Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kayak Fishing for Salmon

On some parts of the North American continent you may be buried in cold, cold temperatures and snow or maybe you are living on the West Coast and are enjoying some milder temperatures in late January.  Wherever you are, you may be anticipating the warmer temperatures of Spring and the call of the water and possibly your fishing gear.

JF Marleau is a kayak guide, kayak instructor and kayak fishing guide for SKILS and a member of the Nikki Rekman Sales team.  In this article JF talks all things, Salmon Fishing including where to find them and how to catch them.  Sit back, relax and dream of getting that fish on in 2014!

When September is upon us and fall is fast approaching, the salmon fishing season comes to an end for many motorboat anglers. For kayak angler however, it is just the beginning of the best season for salmon fishing. This time of year provides countless opportunities to catch plenty of salmon without expending much energy.  In the fall, the 5 species of salmon on the BC coast (chinook, coho, pink, sockeye and chum) move inland to the river estuaries (where the river meet the ocean). Estuaries are much more sheltered than the open coastal areas where these fish feed in the summer; this makes accessing the fish much easier. Furthermore, fishing in estuaries is very challenging for most motorboat anglers, as it requires being stealth, maneuverable and having a shallow drafted boat.

I feel that kayak fishing is the most efficient way to fish in estuaries. Some anglers like to fish from the shore; however, in non-urban areas these anglers end up competing for fish with bears (a dangerous proposition when you yourself smell like a fish) and access to the best fishing holes is limited by thick vegetation. A Kayak allows the angler to move quietly and easily from spot to spot and to stay safely out of reach of bears.

Fishing during the spawning season allows anglers to witness amazing wildlife sceneries: salmon jumping and numerous species like bears, wolves, seals, sea lions, raccoons, river otters, bald eagles and gulls, all feeding on salmon. Spawning time fluctuates depending on the species and the location of the creek or river. Some salmon runs do spawn during the summer months, but the spawning season in most creeks on the BC coast occurs in early September to mid-November.

Finding the Fish

It’s crucial that you spend your first moments of fishing locating the ideal school of fish, the larger the better. Much of fishing is a about increasing the probability of a fish biting, and the more fish that are around, the better are your chances. If you are fishing with a friend, go in separate directions in order to maximize your chances of finding the greatest aggregation of fish. Schools of fish can be located anywhere within the estuary up to 2 km away from the mouth of the river. Use VHF radios or walkie-talkies to communicate your findings as you go. In order to locate a large school of fish, look for salmon jumping and for changes in water texture such as ripples or water disturbances. For examples, check out the following video.

A fish finder is also a great tool for confirming fish are nearby.

Once a large school of fish is located. Be stealthy and maintain a good distance of at least 10 metres in order to avoid alarming the fish. Make sure you stick with them as they move around the estuary. If for some reason the school of fish is scared away from their current location (i.e. scared by a seal or a kayak angler) they will often come back to the same location 10 to 30 minutes later.

You will find that the fish are either biting often or not at all. I recommend fishing around slack tide to maximize your chances of fishing when the fish are biting. Slack tide occurs between one hour before and one hour after high or low tide. I personally prefer to fish the slack tide around high tide in my favorite spots.

Lures and Techniques

During pre-spawning and spawning, salmon don’t feed, but instinct will still drive them to bite. Our target is the most aggressive fish and our technique for catching them is “pissing them off with our lure.”

I personally prefer fly-fishing, but I must admit that spoons and spinners are no match for flies when it comes to fishing for salmon during prep-spawning or spawning season. Small spoons like the Koho Killer, the Krocodile and the very reliable Bolo are my favorite lures for chinook, coho and chum. I prefer a heavier Bolo spoon when performing longer casts. For Pink salmon, I like to use a one to two inch pink Buzzbommer or a very small one to two inch Pink Zinger.

Some anglers make their own lures based on local knowledge. Once during a kayak fishing tournament in Nanaimo in 2012 where Pink salmon was the prime target, I was fishing near a man who was successfully catching many Pink salmon. I asked him what he was using as a lure and he simply answered: “A hook and a piece of ribbon.” I was certain he was pulling my leg and that he told me that to keep from sharing his secret. But later I had the chance to get to know him and I realized that he had been telling the truth. This very nice gentleman was simply using a hook and two 1.5 inch long pieces of ribbon, the kind you wrap gifts with, one red and one white.

When casting, I personally prefer a faster retrieve action with some jerking motion to trigger the aggressiveness of the fish. I use scent in the hopes of increasing my chances of a bite, but I admit that my fishing companions who know how to fish and don’t use scent, tend to catch the same amount of salmon as I do. I see no statistical evidences at this point that fishing scents increase my rate of success.

I always tell my students that, if the fish are not biting after 10 casts, change one element of your approach. This could be your location, your lure, the action of your lure or the speed and depth of your retrieve.


As per law in British Columbia, all salmon anglers must use a single barbless hook. I prefer to use the largest hook possible that will not disrupt the natural action of my lures. Especially large salmon like Chinook, Coho and chum have powerful jaws and I want to make sure the hook is well set up in the mouth. I have had numerous small hooks bend or break during a fight with a combative salmon… again the big one got away.

When kayak fishing, a casting rod and reel is your best option. I often like to use a trout rod and reel with eight-pound test monofilament to catch large Chinook, Chum and Coho. The trout rod allows for easier and longer casting, but it takes skill (and a lot more time) to reel the fish in, as you must really “play” your fish to avoid breaking the line. If you want to be conservative, you can use a more robust reel and rod with 20-pound test braided line (this line has an equivalent diameter to six pound test monofilament line).  I prefer braided line due to the higher diameter to strength ratio. Use reputable brands as they ensure an easier cast and greater reach.

20-pound test braided lines work when fishing for all 5 species of salmon indigenous to the coastal waters of British Columbia. If you are targeting mostly Chinook, you may want to upgrade to 30-pound test braided line. Doing so will decrease the distance of each cast, but you will reduce the chance of breaking your line (and letting the big one get away again!) Remember, it is harder to knot braided line and bad knots are a major cause of losing fish. Always double and triple check your knots.

How to know when to eat or when to release your catch

During the pre-spawning season, the color and physical features of the salmon changes. Because they stop actively feeding, salmon burn their fat reserves, which means you no longer get that fatty and delicious grey layer on the meat. As the spawning season continues the flesh begins to slowly decay. The flesh becomes paler and the texture of the meat changes. This slow decay also creates an ideal environment for parasites. I personally release any salmon I catch that is in an advanced stage of spawning, only keeping the “nice” looking ones based on skin coloration. When I fillet my catches, I sort the fillets into 2 categories: fillets for smoking if the flesh is paler, and filets for regular consumption if the meat looks like it is from a non spawning salmon.

Kayak fishing for salmon in estuaries during the pre-spawning and spawning seasons provides outstanding fishing opportunities. The ability to be stealth and easily maneuver in a kayak, as well as the shallow draft, make the kayak a far superior craft for fishing in an estuary than any motor boat.

BC has numerous river estuaries through which salmon travel on their way to spawn. I myself live 800 metres from a kayak launch, which is a 20 minute paddle away from two of my favorite estuaries. I feel so blessed to live in beautiful British Columbia.

Fishing is just not about catching fish, it is also about having fun, staying fit, creating lasting memories with friends, watching wildlife and of course enjoying good food! To review all I have mentioned in this blog, follow this link to our video.

I hope I have hooked you!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Jackson Kayak Kilroy

Check out the new promo video for the Jackson Kayak Kilroy by JK team member Jameson Redding.  Think - Storage, Speed and Stability

Following that is our full on Walk through video.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Update from the Henry Brothers Expedition

We were super excited to get word via email from Russell and Graham last week with an update on the Henry Brothers Expedition.  The guys are on an EPIC adventure paddling from BelĂ©m, Brazil to Florida, USA.  Check out the route map here.

"Graham and I are on the North coast of the Dominican Republic (technically out of the Caribbean) waiting for a weather window to shoot across to Turks and Caicos - the biggest crossing of the trip."

"It will be 150 kilometers of paddling with winds on our right, will take us anywhere from 24 to 30 hours, and we are aiming for an island smaller than a breadbox. Oh dear."

"to summarize the trip to date:  It's been absolutely phenomenal. Obviously the bar for good times was set pretty low after what we experienced in the isolated sections of South America... But in all reality, we couldn't have asked for better paddling, better friends, and better comradarie with fellow boatmen."

Turks and Caicos are roughly 575 miles south-east from Florida, their final destination.

We will be praying for favorable weather for the guys and continued safe travels.  I am looking forward to seeing them in the flesh when they return to Vancouver Island!!!!!  

p.s. I am not sure the guys will look like this anymore...stronger, thinner and hairier perhaps ;) 

Monday, January 13, 2014

My life since yoga...

My 2013 "busy season" was a tough one for me, on and off the road.  I was not taking care of myself and my body was making a big fuss about it.

For those that know me, I am a wee bit of a work-a-holic, type A personality and I am Terrible (yes, with a capital 'T') about slowing down, stopping and recharging my batteries.

In late September 2013, I could no longer handle the sleepless nights and tiresome days due to constant back pain so I connected with Dr. Jennifer Forbes of  Heritage Chiropractic & Laser Therapy (some of you may know Dr. Jen from the BC SUP racing scene).  In addition, Jen connected me to Registered Massage Therapist, Jason MacDonald of Equilibra and between the two of them I had roughly 3 months of pretty intense treatments.  There was a hitch though, I had to do some work too!

Both Jen and Jason talked to me extensively about stretching as my body was super tight.  "Go sign up for yoga", they both said.  Admittedly, I did not follow through at first.  During one of my visits with Jen, she called me on it and I had to admit I was not really doing my "homework".  This was the push I needed.  Accountability.  Hurray!
Next was finding a yoga studio.  I met Jenn W. when she worked for Totem Outdoor Outfitters in Edmonton, AB and she was now living in my neighborhood teaching yoga.  No more excuses.  I called Jenn and said, "Can I have a private session?"  I was not even sure I could do yoga.  Jenn, now one of the owners of Inner Vision Yoga took about 40 minutes and assessed my range of motion etc. and told me I was good to go with Gentle Yoga.

Into my third month of yoga I feel entirely different.  No more back pain.  I am getting some sleep finally and I feel strangely present in my own body.  At almost, 42 years old you would think I would have a sense of being present in my own body but nope, not till yoga.  I now, do my best to move with intention.  Thinking about what I am going to do with my body BEFORE I do it.  I am slowing down...in a good way.

This winter I have been doing some hiking and snowshoeing and I am looking forward to getting back into a boat soon too.  I imagine that boating will feel quite different with this new found body awareness and I am excited.

Physically I am planning on a much, much better 2014 and don't be surprised if you see my yoga mat in the back of the Subee during my travels this season or in use on future paddling trips.
I am hooked!

Thank you Jen, Jason and Jenn for waking me up to the importance of being "in my body", slowing down and taking care of myself.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Paddler Kate Hives Joins Our Team!

We are very excited to announce that West Coast Paddler, Kate Hives is joining the Nikki Rekman Sales Team for 2014.  Kate will be helping us represent our premier brands of Kokatat Watersports Wear, Werner Paddles and Seals Sprayskirts.

Kate always has a smile on her face and is happy to share her passion for paddling with paddlers of all abilities.  Working with Ocean River Sports and SKILS, Kate has fantastic relations with a key dealer and outfitter of ours - bonus!!!

Kokatat is also pleased, to now have Kate as one of their Regional Team Members!!!!

Here's Kate's bio:

With a quirky and often infectious personality, Kate has a passion for kayaking that began when she was just a wee little Salmon Fry, if you will excuse the coastal reference. Now she cruises the seas paddling surf kayaks, sea kayaks and surf skis in search of her next grand adventure.  Kate grew up in midst of the rocky playgrounds and long sandy surf beaches of Vancouver Island, BC, so it is no surprise that she is now pushing the limits of 'longboat' surfing as a member of The Hurricane Riders. Kate is a coach with SKILS and holds certifications as a Sea Kayak Guide Trainer and Examiner with the Sea Kayak Guide's Alliance of British Columbia, Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Level 2 Instructor and Level 3 Instructor aspirant.  An active member of the paddling community, working for Ocean River Sports on Vancouver Island and coaching on the North American Symposium circuit,  Kate is also a  Surf Kayak competitor in Western Canada and the USA. She brings over 15 years of experience in outdoor education and coaching combined with solid technical boating, safety and seamanship skills, giving her programs and her lifestyle their own unique twist.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

SUP Surfin' with Mike Darbyshire

Back from a few days of holiday surfing in Washington State and I'm ready to go back again.

I find myself heading down the I-5 to Washington a little more often these days for surf and I am usually not disappointed.  With a few well known spots like Westport, Crescent Beach and Hobuck there is always waves to be found.  If I had it my way I would be surfing in Tofino every other weekend but sadly the cost of getting on the ferry seems to send me down south instead.  There might be a little bit more driving but in the end I save money on ferries, gas and of course good ol' american cheap beer.
Trying to get to the nose on my 9'0 Starboard Converse

On this past trip I was able to connect with a couple Washington state locals who I have seen on the race circuit but not had the pleasure of surfing with yet.  Getting into the surf side by side with Renick Woods and Tom Hanny is a little bit more fun than trying to paddle harder than them at one of the many races we've been in together.

I went out on this trip solo and managed to score a couple of good sessions at Crescent Beach and Hobuck.  Crescent Beach is a great spot but tends to be a little bit tricky when checking the forecast for the right conditions.  The forecast looks great and you show up and those beauty conditions you saw online just aren't there.  This can happen at any surf spot but I know those who surf anywhere in the Strait of Juan de Fuca either on the Washington or Vancouver Island side know all too well how it feels to drive out to your local break and get skunked.  Regular grunts, complaints and cute pet names for surf forecasts website such as 'Tragic-Seaweed' or 'Black-Magic Seaweed'.

Looking for rights, Starboard 8'0 Pro and Werner Nitro

Either way there's always water to paddle on and fun to be had. As the season goes on I think I'll be bringing my 12'6 with me and if the surf is down there is usually somewhere nice to paddle or maybe some small rollers that only a bigger SUP could catch.

Plan is to head out again this weekend and hope for the best.  Winter swells tend to roll in pretty regularly but the challenge is usually finding shelter from the wind and chop.  Once again, all that matters is getting out on the water!  I have to get as much playtime in as I can before the real hard work on the water starts in getting ready for race season.  Paddle surfing is such a great way to boost your fitness and skills for flatwater racing and I never realize just how hard I'm working because it's too much fun.

As we get ready for the upcoming Spring I've been getting lots of questions about race dates and people planning their 2014 seasons.  Start your season off with a Surf Course in Tofino, run by Norm Hann, Catherine Bruhwiler and myself! E-mail for more information.

If you are looking for dates for local events, I have added as many as I know about to my event calendar so feel free to put them down on your calendar or let me know about any other events or races that might be relevant.   All of my dates are not 'official' so please consult with the various organizers and race directors for confirmation of tentative dates.

Thanks and see you on the water!

Green River, UT

Green River, UT
Photo: Shawna Franklin