Yesterday I awoke at 4:30 AM, ready to get down to Pacific City for my first shot at fishing from the Outback on big water. My plan was to get out the door by 5:30am, and with judicious use of the accelerator on my car, get to Cape Kiwanda by 7:30am, and launch soon after that. Ocean conditions looked perfect for a newbie – 3 foot swells at 7 seconds, winds 5-10 knots with 1 foot wind waves. Just about as calm as the Pacific Ocean gets off of the coast of Oregon.
Well, I happen to be a very good friend of Murphy. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong at the worst possible time. Yesterday morning was no different from any other morning when I wake up at a ridiculously early time in order to go do something I am excited about. Things still needed to be packed, and it happened in a rather haphazard way. I did not actually get out of the door and into the car until 6:30. Since it was so late, I decided to go get coffee. While at the coffee shop, I realized that I had forgotten a towel and a second set of clothes. SO back to the house I went. Managed to get 3 miles away from home before my mental checklist alarm went off. I did a quick inventory in my head of what gear I had grabbed in the rush out of the door. You cannot go fishing, I told myself (and my mother, who was along for the ride), without a fishing rod and reel.
Luckily, I happened to be approaching an intersection that I could turn around at easily. So, three miles back home. Traffic is picking up. I am getting progressively more and more irritable. Fishing rod in hand, I jump back in the car and head out. For real this time.
Back into traffic. Again, luckily, it was Monday morning at 7am, so it wasn’t super heavy. Highway 26 to Highway 6 to Highway 101 southbound. With a pit stop at the Safeway in Tillamook. And then, at about 9:30 am, Cape Kiwanda and Pacific City. We park, survey, and I start to get down to business. From several threads on one of the forums I frequent, I know that there are at least two other kayakers in the area fishing. But I am three hours off of their launch time. So I start to get ready to drag my ‘yak down the beach, and figure it out myself.
And then Murphy smiles at me. A pickup truck with a kayak in the bed pulls up next to me. The guy driving says to me “From the looks of the car and the kayak, I would guess that you are Madoc?” I give a description of what should be the most obvious way of identifying my when I am trying to coordinate plans with people that I have never met in person.
Turns out I am encountering a new friend, Wali, otherwise known on the forum boards as “Fishes From Tupperware.” So now I have a paddling buddy, and an experienced one at that. FFTW moderates a forum on the Northwest Kayak Anglers website entitled “Don’t Ask Me How I Know.” Sort of appropriate for me.
Wali and I watched as the two Kayakers who had launched first thing in the morning came paddling back in. They had been pretty successful, with close to the limit of rockfish and cabezon. They had some pointers as to where do go, as neither Wali nor I had fishfinders mounted on our kayaks.
The launch was fun and easy. Again, the Pacific was very calm and easy on me for my first time. We paddled out a hundred yards or so, and I dropped the mirage drive into position. We got 200 yards off shore and dropped our lines in. Wali immediately had fish on, and it turned out to be a small Ling Cod. To small to be a keeper, but a good start. Not having a sonar unit between us meant that we were fishing by feel. The standard method of fishing for groundfish from a boat along the Oregon coast is by jigging. Your lure is also the sinker body in this case. The standard set up is a 1 ½ oz. upwards to 9+ oz. jig heads – a large hook with a lead head molded over the eyelet. A rubber lure is threaded over the hook, and the jig is tied off to the end of the line. You drop the lure straight down until it hits bottom, and bounce it along the bottom. Without having a sonar unit, you have to guess what surface you are fishing over, mostly based on the feel that you get when you are bouncing the jig off of the bottom. It becomes very clear when you are over sand or over rocks. The fish that we were after live amongst the rocks.
We tooled over to towards the haystack rock, laughing at the Common Murres. They look like penguins, but they fly. My jig got snagged right as Wali called out another fish on. I worke to get my line untangled – somehow it had decided to wrap around the pole a few times, and then my drag and freespool weren’t working right. I finally got is all figured out, and realized that I wasn’t snagged, I had a fish on as well. I reeled in to find a 13” Cabezon on my jig. Too small to keep. But my first fish landed on my kayak, the first fish I have landed on the ocean using gear that I set up, and the second ocean fish that I have caught in waters around Oregon. It may not have been a keeper, but it was worth a picture. Wali had pulled in another underling. He tried to take a picture of me and my fish with his camera, but true to form, it wouldn’t work. So we both pulled out our phones and snapped a couple pics for posterity.
Here is my little cabezon
We drifted around a little bit more, and then headed to the kelp bed on the beach side of the haystack. Bull Kelp is pretty neat stuff, but fishing around it calls for gear that I did not bring. Specifically, weedless jigheads. My first drop I end up snagged on a piece of kelp. I am surprised that I didn’t snap my line trying to get unsnagged. It took me five minutes, and I ended up uprooting the kelp that I was snagged to.
Meanwhile, Wali was on another fish. This time it was a cabezon. And it was a keeper. 16 inches is the minimum length for retention of a cabezon in Oregon, and Wali had one that was at least 24”. A really piggy of a fish. We kept playing around the kelp, and Wali hooked up a black rockfish. We weren’t sure of the legal retention limit for it, so I pulled up the regs on my phone. It turns out that there is no minimum limit for black rockfish, and I told Wali that. While I was waiting for my phone to bring up the info, he had decided to release the fish. Oh well.
We had to pack it in around 1, and started heading back in. The tide had come in while we were out, and the waves had picked up a little bit, but nothing too scary for a newbie. We watched a guy launch from the beach on a surfboard. To go fishing. I can only imagine how that works.
I managed to get right behind a small breaker (they were about 2 feet, is that even a “breaker?”) and ride it in. Hopped out in about six inches of water, and hauled the yak up the beach.
So, some lessons learned.
1. Pack the night before. I had plenty of time the night before (I always have time the night before, and I seem to always wait until I am under pressure to leave to pack).
2. Bring the right gear. Not only is a checklist necessary, but knowing the correct gear to have is important. I mostly had the right stuff, but there were a few corrections that I need to make. Weedless jigheads and more lure bodies. Larger jigheads – bigger fish eat bigger things.
3. Don’t freak out when you are running late.
4. Don’t forget to remove the gear that you don’t need before launching. I had the rechargeable batteries for my fishfinder in my gear livewell. I forgot to take them out, as well as forgot to plug the drain holes in the well. This morning I found the corroded batteries in a half inch of seawater. $50 mistake right there. Lesson learned.
Wali, Thanks for being there. That was a great first trip.