Salmon fishing in a kayak | Community
We pulled our kayaks to the beach shortly after 7am. The high tide recently left the beach dotted with dark green seaweed and knee-deep sand ledges. The swell forecasts hovered around three to four feet at 8 second intervals, while the wind waves were forecast a foot or two higher.
While we were setting up the equipment, I timed the larger sets. The beach was soggy, which means the waves weren’t pouring in smooth ridges, but stood up and slammed. I liked to launch out from Fogarty Creek due to a deep water channel which made the entry and exit relatively safe. But it didn’t take much swell to remind me that shooting the channel, a 20-meter room surrounded by reefs and boulders, was all about timing where misfires had consequences.
After closing my drysuit, I slipped into my boat. I stuck my paddle blade into the sand, leaning forward, waiting for the launch window to open. Despite our best efforts to time it, we were still hit by the waves. Wes’s sit-on-top kayak washed away enough algae to clog its scuppers, the exit gates that drained excess water. My boat emerged like a swamp. But I was in a closed deck kayak, a lot of the water spilled over my spray skirt and onto the top of the boat. We rowed quickly out of the channel into the open ocean.
Fierce fishing along the coast
Sea kayaking fishing along the Oregon coast is a condition dependent art. Summers are ideal for light swells, but as it will soon be remembered, wind and fog can cause problems for both small and large boaters. A week earlier, two commercial fishing boats collided in foggy conditions 12 miles west of Newport. Although no one was injured, the Coast Guard deployed several rescue boats, believing it to be a situation on the bridge as one of the fishing boats was taking on water.
We were just north of Boiler Bay, where the boiler of a 600 ton steamer exploded in 1910. The boiler can still be seen during very low tides. The bay was nestled in the shadow of the 500-foot-high Cape Foulweather, Oregon’s first landmark spotted in 1778 by Captain Cook, so named for the rugged weather and rough seas.
As fierce as our seas are, the Aleutian Islands, where kayaking arguably started, are rougher. According to author-adventurer Jon Bowermaster, for more than 5,000 years, the natives of the Aleutians have sailed in handicrafts made from animal skins and bones. Although the materials of construction have changed, aspects of today’s kayaks remain the same – their lightweight and easy-to-handle design is inherited from the Aleutians. Kayaks also provide a platform for relatively inexpensive fishing.
While not as ingenious as the Aleutians – they fished for halibut with bone hooks from the end of strands of braided giant kelp – I discovered a minimalist method of catching fish that has also been around since prehistoric times. modern. Fishing with a Cuban style reel called Yoyito, a 3.5 inch diameter handline (no rod attached) was enough to catch cabezon, lingcod and rockfish off the coast. from Oregon.
Wes and I were fishing for salmon. We weren’t sure if it was possible to fish for salmon on my handline, although we were about to find out.
We paddled towards a horizon dotted with a handful of large charter boats fishing a productive reef that curved southwest. I let out some of my 30 pound monofilament line. Thick neoprene gloves kept the line from cutting my hand while I was trolling. The reel was made of aircraft grade aluminum to protect it from corrosion and was stored in a small bag attached to my spray skirt with a carabiner. I pinched the line between my thumb and the handle of the paddle as I paddled.
We stayed a bit north of the charter boats, looking for diving seabirds. Wes said he didn’t catch any salmon when the gulls were there, and so far that’s all we’ve seen. About three miles offshore we saw murres and cormorants. Taking this as a sign of hope, we trolled the area before deciding to turn around and drift with the wind approaching.
Something hit my line hard. I shouted that I had a fish and started pulling it. I realized that I forgot to open my collapsible net. Usually I place the fish on my spray skirt and kill it quickly, but Wes informed me that it would be difficult with a salmon, and he lent me one of his fillets.
At first he didn’t seem to be fighting, and I thought he spat the hook. Then it popped, and Wes hooted. “Keep the tension on this,” he said.
I continued to reassemble the line. Lightning flashed under my boat. As I tried to keep an eye on the sporty fish, I started to feel a bit dizzy, realizing that I had made the mistake of focusing my vision on one thing for too long while rocking in the swell. Seasickness had started.
I brought the fish to the boat, where it quickly spat out the hook and disappeared.
I looked at the horizon so as not to feel nauseous. The sun came in and out of the low, fast clouds, and the waves of the wind hissed as it rose. I finally stopped and untangled the rest of my line to redeploy it. After a few minutes, Wes had one.
He took his cane out of its holder and began to spin. The fish dove under his kayak as it approached the net, snapping the end of Wes’ pole. But he marked it. A moment later he hit her on the head with his metal water bottle.
Coming home in a fog
We were high on active fishing, but a thick fog had descended, and I hadn’t quite shaken off the seasickness. We walked through clouds of crab megalope. Wes suggested making a few circles to see if the salmon were feeding. I tried to keep an eye out for a sea wall preventing a hotel from sliding into the ocean. This was a reference point loosely aligned with the return channel in Fogarty Creek. After rowing a few circles, the fog had washed away the wall.
Meanwhile, the charters were getting close enough to hear the captain’s announcements.
“Why not go through a radio channel in case we lose contact?” I say to Wes.
After a quick radio check, we put our gear away and left.
It was soon clear that this was going to be a rough landing. Visibility was a quarter of a mile at best, our driveway was still missing. In front and to the sides, 5 foot waves hammer the rock. My helmet had been attached to the deck lines at the back of my boat. I unclipped it and put it on. I considered suggesting paddling far north to Gleneden Beach, where we would still have to do a blind landing, but at least on a sandy rather than rocky beach. Wes grabbed his phone.
A blue dot indicated where we were, which was not far from the canal. The wind was pushing us towards the reef – we had to move. I had taken off from Fogarty Creek dozens of times and had to hope the race would get us where we needed to go. As I ostensibly knew the route, and as he wanted to keep his eyes on my bright red boat, I took the lead.
We have chosen correctly. Non-dramatically, we crossed the reef into the creek. Through the fog, I could barely make out people bending down to pick up agates. It wasn’t until we landed on the beach that I started to relax.
We shared sketchy paddling stories as we pulled our boats up to the cars. The scent of a group of girls having a photoshoot on the beach rekindled my seasickness, but I drank water and tried to focus on the solid ground beneath my feet.
Wes offered to cut his coho’s steaks. Driving home I thought that despite my years of ocean paddling, the sea kayaking symposia taken, and the safety courses taken and practiced in the waves, the ocean continued to demand intense reverence even on “calm days.” ” like today.
A link with the past
I thought again of the Aleuts, whom Ken Brower in “The Starship and the Canoe” described as venturing into “stormy seas” in boats light enough to be carried under one arm. From those 15-foot boats, sometimes for 24 hours straight, they would fish for halibut and cod, hunt for whales with harpoons. They left the land aside to kayak “on the horizon regularly and voluntarily”. They went to the Kamchatka Peninsula, Japan, San Francisco and Baja California.
This spirit of adventure and exploration has a mysterious pull on me, as it does with many Oregonians. Likewise, the very old systems of catching fish today appeal to both survivalists and sport fishermen. Sharing the story with my wife of my trip with Wes, sipping wine and slicing fluffy salmon steaks with the sides of our forks, I revived myself for my next outing.
Surely it is possible to catch a salmon on a handline.
Paul Lask is a freelance outdoor reporter and writing professor at Oregon Coast Community College. His work is at prlask.com, and he can be contacted at [email protected]