Islander Idles: Mothershipping to Fish the Channel Islands

Take a ride to reach island yellowtail

Take a ride to reach island yellowtail. Photo: Paul Lebowitz

Southern California’s best kayak fishing destinations lie far beyond paddling reach. Those places are the thick kelp beds and rocky shallows of the windswept Channel Islands, spots the most audacious power boaters avoid.

The solution? Load a fishing kayak onto a larger boat, a floating home base if you will, then paddle deep into the weeds. Until recent years, intrepid anglers who wanted to fish the nooks and crannies of the more remote islands such as San Clemente crammed kayaks onto small private boats for quick there and back shots, or somehow rounded up enough of a crowd to charter one of the state’s huge fleet of sportfishing boats. Also known as party boats, these vessels have full galleys plus bunk space for overnight sojourns.

Either way, the result was a lot of fun on the water, but getting over the pitching rail and onto the kayak and back was often hair-raising. Then there was the jumbled mess of gear piled haphazardly on the deck.

The Islander mothership

The Islander mothership. Photo: Paul Lebowitz

A couple of enterprising sportfishing captains determined to change things. Back in 2005, Shane Slaughter and John Coniff of the Islander took a gamble and fabricated a custom kayak rack for the boat. They already had a swim step for their new great white shark cage diving trips, so the concept wasn’t much of a stretch.

Hardcore kayak anglers found a lot to like on the Islander. Rugged individualists soon discovered what passes for decadent luxury: comfortable bunks for overnight travel, three plus hot squares a day, bait and beer delivery via Zodiac, even steamy-hot freshwater showers. What a life – or at least a heck of a long weekend.

Oh yeah, the fishing was great too. We’re talking virgin water, where the calico bass grow fat, big halibut hide under the sand just offshore of deserted beaches, and turbo-charged yellowtail and white seabass are always a possibility.

These days the Islander attracts enough business for a half dozen or so regularly scheduled overnight kayak mothership trips each year. All originate in San Diego. A schedule is available at Islander Charters.

Racked! Kayaks ready for action.

Racked! Kayaks ready for action. Photo: Paul Lebowitz

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