July 18, 2010

Hooked on kayak fishing. Seriously.

What at first seems an odd blending of activities creates a fun new -- and increasingly popular -- way to catch the big one.

By Deirdre Fleming dfleming@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

CUMBERLAND - The waters of Casco Bay in Broad Cove were still at 5:30 a.m. But despite the hope of an outgoing tide pulling schools of bait fish and loads of stripers, the ocean offered nothing but a few mocking sea birds.

click image to enlarge

Adam Taylor of Cumberland fishes for stripers from his kayak in Broad Cove off Cumberland Foreside earlier this month. “The Maine coast is uniquely suited to fishing for stripers from kayaks,” says Taylor.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

"If the great Adam Taylor isn't catching fish, there are no fish in the sea," said Dan Riley, 47.

Moments later Taylor, a ridiculously avid angler from Falmouth, was standing in his kayak leaning toward a small rock, casting to the waters around it with gusto.

Despite using his lucky beat-up lure, Taylor caught nothing from his flat-bottomed kayak this day. Still, it was the kind of drama that can provide a wild turnaround to a dull fishing trip. And when fly fishing from a kayak, there's always hope it'll happen.

Kayak fishing has gotten hugely popular in Maine over the past several years. And when you've got fisherman Dave Lamoureux of Boston catching a world-record bluefin tuna from a kayak, it feeds the hopes of men like Riley and Taylor.

The monstrous tuna Lamoureux landed (5-feet, 6 inches, 157-pounds) hauled him around on Nov. 5, 2009, until it was caught.

Certainly, there always have been fly fishermen who fished from kayaks, but increasingly there are those who take it to the open ocean and target stripers, bluefish and bigger, said Taylor, president of the Casco Bay Anglers Club.

"The last few years it's proliferated," said Taylor, 35. "And the Maine coast is uniquely suited to fishing for stripers from kayaks. There is an abundance of coastline. And folks know this."

The Maine saltwater kayak fishing tournament taking place this weekend is one example of the sport's popularity. It's the fifth year for the event held off the coast of West Bath.

Founder and director Scott Shea of Seaspray Kayaking said with the growth in kayak fishing over the past eight years, the tournament was a no-brainer. "In the south there is no question it's been huge. Now it's gotten serious all over the country," Shea said. "We started in the kayak fishing business 20 years ago, but we were just taking rods along to add to the excitement. It's really just been the last eight years that manufacturers have been designing kayaks just for fishing. And the last seven to eight years people are asking specifically for (guided) kayak fishing."

Taylor started fly fishing in 1988 but only got into kayak fishing in 1997 by accident. He was island camping and while hauling his fishing gear out, decided to troll with one of his rods.

Needless to say, Taylor was hooked.

"There was a pretty sizeable tussle. It was eye-opening," Taylor said.

He said the thrill of catching a striper on a fly rod grows exponentially in a kayak.

"It's the proverbial Casco Bay sleigh ride," Taylor said with the huge grin of knowing.

But Taylor said it's the element of stealth he loves most about kayak fishing. The ability to sneak up in the eel grass, with the fish completely unaware of what's approaching.

It's the ultimate in camouflage.

A lawyer by day, these days Taylor is not out every day, but it's full-on fishing when he is.

"He's doing the Lone Ranger thing," Riley said two weeks ago as he watched Taylor paddling his kayak further into Broad Cove.

That day the two men spent a half-hour carrying their boats to a private dock in Cumberland and sorting through their respective fly rods, spin rods and reels. Then it was every man for himself.

In kayak fishing, space is pretty important since the crafts are apt to drift. What once started as a cast going perpendicular to your fishing buddy can suddenly be heading for the back of his head.

And for those who have never done it, kayak fishing is nearly like learning to fly fish all over again, with that strange wait while the back cast unrolls.

But once a kayak fisherman's got his timing down, the places he can get to are limitless.

And at last the seagulls and osprey have no advantage.

"You didn't catch anything either," Riley yelled to an osprey that dive-bombed 20 yards in front of him.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

 

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