NWS Kayak Guys Catch Tuna, Shark 50-plus Miles Out

UPDATED 7:49 A.M. AUG. 11, 2011 WITH PICS: Conditions on the open Pacific were “sporty,” but yesterday three anglers fishing in their kayaks over 50 miles out of Newport, Ore., caught albacore tuna, a successful end to the first time the tactic of “mothershipping” has ever been attempted on this part of the ocean.

“The weather was marginal but we pulled it off,” reports Mark Veary of Hillsboro, Ore., today. “Bryce is the man — first blood and most fish.”

Bryce would be Bryce Molenkamp of Shoreline, Wash. He hauled two tuna aboard his yellow pedal-powered Hobie, the first while actually just letting line out, Veary says.

We can’t say with absolute certainty, but that probably makes Molenkamp the first angler to ever catch an albie from a ‘yak in the North Pacific.

Allen Sansano picked up one too, and while Veary had also dreamed of hooking into a “30-plus-pound edible outboard motor,” he settled for battling a 4- or 5-foot blue shark.

Still, it’s likely that that catch is a first for a Northwest kayak angler as well.

“Beautiful animal up close,” Veary adds.

He and Molenkamp write a kayak fishing column for Northwest Sportsman magazine. In the current issue, Bryce talks Puget Sound pink salmon, and in September’s, Mark details the quiet approach to Oregon estuary coho.

BRYCE MOLENKAMP WORKS HIS PEDAL-DRIVE KAYAK ON THE PACIFIC OUT OF NEWPORT, ORE. (BRYCE MOLENKAMP)

"THE LITTLE SPECK -- THE AMBUSH -- WAS THE ONLY THING I COULD SEE," RECALLS MOLENKAMP WHILE FISHING OVER 50 MILES OUT OF YAQUINA BAY FOR ALBACORE EARLIER THIS WEEK. (BRYCE MOLENKAMP)

THE FIRST OF TWO TUNA FOR MOLENKAMP. (BRYCE MOLENKAMP)

The culmination of four years of thinking and planning that began while Molenkamp gave seminars during the Seattle Boat Show, the trio and a camera crew rode out of Yaquina Bay early yesterday morning aboard a “mothership,” the 43-foot Ambush, captained by Dick Pickett. It’s an approach that is used by some San Diego, Gulf Coast and Florida charters to put kayak anglers onto pelagic species.

“There have been a lot of captains in the past who said they were open to give it a shot,” Molenkamp said for our blog announcing the trip late last week, “but something always fell through in the end.”

This trip’s big question mark was the weather. While conditions closer to Newport on Monday were good enough that my wife took our two sons, ages 4 years and 20 months, out on a successful whale-watching charter off South Beach, further out the seas were more active.

“Winds were consistent 10 to 15-plus knots, ocean was 4 to 5 feet at 8 seconds or less — confused seas with a herds of sheep roaming from time to time,” says Veary.

Much of the trip was spent searching for a good bite. When one was finally located, the kayaks were dropped onto the ocean and the men fished out of them for an hour and a half.

And how did it feel fishing over something like nearly a mile of water and with Sapporo the next landfall?

“The distance from shore definitely plays into all your anxieties leading up to the moment you step off the swimdeck” of the charter boat, says Veary. “Once I was in my kayak, I felt right at home.  The only thing on my mind was getting my gear in front of a fish.”

That said, support from the mother ship was “critical” for the trip, and he lauds the skipper’s work.

“I can’t say enough good things about Capt. Pickett and his wife Peggy. He had thought through the logistics well and worked with us to optimize the time we had. His enthusiasm for fishing and for what we were doing was palpable,” Veary says.

Fishing out on the open ocean in small boats is not new in the Northwest. After all, Makah whalers of old are said to have rowed their cedar canoes up to 100 miles off the Washington coast. But as the sport of tuna fishing has grown over the past decade, the only choice for anglers wanting to do battle with albacore was whether they were going to do so standing up in a big charter or a large sport boat.

Now, with Molenkamp, Veary and Sansano proving that albacore can be caught from and tow around glorified Tupperware boats, a whole new tactic may blossom out of one of the newest fisheries to develop in the Northwest.

As the guys say, enjoy the sleigh ride.

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