My TR: Pushing the limits of kayak fishing
Conditions: S-SE wind 15 knots with gusts, 1.5m swell
Following ScottyD's (aka "shoulders") marlin catch on Wed, the promising forecast for Xmas day and considering I haven't caught a decent fish for a while, I was keen as to try my luck at Sunshine Beach.
The night before I went through my rigs and made sure that they're all in good condition, replacing hooks and wire as needed and thawing some pillies and yakkas that I caught a few weeks ago.
Morning came and I was ready to launch by 5:30, despite an annoying wind and quite noticeable surf.
Launch was fairly easy and I made my way towards the reef, while trolling my favorite Halco LP. The wind grew stronger as I ventured further offshore with some white caps forming, but as I said, I was determined…
The plan was to paddle against the wind, following the reef line (based on my GPS marks). A couple of minutes after turning towards the wind, I noticed that some line was creeping out of the reel (no clicker on this old faithful). Reeling in was easy as I was moving fast back towards the line by the wind. At the end of the line was a small tuna, which looks a lot like a juvenile yellowfin, but without the recognizable vertical pattern typical to those fish (might be a juvenile longtail, albacore or big eye).
Once the tuna was safe in the hatch, I changed to a pillie on a safa rig and continued trolling without success for another half an hour. By then I was at the South end of the reef, so I decided to change to a light weighted bait and let the wind push me back north.
As I was rigging the bait a wave rolled on top of me and rolled me over. I had to put my Eskimo roll to the test (after not having to execute a combat roll in ages), so I dropped everything, and while upside down, reached for the paddle, grabbed it from the deck bungies and rolled back (to be honest, the first one failed and I had to retry). Once upright I saw my box of bait drifting away open, with bait floating/sinking around. I managed to grab the box, a pillie and a yakka and looked for my dead bait rigs, which luckily (or not, you tell) were hanging off various points of my PFD.
After that drama was settled, I rigged the yakka on a safa rig, with a light-weighted octopus teaser (taken off a pulsator rig I got from Dennis) and started my drift with the wind in my back. Not long after, line was coming fast out of the reel. I peeked behind my shoulder and there was a marlin launching to the air over and over again. The adrenaline was rushing through my veins, but I had to stay focused with a fish so strong, at these sea conditions, so I played it nice and easy, while trying to get my cameras to work (without success unfortunately).
The plan now was to get the fish close enough for good footage, without putting myself at risk (and after having a marlin jump out of the air 10 metres from you, you really take it seriously). After 30 minutes or so of a tow and retrieve game, the marlin settled in circles under the kayak, just like a tuna would do. Again, I tried to take an underwater photo or video, but couldn't operate the DSLR in the case. By then the fish was really exhausted, so I tightened the drag and brought it to the surface. It was done…
I grabbed its tail and hauled it over my deck. That extra weight (probably 20-25kg) over the deck changed the centre of mass of the kayak and it was really unstable now. I tried to secure the fish somehow, but couldn't do much except balancing it across the deck (over my skirt, the widest part of my flimsy kayak) because tying that much weight to me or the kayak would have been extremely unwise in these conditions, and started paddling back.
I had plenty of time to think about my beach entry strategy during the 1.5 hours of slow paddle back with strong side winds and swell. I was so focused on balancing, I didn't notice that a rogue wave decided to crumble on top of me… I don't know how, but I managed to brace it, stay upright and keep the fish on.
I realised my best option to get both me and the fish past the surf, would be to reattach it to the fishing line, drop it overboard outside the impact zone and reel it in once on the beach. It only meant I had to rethread the line through the rod guides and tie it to the rig hanging from the fish mouth, which I did slowly and carefully each time the swell eased a bit for me to keep my balance.
When I got to the beach, I executed my plan perfectly (though Kev, who by chance came down to the beach right then, thought that I lost the fish). Back on the beach, Kev (and Panno who came as well with his son) was extremely helpful measuring the fish, helping out and taking pictures.
Kev's account of the beach return
With all Xmas presents and family time sorted just before 9:00am, I decided to stroll down to my local beach and perhaps encounter one or two of the Noosa Yakkers I was aware had intended to launch on Xmas morning. Of course I carried my VHF radio and camera.
I tried a radio call on our usual channel, as I walked, from the high ground overlooking the ocean. The only response I got was from panno, who told me he was monitoring the channel from his nearby home. I explained what I was doing and he asked me to call him if I came across a marlin in a kayak on the beach. I agreed and continued on my stroll.
Once I'd arrived at the beach I found huge shoreys bashing in (top of a big tide, and augmented by a stiff SE wind). Close in shore conditions were nasty, I can tell you, and I was glad I was comfortably on the beach. Peering out to sea I just caught the flash of a paddle and a white yak way, way out the back. As I watched I could tell that the approaching paddler was isobar in his magnificent white SIK. He was travelling very slowly and carefully, not his usual boisterous self, but I couldn't discern any reason for this except perhaps the rough conditions. He could not recognize me, of course, as I was just one of many people enjoying a walk on the beach on Christmas morning.
He approached the shore very carefully picking a nice gap in the swell, but still facing the massive shore break. In the last 100 metres of his approach I spotted what at first looked like some broken off tree branches in the surge about 40m or so behind him. Then the penny dropped: he was towing a marlin with its bill and one of the pectoral fins showing intermittently above the surface.
On his entering the shore break zone I was pretty sure he'd be totally smashed so I started to run toward him to assist in any way I could. The marlin had now disappeared. Expertly, ido braced on the final smashing shorey and disappeared completely in the maelstrom but emerged still in his yak, going sideways up the beach, right way up. He jumped out and dragged his yak up the beach out of the reach of the surge, then picked up his rod off the deck and immediately started to winch in his fish, which at this stage was still hidden in the maelstrom of the beach fringe. I was truly astonished when the marlin appeared through the shore break. Wow!
Back to ido:
All the footage therefore was taken on the beach (thanks again to Kev), a reminder for me to get my cameras sorted.
Video added 29Dec15
Merry Christmas and a happy new year, Ido