By Jim Sammons
The desire to target the bigger gamefish that haunt our coasts is growing.
In my home, most kayak anglers target yellowtail and white when starting to venture offshore for fish that can give them their first real kayak sleigh ride. Down south in Baja, likely targets are the tough fighting rooster fish, tuna or bull dorado for arm-aching action and long rides. For many the sensation of getting dragged around the sea has become an addiction for which they must get another fix.
For a few of these intrepid kayak anglers the addiction grows and the need to challenge bigger and badder prey takes over. This desire pushes them to attempt landing fish so large, many people in much bigger boats would balk. Fish that can be longer and certainly weigh more than the small plastic vessels they are fishing from.
I can tell you from personal experience that catching a tuna, thresher shark, striped marlin or tarpon from a fifteen-foot kayak is something that gets your heart pumping and your adrenalin flowing like nothing else. The rush that comes from bringing a fish to color can actually hurt you. Not just sore muscles hurt, but physical damage hurt. Experiencing a thresher shark greyhounding across the water or a marlin slashing his bill mere feet away causes even the heartiest of us to wonder if this is the smartest thing to do. Though we will do it every chance we get.
Targeting big game from the kayak is not to be taken lightly; the inexperienced can quickly find that they have taken on more than they bargained for. Even a thresher pup of sixty pounds can be a handful once next to the kayak, tail flailing past your head. I can tell you first hand that having a marlin slam into the side of your kayak may make you rethink what you are doing. These very dangers attract us to this type of fishing; it really is you against the fish. Think about it. More people have summited Everest than have caught a marlin from a kayak. It is a pretty exclusive club.
The job gets serious during the end game, the landing of the fish. Here are some quick tips for dealing with big fish in your kayak.
- Have a game plan before you hook up.
- Keep your deck clear.
- Have the proper landing tools whether keeping or releasing your catch.
- Never bring a green fish close to your kayak.
- If it is a species you are not familiar with, fish with someone who has experience with this fish if possible.
- Know your limitations. If you get the fish near your kayak and you are not ready to deal with a fish of that size, cut it loose.
- Teamwork goes a long way when it comes to landing the real big fish. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Jim Sammons is a Jackson Kayak Factory Fishing Team member, and a mountain climber in the world of kayak fishing. He’s handled nearly 50 billfish during his kayak fishing career. He is something of a TV star too – The Kayak Fishing Show with Jim Sammons airs on WFN.