UPDATE 4:39 P.M., AUG. 10, 2011: The fellas made their run, and we detail the results here.
Pass over the Yaquina Bay Bridge and you just might see a charter boat zapping out into the open Pacific with an unusual cargo: six kayaks.
The Ambush will be carrying the sea-worthy shells out to where blue and green water mix and the signs and surface temperatures are right, and then Capt. Dick Pickett and crew will throw the fledglings overboard.
Scrambling in afterwards will be my kayak columnists, Bryce Molenkamp of Shoreline, Wash., and Mark Veary of Hillsboro, Ore., as well as four other anglers.
There, perhaps some 50 miles or more out and with no land in sight, the swarm of yellow and blue boats and dry-suit-dudded guys will then go on the hunt for tuna.
While practiced out of San Diego, the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, it may be the first time this approach has ever been tried by Washington and Oregon’s growing fleet of ‘yak fishermen.
“As far as I know, this will be the first attempt at mothershipping out of the Northwest for albacore,” says Bryce. “As a matter of fact, if Mark can back me up, I think this will be the first mothership out of the Northwest at all.”
“I’m hoping to tie in to a 30-plus-pound edible outboard motor.”
Somewhere in the mid-2000s I became aware of kayak fishing in our region. One September the Everett Coho Derby offered prizes for the biggest silver caught aboard one, and in my initial post-derby blog for the now-defunct Washington Fishing & Hunting News I failed to note the category whatsoever.
If I recall correctly, Allen Sansano — he of the insane Alaskan salmon shark quest — emailed about my oversight, and afterwards, intrigued, I ran a two-part Q&A series in the magazine on the sport. One of the guys I interviewed was Bryce who at 6-foot-7 might also be the world’s tallest kayak angler.
One of Northwest Sportsman‘s original columnists, he began writing for me in early 2009 and was joined later that year by Mark. Together they’ve detailed how to approach almost everything that swims or crawls in Northwest waters, from the finer points of hauling Dungeness crab pots aboard to trolling spinners and prawns for spring Chinook in the Multnomah Channel, from braving the legend of Buoy 10 for fall brights to dodging debris for winter sturgeon in the Willamette, and from yarding lingcod out of the nearshore rocks to how to kause extreme krappie karnage from a kayak.
Bryce’s latest piece in our August issue is all about catching pink salmon in Puget Sound while in our upcoming September issue, Mark details the quiet approach to coastal coho.
Indeed, they and the boyz at Northwestkayakanglers.com have shown that there’s not much you can’t harvest out of Tupperware. It doesn’t count in the Web site’s angler of the year contest (Bryce finished first last year, Mark fourth), but this spring Bryce brought in an octopus, of all things, and last winter Mark found several gents who use their craft for duck hunting.
But there’s one species that’s always been a wee bit out of paddling range, even on the years when the warm currents have brought the tuna schools within sight of the jaws at Westport and that pinchneck of a port known as Depoe Bay.
“A venturesome minority will always be eager to get off on their own, and no obstacle should be placed in their path; let them take risk, for God sake, let them get lost, sun burnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches-that is the right and privilege of any free American.”
Adventure is just bad planning.”
–Edward Abbey and Roald Amundsen quotes prominently displayed on the home page of Northwestkayakanglers.com
Bryce says he’s been thinking about loading a boat full of kayaks and kayak anglers for the past four years or so, but it hasn’t come together until this summer.
“There have been a lot of captains in the past who said they were open to give it a shot, but something always fell through in the end,” he says.
Weather or mechanical issues could always scrub this attempt too, says Mark, but anticipation runs high.
“This week has been a wash at work,” says Bryce, a graphic designer by trade, owner of a clothing and gear company called The Slayride and a regional editor of Kayak Angler magazine. “I’m just too damn excited.”
Same goes for Mark, a process engineer and father of three young kayak anglers.
“I’m looking for a wake-throwing sleigh ride,” he says. “Most of the fish we catch in the Northwest either sound or make short, drag-burning runs. I’m hoping to tie in to a 30-plus-pound edible outboard motor.”
Citing potential competition, they’re on the cagey side about certain details of the trip, but we can say that they’ll be packing their gearstows with plugs like Rapala’s big X-Raps to cast as well as iron jigs and plastic swimbaits to drop in front of hungry albies.
That’s the rough game plan anyway.
“We know how to attack this with a boat, but the kayaks are really going to make us have to adapt to a new strategy,” says Bryce. “It’s the first time this has been done so it’s really uncharted waters for everyone on the trip.”
Odds of success? Shoot, I dunno (knocking on wood). But one thing is for sure, I’m glad I’ll be pedaling my Hobie because it’s able to handle the most challenging conditions that can be thrown at a kayak angler.
Adds Mark, “If all goes well, this trip will pave the way for other charters to add mothershipping trips. I know there are a lot of Northwest kayak anglers chomping at the bit for these doors to be busted down.”
While the guys will assuredly be wearing floatation gear and taking all the necessary precautions, here’s hoping that on their trip the Pacific echoes the meaning of Bryce’s 2 1/2-year-old daughter Kylah’s name: “gentle ocean.”