August was an awesome fishing month for me. Several beach launches from Pacific City, a couple of them solo, a couple of them with friends. I landed my first keeper ling cod (and only keeper so far), Quillback and China Rockfish in addition to the Blacks and Blues, and loads of Cabezon.
One of my most recent trips out had me hooking up with my NWKA bud Yaknitup. I had launched into Netarts bay early in the A.M. to catch the slack high tide for some crabbing action, which put me in the water at PC about an hour after Yaknitup had launched. He has scoped out most of the area around the haystack at PC, and so once I was on the water I basically just followed him around. We were fishing a nice steep dropoff – were the water went from 80ish feet to over 100 in the course of a couple of yards. I had a basic rig on – two shrimp flies and a 3 oz. jighead/swimbait body, bumping the bottom and not targeting anything specifically. Yaknitup was out for Lingzilla, and so he had a heavy rod and reel combo with him loaded with a pretty large jighead. I bumped around on the bottom for a bit, and brought up a double – a black and a quillback. That was pretty cool. I got the fish put away, and turned my head to spot Yaknitup with a bent over rod, pumping and reeling.
I turn my boat to get a little closer – it looks like he is dealing with a big fish. I ask him what he has on the line. He said that he nearly got the fish to “color” (where the fish is close enough to the surface that you can make out the color and general shape of the fish), and then it had sounded on him. You can generally see the fish when it is within six or so feet of the surface, depending on water clarity. A lot of the folks out there who fish from kayaks are using spectra or other braided nylon lines as the mainline on their reels, and then a “topshot” made out of monofilament or fluorocarbon line. Modern braided fishing lines offer very little mechanical stretch. When a fish strikes a lure hard, or when the fisherman goes to make a hookset, the lack of stretch in a braided line can sometimes mean that the hook or lure gets ripped out of the fish’s mouth. No stretch means you only need to move the rod tip a few inches to set a hook – but most of us who learned to fish using monofilament make a hookset that is like we are swinging for the fences. Monofilament has a tremendous amount of stretchiness available, and requires much more movement to set a hook. Because of this stretch, mono absorbs shock better, and so allows for really hard hits. Putting a short, say, 10 foot monofilament “topshot” on the end of a spectra line adds a small amount of stretch to the rig. The mono acts as a shock absorber, as well as a safety break-away. 20lb test Spectra braid is about a quarter the diameter of 20lb monofilament, and you end up splicing the lines with an Albright or Bimini twist knot. You can feel it when the knot hits the rod tip, and if you are watching your line, you will see braid and then mono. This gives you and idea of how much more you have to reel in before getting ready to actually land the fish. 10 feet of topshot, and then maybe another 2-8 feet of leader. So, seeing the line splice allows you to know you almost have the fish to color.
Yaknitup’s fish had sounded before he managed a glimpse of it. So he really had no idea of what he had on the line. Only that it was big and strong. I got out of his way, and started bumping my rig around again on the bottom to see if I could come up with some more fish.
The fish that can get big enough to fight that hard, within a mile of shore, are Ling Cod, Cabezon, Salmon, Pacific Halibut, and some Rockfish.
A thought crossed my mind – wouldn’t it be a shame if Yak’s fish ended up being a halibut? Pacific Halibut can grow to be enormous, they fight hard, and they are some of the most dangerous fish that you can bring on a boat, short of a shark or a really big pelagic fish. Pacific Halibut are mostly muscle, and the business end of them is loaded with very large, very sharp teeth. Landing them in a powerboat takes some planning, and on a yak a lot of planning and some nerves. People who have caught them from kayaks let the fish wear itself (and them) out before they attempt to land it. Which means they let the fish run against drag a few times, and fight the fish back to the boat a couple of time. And then they gaff the fish, and kill it in the water by bleeding it out. Most of the guys that I have talked to who have landed halibut on their kayaks had a helping hand. I have caught Pacific Halibut from a charter boat, and so I know how much of a fight they put up, and how much they thrash. Kayak fishermen kill the big fish in the water for safety sake.
I was thinking that it would be a shame if it was a halibut, because the season had been closed for a week, as the quota had been filled. I was going to make a snarky comment to Yaknitup about that, along the lines of “wouldn’t it be a shame if it were a ‘butt?” Instead, I kept my mouth shut.
Yaknitup got the fish to color. And wouldn’t you know it – it was a Pacific Halibut. Evidently this is one of the fish that Yaknitup has been wanting to catch from his kayak since moving to the PNW. I am also excited by the prospect. Catching one less than a mile from shore is unusual. Catching one a week after the season close absolutely sucks. I pulled my line in and pedaled over to see if I could help. The fish was still fighting, and Yaknitup was trying to figure out how to unhook the fish, as the hook had penetrated pretty deeply into the fish’s mouth, and jigs as large as the one he was using aren’t cheap. If it had been in season, the fish would get gaffed, bled, and then tied up. But this fish had to be released. While trying to figure out what to do, the Halibut got impatient and decided to go back to the bottom. This happened at least three, maybe four times. Which meant that Yaknitup spent at least 30 minutes fighting this fish. Finally he gets it up to the boat, and gaffs it through lip. This allows him to pull the fish into his lap. Which allows him to unhook the fish, have me snap a couple of pics, measure it, and then slide it over the side. As its face hit the water, it smacked its tail against Yaknitup’s boat a few times, and was gone.
Here is a link to the video that Yaknitup recorded. That's me in the green and yellow.