I was born and
grew up in So. Cal, and lived close enough to the Pacific to ride my bike to the Ventura
pier where, in addition to tormenting seagulls, I tossed “shiny sinkers” for bonito at a
very early age.
As time passed, my interest in the ocean broadened, and at 14 I was trolling jigs in
the local marina from my own little 10’ O’Day Sprite.
Not surprisingly, the sailing interest soon gave way to surfing, which became an
obsession that lasted some 20+ years, saw me through - and extended - my adolescence, and
aside from shaping me into the chick magnet I never was, helped me develop a fairly
appreciable respect for the Ma Nature.
inland for a spell, I found myself lured yet again to the water, only this time to the
less-salty kind where I tossed flies rather than lead at fish.
Needless to say, I was developing an appreciation for the challenges posed by the
many forms of ripping lips, but it wasn’t until I was in my 50’s that I lumbered into a
hunk of ocean-going polyethylene for the purpose.
I’m a bigger fan of food than I am of exercise, and as the years advanced, I’ve learned
that “middle age” refers as much to weight distribution as it does phase of life.
So for my uninitiated and non-angling peers, I use “exercise” as my excuse for
paddling plastic in the Pacific, but if you’re reading this, you know the call of the
siren is for more than burnt calories ….
As for the
burning of calories, I recently utilized some that were hard-earned and well-stored by
pulling on a nondescript, none-too-unusual mid-size yellowtail somewhere off the point of La
I say “somewhere”, for the fog that October day, rather than pea soup, was more
like bisque and, instead of keeping me disoriented all the time, played a cool game of
“peek-a-boo” by offering an occasional glimpse of something somewhere.
It was quite interesting, actually, for there was an unusually strong southwest
current pushing me out and south while it effectively laid the usually evident kelp
horizontal and well below the surface.
I was thus robbed of my standard points of reference and, when I would look up from
retying a knot or pulling a wayward sabiki from the neoprene pin-cushion that passes as a
wetsuit, I’d get to play “where am I” all over again.
Now as for the
reference to a “none-too-unusual, mid-size yellowtail”, I’ll say up front that
although I didn’t hook a relative leviathan, I am always impressed by how these fish pull
no matter what their size.
And yes, I’ve caught some fairly large forkies in the past, but the biggest I’ve
landed that dared to pull my yak came in at about 25 lbs.
I’ve no complaint, mind you, but simply note that the tails that have found their
way onto my hooks of late have been adolescents, i.e., in their mid to late teens.
So, you may ask, what was it about the recent jack that made it worthy of note?
Well, not a lot really, except that it was my first on an iron tossed from my yak,
and its successful landing brought on a very warm sense of a challenge well-met.
done it know that it’s pretty exciting to fight and bring a good-size fish to gaff.
From the kayak, the thrill is multiple and amplified.
First, we’re alone out there, and the fight can turn into one heck of an exciting
And if the fish doesn’t pull the pole out of your hands, break the line or hang you
in some kelp, you’re either very lucky or you’ve learned a thing or two.
Oh, and did I say very lucky?
Over time and
the actual (or near) happening of the just-noted, I have in fact learned something.
Something like what can go wrong will.
Something like the value of clearing the lines on my extraneous brought-along poles
so that the freight train on the business end of one doesn’t get hung up on the dangling
ends of the others and, in so-doing, pull the extras one by one into the drink while the
hooked quarry sets its sights on Catalina.
Or like learning that polyethylene is home to hidden razor blades that spring out
only when an e-tuned (i.e., tight) line gets close to the plastic.
Further, I trust (and hope) I’m not the only one who’s learned that rods, when
being pulled with great force, will hit the nose of the puller when the “pullee”
suddenly bests the line the puller is pulling.
I also suspect I’m not alone in having a developed respect for surface kelp’s
ability to aim and unexpectedly hurl a once-stuck lure back at the one who launched it into
the salad in the first place…
When YT’s are
involved, it doesn’t take too long to realize that every line has two ends, that the one
still on your reel gets visible real fast, and that as exciting as a long run might be, it
is you who’ll have to retrieve the other now racing away as your reel screams, “Stop me,
I dare you!”
We also learn that fishing is a lot about memory, i.e., reels don’t have one, and
ours gets worse by the minute.
To illustrate, a reel doesn’t know that it should return to its previous drag
setting after being buttoned down to yank a now-lost $5.00 blue & white Iron Man from a
barnacle encrusted rock mistaken for a halibut because the clicker was chirping as you
drifted over what was supposed to be a sandy bottom.
And it also doesn’t know that it, the rod its attached to and its plastic
rocket-launcher type holder will someday be ballast for something finny because its owner,
in a flash of supreme “wisdumb,” secured the base end of his rod leash to the rocket
launcher itself (rather than the craft) and, although trolling with the clicker on,
inadvertently forgot to put the reel in freespool and, after sensing the boat jerk and
seeing his rod tip load up, heard a heart-stopping “keeeeraack” that, along with a
vision of his reel, rod and now-broken rocket launcher going deep, deep south, still haunts
him to this day.
Of course, even if a reel with memory were to be created, one still stands to be
humbled by hooking, playing, maiming and losing a toothy 29-inch ling cod at gaff, and then
forgetting to check and retie what will, upon its next encounter with something finny, give
new meaning to term, “terminal tackle”.
But I digress…
This is about catching a YT on a jig.
So, what’s the big deal?
Again, not much, except mine was one of few caught that day, I was out with some
friends, they didn’t catch one, and although not summer, the sun had burned the haze away
and I fully expected to make a cool landing with the fish on what I hoped to be a babe-laden
That said, I suspect I should mention that prior to hook up, one of my reels nearly
busted my hand when an anti-reverse bearing got political and, having became anti
anti-reverse, allowed its handle to suddenly slam into a couple of otherwise innocent
Also in fairness, I should note that my YT, being carefully slung onto (rather than
hanging over) the yak and covered with burlap so as to avoid (this time) both sun and seals,
eventually weighed in at around 12 lbs.
This, in my short-lived glory, was a mere 10 lbs lighter than the one brought to the
beach simultaneously by another guy I initially didn’t see.
And why didn’t I see him?
Because I was too busy collecting things from the drink after I attempted to surf the
boat in on a 1’ wave that, like many of its bigger cousins, relished my bracing with the
paddle on the wrong side and, without ceremony or fanfare, dumped me some three feet in
front of … well, my friends say it wasn’t her, but from my angle, she looked a lot like
… Pamela Anderson.
So, on the way
to landing – and landing with – this first YT jig fish, there’ve been some lessons
In fact, the sometimes painful process of learning what not to do adds to the sense
of accomplishment when a nice fish is finally flapping itself silly on deck.
Come to think of it, when I consider one’s vulnerability and the potential mishaps
that can occur while hunting fish from plastic, I’m somewhat surprised I still have two
eyes and ten fingers, much less succeed in putting an occasional fish on the family dinner
I mean we’re not really engaging in an extreme sport, per say, but we can and do go
to – not to mention suffer some - extremes in order to feel whatever it is we feel when we
land them muthas.
In the end, it seems that an effective kayak angler has or develops some important
To wit, he/she needs to be patient, tenacious and attentive.
It also helps if you heal quickly and, of course, are very lucky.