a pro put it back together. I tried one more time last summer with a Abu Garcia Orra Inshore. It was salty, sandy and didn't feel right. 

I went down to Academy and bought one of those Ardent reel cleaning kits for $20, went home and started tearing into it. From previous experience I knew I needed a good bench space to work on and planned as I took things off of the reel to lay them left to right. Then, when I was ready to reassemble, just go from right to left. I thought it was pretty flawless. 

I started unscrewing a bunch of parts. A bunch. I didn't have a diagram but that wouldn't stop me. Once I got it to bare bones, I opened up the grease. How much I should put on parts and exactly which parts I wasn't sure. I had heard the old adage "Grease on Gears. Oil on Bearings", but how much. A drop? Two drops? Grease doesn't have drops. It's more like, well, I don't know what it's like. 

Now, 45 minutes into dissecting and chasing tiny parts around on the floor, I'm mad and ready to give up. I put some oil here and grease there and try to reassemble. All the parts are back in but the handle doesn't turn the spool. I decided to tear it down and try again. No luck. Well sassafras! Guess I just ruined a reel. 

I let that Inshore sit on that bench for three days. I would go in and look at the mangled mess and be frustrated. I could rig any kayak, do electrical work, carpentry and even a little welding but this stupid little reel was pissing me off. How is it I could replace a master cylinder and brake kit on a 1978 Ford but couldn't deal with this reel?  

I started looking for help online. Luckily I found someone fairly local. Not only was he close by but he was cheap. Too cheap I think now. I took it to Beau Reed at Papa Chops Rod and Reel Repair in Austin and a few days later I had a cleaned, upgraded reel (I decided to go for the Boca Bearings) that would shoot a four inch worm to the moon. Beau should change his prices. After I get all mine through. The entire cleaning and bearing upgrade including the cost of bearings was less than $70 for my model and the particular bearings I did. He made this nemesis of mine become my new favorite reel. I throw it all the time. His current turn time is about 2 1/2 weeks. 

So what lessons are there here?

#1. Have a plan- You should do extensive research on what lubricants go where, the types to use, get diagrams or pictures of your reel and make sure you have a clean,organized work space. 

#2. Have a backup plan- Reputable reel repair guys are often in your area. Ask around and you'll find out who the best on your block is. Some guys do it themselves, may offer to help and that's cool but when it comes to reel repair and maintenance, I like a professional with access to lots of parts who has tons of experience. 

#3.  Look at upgrades- Taking a $150 reel and making it fly like a $300 reel is satisfying but taking a $100 reel and making it fly like a $300 reel is even better. I did this with a Revo S. Holy. Freaking. Moses.

I've included a link to the video that Beau shot of my reel once he cleaned and upgraded it. It think it speaks for itself. 




PAPA CHOPS ROD AND REEL REPAIR

(512) 294- 3155




Is Catch and Release Hurting Our Lakes?

From the time I was little, I remember hearing that bass (large and smallmouth, not the white ones) are for catching and catfish are for eating. The only bass kept around our house was a large one that died and was skin mounted back in the late 80's. We caught lots of bass growing up. We would take pictures and then release them to make more babies for years to come. That's the essence of Catch, Photograph and Release.

Almost all freshwater kayak tournaments are done this way. Some saltwater tournaments are but I want to focus on freshwater today. Specifically I want to zero in on largemouth and smallmouth CPR.

Catch and release is a noble thought. Your prey gives you entertainment, you see value in that and want the fun to continue in the future so you let it free to fight another day. Sounds kind of like the Roman Emperor in Gladiator letting Maximus live. We build tournaments around this idea too. It is noble but is it harmful?

First let's look at some official wildlife science documents. 

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency put together a book for ponds and small lakes to discuss many aspects of maintaining a healthy population balance. A quote that jumped out at me very quickly was, "Fish must be harvested regularly for the population to remain in balance." More to the point it says, "The best way to avoid overcrowding in a pond is to harvest fish regularly and in adequate numbers.

That's all well and good. But what about lakes? Does this apply to lakes? Don't people already harvest these bass? 

It isn't that simple says Dr. Mike S. Allen from the Department of Fisheries and Sciences at the University of Florida. Allen shares in a paper, "...size limits are a tool for fisheries managers and have the potential to improve catch of large fish and total harvest. However, size limits will not improve every population! Fishery managers in Florida use specific regulations to improve fisheries that have rapid growth and good recruitment, such as the 15-24 inch slot limit on bass at Lake Istokpoga. Conversely, other fisheries with slow or moderate growth are often managed with more liberal size limits to allow anglers to harvest slower growing fish. The potential for success depends on ... each population!"

So what should we do as tournament fishermen? 

If a fish population seems skinny and long, should we change our format for that lake to a harvest format? Should we use stringers? 

Debra Dean, Editor of Honey Hole Magazine, has some thoughts she shares on the subject. She writes, "The art of catch and release could be on the verge of be coming the next big concern of fishery managers and biologists. It's actually already been under scrutiny for some time because keep-and-eat is what's supposedly missing from "workable" slot limits. Fisheries biologists claim that the only way slot limits really work for any lake is for small fish, those under the slot, to be retained in larger numbers than what is currently in style with bass fishing society (which is practically none).
   But they were inclined to support and promote catch and release as part of their fisheries plans and perhaps had hoped to strike some kind of balance between live release and a visit to the table, for bass in particular. No one realized that catch and release would become THE THING TO DO, almost a religious experience, for bass anglers and that such a noble ethic could become a problem for fisheries management."

But what is the right thing to do? Is a tournament needed where the aim is to harvest the heaviest bag of fish under the slot at lakes like Fork in Texas? And then have a fish fry after? 

It's not easy to decide but it is one that needs to be discussed. So what do you think? Is catch and release hurting our lakes?

Epic Adventure Turns To Near Death Encounters

by Robert Field


The day before Independence Day I set out for a four day kayak fishing excursion to the Texas coast. I would end up pushing my limits to the max, having a brush with death, and catching some amazing fish in the process. This was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. Here is my story…

I loaded up the kayak and all of my fishing and camping gear and began the long journey from Dallas to Corpus Christi, TX. I arrived after dark and drove along the beach to my campsite. Straight off shore on the horizon I could see the blinking lights of my destination: the Mayan Princess oil rigs. I set up camp near the water and climbed into my tent, thinking of nothing but the adventure that lied ahead.



Day 1


When I awoke the conditions were ideal: the surf was flat, the wind was calm, and the water looked like glass beyond the breakers. I was amazed at the beauty of this place; it was not at all what I think of when I hear “Texas coast”. The sand was white, the water green and clear, and hardly any seaweed in sight. At around 7:00 AM the guys I was meeting began to arrive so we loaded up our kayaks and set off into the surf.


Man O War

The three mile journey to the oil rigs could only be described as pleasant and serene. I saw a piece of trash floating in the water so I pedaled over to grab it and throw it in my kayak. My hand stopped inches above the bag when I realized it was not a bag but a huge Man o’ War. I looked up and realized they were everywhere. Needless to say, I elected not to go for a swim that day.


I was trolling on the journey out, and as I approached the first rig, BOOM one of my reels starts screaming as the line peels off the reel. I grabbed the rod, tightened the drag, and held on for the ride. The water clarity this far out was simply incredible. A half hour into the fight, I looked down and could see a beautiful shade of yellow and gray over 20 feet below me.

 
Jack Underwater

I had hooked into a gorgeous Jack Crevalle. This thing put up an incredible fight. I pulled it up into the boat and was grinning from ear to ear. I had landed my first deep sea fish from the kayak, and it felt amazing.


Jack Crevalle

When I arrived at the first oil rig, I was blown away by how massive it was. It is daunting looking up at such a gigantic structure while sitting a couple inches off the water. I tied off to the oil rig and dropped down some bait. Over the next hour I ended up landing several red snapper.


Red Snapper

As the sun beat down, fatigue began to set in, so I headed back to shore. I hung out on the beach for the rest of the night with my mind going a hundred miles an hour. Our target the next day was the formidable King Mackerel, or Kingfish.  I dozed off under the starry sky and dreamt of the day ahead.



Day 2


As the sun rose, I once again loaded up the kayak and headed out into the surf. This time, I made the paddle alone. I had grown confident in the open water and all anxiety had disappeared. I made it out to the oil rigs, but instead of tying off, I trolled around the rigs, weaving in between the massive structures. Not twenty minutes later, my rod bends over and the reel screams. Half an hour later, I had my first King in the boat. These things are massive, powerful, and have a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. What a rush!


First King

  
I would end up landing seven of these huge beasts. At one point, I had a fish on one rod and as I was reeling in the other to keep them from tangling, that reel started peeling line and I realized I had a double! I tried my best to juggle both rods, but would end up having one of them spit the hook. I did land the first one after an epic battle over 40 minutes, and it was a monster.


Massive King


A pod of porpoises was hanging out with us all day long. Some of the guys said they’ll take the fish right out of your hands on the side of the boat if you’re not careful. It was really cool getting to hang out with these extremely intelligent animals all day.



Dolphins

More Dolphins


The bite slowed down so I decided to head in a little after lunch. I had a long drive ahead of me to my next destination. Before I left Dallas, I had asked everyone I know where I could go to have the best chance of catching a big shark from the kayak, and everyone had the same answer: Galveston, TX.



Day 3


Where everything went absolutely perfect in Corpus Christi, everything began to go downhill as soon as I arrived in Galveston. I pulled onto the beach and before I made it ten feet my Jeep got stuck. An hour later I finally freed it and pulled up onto the firmer sand near the water. By now it was late, so I set up camp and fell asleep immediately. In the morning, I would be hunting sharks.

I awoke suddenly at about 3:30 AM to what I thought was somebody kicking my tent. I jumped out quickly, ready to defend myself, and landed in shin-deep water. The tide had come in further than I expected and my tent was sitting in a foot of water! I threw it in my Jeep, jumped in, and decided to just go sleep in my car in front of the bait shop until they opened.

I woke up, bought bait, and headed back to the beach. Unlike my trip to Corpus, I had nobody to meet up with on this trip. As I looked out at the ocean, I thought “We are NOT in Corpus anymore.” The water was chocolate brown, the beach was dirty, and there was a wall of seaweed three feet high all along the water’s edge. Well, this is where the sharks were, and I wasn’t there to sight-see, so I loaded up the kayak and headed out into the murky water alone. I paddled almost a mile out, dropped my anchor, rigged up my bait, and set my lines out.

Before long, one of my floats disappears and as I look over at my reel, sure enough it goes off.This is it!” I thought. I tightened down the drag in an effort to stop the fish, but it was not slowing down. This thing was FAST. I realized that I was running out of line on my reel, and if I got to the spool it was all over. I made the executive decision to release from my anchor and go along for the ride. This would end up being a grave mistake.

The fish took off straight in the one direction I did not want to go. About a quarter mile downwind from where I was anchored was Rollover Pass. This is an area with extreme currents, and if I were to get sucked into it I would almost certainly be killed. I tried with all my might to turn the fish around but it would not. Finally he decided he wanted to head off shore, and I felt an overwhelming sense of relief as he pulled me out to sea.

Half an hour later, I got a glimpse of my first shark from the kayak. It was a beautiful 5-foot Blacktip shark. It was not the monster I was after, but this was a moment I had dreamt of since the day I bought my first kayak and I cannot begin to express the feeling that overcame me. I admired him for a bit, got him on video, and released him to fight another day.


First Shark from the Kayak
Smile!

My What Lovely Teeth You Have!

I suddenly realized I was almost a mile from where I left my anchor. It had a small orange float at the end of the rope, but the conditions had suddenly gotten worse as I was fighting the shark, and the swells were now over my head. Finding this thing was going to be a challenge. I spent the next two hours pedaling into the wind and against the current, searching a vast ocean for a tiny orange float. I could not continue fishing without an anchor; the current and wind were too strong. Exhausted, defeated, and overwhelmingly disappointed, I decided to call it a day. As I turned to head in, sure enough, there it is! I was overcome with excitement as I pedaled over to it. I learned the hard way on this day, if you stop paying attention for one second, your whole world can get turned upside down. Literally.


Man Overboard

A HUGE wave crashed into the side of my boat as I was looking the other way at the anchor float. This was my first time ever flipping the kayak in deep water. I am now swimming in arguably the most shark infested waters in Texas, a mile out to sea, with nobody around to hear me scream. I cannot tell you what that feels like; it was a feeling unlike any I’ve ever felt before. I looked up and realized my kayak was floating away from me in a hurry. I swam for my life and managed to catch it. I swam around to the front of it and tried to flip it over. Not even close. I swam around to the back and again attempted to right my boat. It wouldn’t even budge. This is when the panic really began to set in. I tried my best to keep my composure and think logically. Then it hit me. I swam around to the side of the kayak and climbed up onto the bottom of it. I grabbed the opposite side, and threw my whole body backwards with every ounce of force I could muster. Sure enough, the boat flipped over. “Thank God,” I thought. I tried to pull myself up into it, but as I did the boat began to flip back over. I let go. I looked up and realized I was drifting straight for Rollover Pass. I was now less than 300 yards from where it started. It was time to make a decision. Either abandon the kayak and swim for shore, or stick with it and risk getting sucked into the pass. I decided I was not letting my new boat go, so I gave it one more shot. I threw my body across the boat and clambered in. I quickly turned and headed away from the pass. I had made it.


OJT Deep Water Re-entry

At this point, I decided I should probably call it a day. I rode the waves all the way onto the beach. Some people came over and asked me how I did, and as I began to tell them my story, three men ran up to the beach screaming “Whose kayak is this?!” I walked over and told them it was mine, and they all let out a sigh of relief. They told me a helicopter was en route, an ambulance was pulling up, and they were launching a boat as we speak. It turns out that a lady who owned a small shop that sells seashell necklaces had watched me flip through a pair of binoculars and had called the coast guard. She potentially could have saved my life that day. I got a chance to thank her later that day.


Coastguard

A family that watched the whole event unfold was kind enough to offer to let me spend the night in their RV as they were heading back home that night. I must have said no a hundred times, but they insisted. These people didn’t know me from Adam yet after a few hours of hanging out they trusted me to stay in their home away from home. I cannot say enough about the Meyers, and if any of you are reading this, know that I will never forget you and the kindness you showed me. For the first time in four days I got to shower and hang out in some A/C. It was an amazing end to an epic day. I reflected on the day’s events as I dozed off to sleep.

You know that voice that tells you when to just let it go? Apparently mine is taking the summer off, because I fell asleep with plans to head out first thing in the morning to give it one more shot. Once again, my judgment and decision making would cost me…



Day 4


I awoke the next morning before sunrise and walked outside towards the beach. I was immediately blasted by a very strong south wind. It was dark, but I could still clearly make out the huge breakers crashing into the beach. The conditions were significantly worse than the day before. “Well, I’ve come this far, I’m not going to give up now,” I foolishly thought to myself. I loaded up, dragged the kayak onto the beach, and set out into the surf. The waves I encountered were unlike anything I have ever experienced. A few times I vaulted over four-foot waves so hard that my kayak slammed down onto the water behind them.

Once I made it past the breakers, it was not much better. I decided to stick closer to shore this time, and dropped my backup anchor about 400 yards off the beach. I began to get an eerie feeling as I realized that not a single person was on the beach. If something went wrong this time, nobody would be watching with binoculars. I looked to my right and noticed a huge storm system off in the distance. I did not know it at the time, but a small tropical storm was due to land in Galveston around lunchtime. What I also did not realize was that I had unscrewed the drain plug in my kayak the night before to get some of the water out of it from when I capsized, and had forgotten to screw it back in before I headed out. I was out in the roughest seas I’ve ever been in, alone, and was taking on a lot of water without the slightest clue that it was happening. Well, somebody must have been watching over me. Within five minutes of dropping my bait in the water, an enormous wave crashed down right on top of me and broke my anchor rig. I watched the float slide off the rope, and the anchor rope slipped into the murky water. It was over. I could not fish in these conditions without an anchor. I was disappointed, but I would later find out this was a blessing in disguise. I reeled in my rod, secured my gear, and headed in as I watched the mountainous waves crash between me and the beach. I managed to successfully surf the first three or four waves that picked me up from behind, but then suddenly I heard a crash and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I knew it was bad. I turned around and two waves were crashing into me from two different angles. SWOOSH.


Cross Checked On The Way In
More Swimming
        
The View From Below

As my head broke the surface and I gasped for air, another huge wave crashed into my kayak and slammed it into my forehead. Dazed, I somehow managed to hang on to the boat. I was now getting pounded by waves while hanging onto my kayak for dear life. I was still about 100 yards from shore and could not touch the bottom. Somehow I managed to flip the kayak over with the method I had learned the day before, and stayed in it long enough to make it to the beach. As soon as I stepped foot on the sand, I fell to my knees and collapsed. My head was pounding and I felt extremely dizzy. I laid down in the sand as half of my gear washed up onto the beach. As I laid there, six words escaped my mouth: “You win this time, Mother Nature.” When I eventually opened up my hatch to look inside my kayak, about four gallons of water was sloshing around inside. That was after being out there for 10 minutes. I would have sunk in less than an hour had I stayed. My anchor breaking off was the luckiest thing that happened to me all weekend.

This trip was one of the most incredible journeys of my life. There were great moments, terrifying moments, amazing accomplishments, and many lessons learned. My only hope is that at least one kayaker reads this and learns from a few of my mistakes. I should never have gone beyond the breakers alone in those conditions. I learned that no matter what situation you find yourself in, you have to always keep a level head and think things through before you act. The ocean is a powerful force and your situation can turn on you in a split second. I realized that I need to give somebody a float plan before I head out, so that if something happens to me there is somebody who knows where I am heading and when I should be back. I learned that despite how badly you want to do something, sometimes you have to call it off and wait for a better day. No fish is worth dying for.



As you can see, I had my video cameras rolling the entire time. I will be producing an epic three-part film series from my trip. Trust me, you DO NOT want to miss it. Subscribe to my YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/YAKnAGGIE so you can catch the action when it airs.

In the meantime, I’ll be gearing up for the next adventure…

Also, COMING SOON…
We will be launching our new website, www.YakFishTV.com. This will be a site dedicated to kayak fishing films, but will also have sections for blog posts, product reviews, a photo gallery, and much more. We will be recruiting 4-5 kayak anglers with a knack for videography to join the YakFish TV team so that we can consistently produce quality kayak fishing adventures for you to enjoy. If you would like to apply to become part of the YakFish TV team, send a sample video to robert@yakfishtv.com.


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Thanks to Robert for sharing his story of triumph and trials. He knows there is a lot to be learned here and I plan on revisiting it later in the week. If you haven't subscribed to his YouTube channel, you should do that. Look for YakFishTV very soon and if you fancy yourself as a filmmaker, think about applying to the team. 
-----Chris





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