Category Archives: Fly Fishing

Why are we losing so many kayak fisherman?

 

 

Kayak safety is no longer a topic I can address once a year.  Every week I read numerous articles about kayak fisherman dying while pursuing this sport we all love. before I dig too deep into this topic let me tell you who I am and what I do for a living to give this article better context. BE WARNED- beyond this point I am very straight and to the point, I don’t want to sound insensitive but we need to address this issue at its root cause, the “it won’t happen to me ” attitude.

 

My Name is Holton Walker, I have been serving in the US Coast Guard for almost 8 years now, and over half of that has been on C-130J Long range search and rescue aircraft. I am stationed in Elizabeth City, NC. I’ve conducted operations from Reykivik, Iceland to the Pacific Ocean. On numerous occasions, I get launched on Missions searching for Missing kayak fisherman all over the east coast and Great Lakes regions. It breaks my heart every time I get the details for our search plan and they paint a picture of a kayaker who wasn’t even prepared for the weather conditions, let alone a survival situation in those conditions. With that out of the way let’s get into the issues that are killing our friends.

 

The biggest killer in survival situations is hypothermia

 

The cooling of the body below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  a common misconception is that it only occurs in cold water. If the water is below 95 degrees you can expect hypothermia like symptoms even though it may take longer to affect you. Here are some hypothermia survival statistics with no protective water gear.

 

Water temperature

 

40-50 degrees you lose dexterity in 5 minutes, are unconscious in less than an hour and maximum survival time before death is 3 hours.

 

50-60 degrees you are unconscious in 1 to 2 hours with maximum survival at 6 hours before death.

 

60-70 degrees you lose consciousness in 2-7 hours and death around 2-40 hours depending on age.

 

The second biggest danger is not having a clear float plan.

 

A US Coast Guard float plan is form you leave with a family member or friend that includes where your launching from and where you intend to fish and when you expect to be back. it has section on what survival equipment you have on board and gear etc. This information is crucial to authorities estimating your survival time. A proper form can extend a search if we think you could survive past the normal expectations. There is a link on the menu bar of my site with a blank Float plan available for download for free.

 

Safety and survival equipment-

 

Here’s the average rundown of a search and rescue case for a missing kayaker. A friend or family members usually reports the fisherman missing by dusk depending on the time they were supposed to be back. The time it takes authorities to contact the US Coast Guard, then we are airborne within 20-30 minutes of the alarm going off.  The initial search is normally started after dark by the time we get on scene. The most important piece of gear is a PFD to keep you afloat until a search starts, at that point the most important device is something to signal the aircraft or boats searching for you. One of the best and cheapest devices is a chem-light or glow stick. You take the glow-stick and tie a 12-inch line to it and spin it in a circle. On night vision goggles and the naked eye alone it’s a very effective signal at night. My best signal device is more expensive, it would be an aerial flare or strobe light.  If a US Coast guard aircraft is searching for you at night, the pilots are wearing NVG’s and any light source waving will be very visible to them.

 

Radios and or GPS devices-

 

A handheld VHF radio is a critical tool to be rescued, every US Coast Guard aircraft that is flying is monitoring VHF Ch 16, 156.8 MHZ at all times. There are also many different GPS based devices like the Spot GPS device where you can send distress signals. E-Pirbs are more expensive but are the top of the line satellite distress beacons.

 

Protective clothing-

 

Staying warm is a huge deal when the air temps start falling. Hypothermia can set in quickly and you can start losing your decision-making abilities and start making bad judgement calls due to it. Always have the gear to not only fish when you plan but to survive the night if you get stuck or stranded.  However, when you go in the drink the only things that will dramatically affect your survival time is immersion suits or wet suits.  Dry suits are the most effective of anything on the market but are costly, the lesser effective mustang suits will keep you alive but you will be in contact with the colder water.

 

Conclusion-

 

At the end of the day, the most important tool is your brain, if the weather is bad or foretasted to get bad and you absolutely must fish, do what I do and instead of open water fish a backwater creek that is protected from wind and waves. I personally wear a life jacket not just for survival gear but so if god forbid I have a heart attack, get bit by a snake a go into shock, or hit my head on something they search can find my body for my family. It’s a morbid thought but it’s an honest one. There is nothing worse than closing a search and rescue case without recovering a body for the family.  I hope this article helps shines some light on some of the lesser discussed topics in the kayak community. Stay Safe and come back next week for some Fall bass fishing tips and techniques to catch some monsters with the falling temperatures.

 

No fish is worth your marraige

When it comes to fishing, most of us thought that no woman could ever impact our love for fishing or our abilities to fish when we wanted. Songs like Brad Paisley’s “I’m gonna miss her” can pretty much sum up how we feel about giving up fishing trips. But if there is one thing I have learned in my marriage is that it might not seem like a big deal to you, she is upset that your going fishing instead of spending time with her, even if it’s just a little and it barely shows on the outside. Over time it adds up and eventually turns into a big problem.

My problem was when my wife was pregnant I felt like I had to fish as much as I could anytime the weather allowed, because I felt like once my daughter arrived that was all she wrote for me and my fishing habits. I knew she was frustrated that I was fishing so much but it didn’t seem like it was really bothering her so I kept on fishing.

Once my daughter arrived I realized it wasn’t the end of my fishing life and I could easily go out once a week without getting on her nerves but now my finances had changed and things were quite different, resulting in no money in the budget for lures, bait or gas money to go fishing. Instead of realizing this, I continued to push the issue so I could fish like I wanted. Unfortunately, this habit put strain on my marriage and finances. What took me a while to realize is I was trying to change my financial habits and priorities when it came to spending time with my family, all while changing as little as possible. If that sounds stupid, it’s because it is!

I ended up realizing my problem before it seriously affected my marriage, I took a 6 month break from fishing, sold my fishing kayak and focused on getting our finances in order and building a strong foundation in my marriage. What is amazing, is after those 6 months, my wife came to me and asked if I wanted to buy a kayak and start fishing again. Because I had gone out of my way to change and show her I was serious about our marriage, she went out of her way to make sure I still get to enjoy my hobby and love for the outdoors while fishing.

In the end, I have a strong marriage, because I finally realized that fishing was my hobby, not my life. My life was my marriage and my family. Fishing was something I got to do on the side when there was time and everything at home was in a good place. No fish was or ever will be worth my marriage.

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Affordability vs Quality

A common question among beginner kayak anglers or people looking to get into kayak angling is what kayak should I get to start out with.Unfortunately that question can’t be answered.  Every aspect of the different kayak brands better suits one style of fishing or one style of angler. Today’s post will be covering what all you should consider before purchasing your first fishing kayak or your next fishing kayak.

Price Vs Quality-

The price ranger of kayaks can ranger from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, and with so many brands out there it can get overwhelming with which kayak you should buy. I just purchased an Ascend FS12T kayak. And I was torn between the FS12T and FS128T, there is a $250 price difference between the tow and the only added features are a much wider stable, yet slower kayak you can stand on when looking at the FS128T. The FS12T is cheaper, more maneuverable but slightly less stable and can carry less cargo. My style of fishing is mostly in rivers and creeks so I don’t need a ton of gear and I’m not really looking to stand up much, so I spent the extra $250 on upgrading my tackle and gear. And that is where the arguments start.

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FS12T on Left, FS128T on Right Photo courtesy of Texasfishingforum.com

How you decide which kayak should factor in these three factors.

#1- DO you NEED the added speed and features?

I would love to own a  Hobie mirage drive kayak, but at the price difference of the lower end kayaks I can’t justify spending the extra thousand dollars on a added luxury of feet propulsion that I think will get in the way more than help. However, if your fishing larger bodies of water or open water beyond the breakers of the beach it would be extremely useful. So deciding what features your looking for is completely unique to your style and your fishing area.

#2 Would I rather have the more expensive kayak, or spend the extra money on new tackle and gear?

This decision was a no brainer for me. I would much rather buy a $700-$1,000 dollar kayak and spend 300 on tackle and gear than buy a $1,300+ kayak and have no new tackle in my tackle box.

#3 Do i want stability or speed?

A common tradeoff with kayaks that don’t have a foot propulsion system is that the fast the kayak generally the less stable. The FS128T is one of the most stable kayaks out there and at $899 its a heck of a deal compared to the wilderness systems kayaks or Hobie’s. But with that stability comes weight, bulkiness, and slower tracking speed. So once again the perfect kayak is up to your personal preference.

SAFETY NOTE- My job is Long range search and rescue. I have had many cases where I have been looking in large areas for missing kayakers from the Great Lakes, to the Atlantic Ocean. When you chose the color of your kayak please chose something that contrasts the water you fish. If you have to get a camo kayak, and you fish blue water, get a green or tan camp, if you fish brown water get a blue or green camo. Imagine our thoughts when I’m told where are searching 500 square miles at an altitude of 1,500 feet for a missing kayaker in a camouflage kayak. Always plan for the worst case scenarios happening and always file a float plan with a family member or friend. ON MY PAGE MENU BAR THERE IS A LINK TO A BLANK USCG FLOAT PLAN THAT COULD END UP SAVING YOUR LIFE ONE DAY.

 

 

 

Targeting fish on hot summer days

Hey everyone and thank for swinging by my blog. This weekend I fished some heat indexes of over 100 and figured this weeks blog would be about how I target fish in the heat. Below are my four keys to catching fish during the dog days of summer.

#1 Shadows are the key to bass

Bass will congregate along structure and overhangs that provide large shadows. The predatory fish use the shadows to stay a little cooler and also as an ambush point to feed on smaller baitfish and insects. A good technique to target these bass is with small crank baits or plastics.

Crappie also follow this habit and will concentrate around bridges and submerged structure in 5 to 10 feet of water. My main method for catching crappie in the summer is jigging light tackle curly tail grubs and minnow like plastics along the structure.

#2 Mid day fishing is sometimes crazy  good

You would think that mid day temperature periods during the summer would be dead, but my trip on Sunday showed my that even in 100 degrees and at high noon, the topwater frog bite was insane. I ran out of my Stanley Ribbit lures before I even got to the good fishing holes. After summer rains look to target bass as high up on the bank as the water rises, it always blows my mind how many bites I get in water that has flooded into standing grass and weed lines. I throw a weedless Stanley Ribbit in the watermelon red color to target the bass. Just remember if the water rises so do the fish.

#3 The good old fashioned Super Fluke

My favorite and most effective bass fishing method has and always will be the Super Fluke. My go to color is watermelon red flake but I have also had success with the Arkansas Shiner color as well as the Mardi Gras color. I usually fish the fluke with a weightless setup but sometimes a 1/8 ounce bullet weight gets it deep enough to work the structure the fish are holding on. 90 percent of your strikes will be as the fluke is falling through the water column so be patient with your lure action and let it sink.

#4 Finess fishing worms

A texas-rigged worm is the most widely used method for summer bass. When bass are lethargic and don’t want to chase fast moving or floating baits a slow moving worm dragged in front of their face is hard to resist, My main colors I use are pink, purple, june-bug and watermelon red. a 1/8 to 1/4 ounce bullet weight is all you will need in most situations. Once again, in the early morning and evening hours don’t be afraid to literally throw your lure onto the bank and work it into the water. My biggest bass the summer was in less than a foot of water when he hit my worm.

I hope this short post will help you catch some more bass this summer and remember, snakes also like shaded areas so be careful when you fish and always keep an eye out. Good luck and stay safe!

This weeks fishing report 05-29-15

Hey everyone sorry for the lack of material lately i was out of town for two weeks for work and i was able to get a quick trip in last night to get some video to you guys.

Where to fish-

The report for this week is consisting of the bass hanging around major drop-offs and loosely scattered around structure from 5-10 feet deep.

What I’m using-

The main baits have been soft plastics in the watermelon red flake color pattern, On the fly rod I have caught good fish on both the my versions of the gertrude gurlger topwater flying blakc and yellow as well as some homemade clouseres in dark olive patterns and chartreuse feathers for the tail.

Air temperature has consistently been inn the 80’s and water temperatures are rising every day.

Here is a video of some action from last night’s quick trip. If the weather cooperates I will be making a early morning river trip tuesday and will have the report and video posted by tuesday afternoon. Thanks for swinging by Apto Outdoors and swing by later this week for some more summertime bass action.

How to catch fish on bluebird days

If there is one odd habit among fisherman it is the notion that a perfect “bluebird” day will yield horrible results of fishing. The high pressure does turn bass off of this normal aggressive tendencies but don’t let that fool you. A bass or any other species freshwater or saltwater for that matter will very rarely turn down an opportunity for an easy meal. While you might not have as much success throwing fast moving baits or top waters as usual, a good soft plastics technique can yield big results even during periods of high pressure.

Bass have incredible eyesight, while a human might consider the water to have 6 inches visibility a bass could be able to notice visual movements at more than 2-3 feet. This is because bass have highly developed and sensitive eyes. During days of high pressure where there isn’t a cloud in the sky think of bass as someone who just had their eyes dilated. They are sensitive to sunlight and want to be in the shade. As the shadows shrink throughout the day the bass will move to submerged structure or next to large objects in the water that off them some shade. Early mornings and late evenings they will move up to feed in the more open shallow waters.

My recommendation for high pressure fishing is to target the bass along structure using soft plastics, my weapon of choice no matter what body of water I’m fishing is almost always a super fluke with a 1/8 or 1/16 bullet weight or even weightless depending on the situation. My color of choice is always to start with the deadly watermelon red color pattern. Another effective bait is a Jointed Rapala floating minnow, Fish love that basic old school lure. When you cast your worm, fluke or lizard make sure you either cast it on the bank and drag it into the water or slap it against the structure to get as close to a realistic presentation as possible. I even purposely throw my weedless lizards into tree limbs just to jiggle them out and let them fall like natural prey would.

I hope today’s post helps you target bass on the high pressure days. Below is the video of yesterday’s bluebird kayak fishing trip. I  ended the day with 4 bass, two bowfin that I let throw the hooks the one on the video was massive , a chain pickerel trolling a tiny chartreuse crank bait while paddling to the boat ramp and a large perch on a tiny rattle trap under a bridge.