When I was a teenager I caught a mackerel from a tiny hook livened up with a bit of tinsel trolled from an ancient fibreglass kayak. You know, one of those ones that goes round in circles no matter how much you paddle on one side.
So the advent of the Ocean Kayak range of sit-on-top kayaks which meant you could head off to sea by yourself and be tipped out when you caught a killer whale AND be able just to climb back in again and carry on was a temptation too great. (pause for breath).
So I was thrilled with my Ocean Kayak Malibu two and not only hauled aboard so many mackerel that the entire neighbourhood stank like a fishmongers, but also managed to subject my children (sometimes two at a time such is the versatility of the Malibu two) to seasickness and hypothermia on a regular basis. Unbelievably I used handlines for over a year, but I caught quite a few interesting fish such as Black Bream and Triggerfish. The latter survived half an hour’s paddle back to the beach for a photograph to be taken before being released and swimming away quite happily.
I adventurously experimented with trolling for bass and lost my first Rapala plug (worth £10) after about two minutes when it snagged on a rock. I lost a load more plugs and also lost a mighty bass due to the inflexibility of my handline. I needed a rod.
At exactly that time the legendary Prowler 15 was brought out complete with flush mount rod holders so I didn’t hang around.
The rather desirable lifestyle of paddling around off the stunning and rugged North coast of Cornwall catching bucketfuls of fish and rubbing noses with seals, porpoises, dolphins, basking sharks and sunfish led to the formation of Bude Old Gits (B.O.G.) Kayak Fishing club. These consisted of people similar, but irritatingly younger and not as nerdy as me.
It’s taken me a long time to wean myself off mackerel feathers. They are just so effective and when spiced up with a little sliver of mackerel flesh they will catch a huge range of fish: pollack, bass, gurnards, wrasse, scad, pouting, whiting and even the odd codling.
The most significant bait ‘discovery’ I have made is the use of GULP artificial sandeels that are soaked in foul smelling fishy juice. The first time I trolled one behind my Prowler I caught more bass in two hours than I had in the previous two years.
Conservationists don’t panic!.I only keep the occasional larger bass for eating purposes. The majority of my catches get returned to fight another day. And a lot more escape when they are being unhooked. In fact Bass, being very spiny and very wriggly, have been known to somehow climb out of my fish well at the rear of my kayak.
My tendency to now favour trolling has accounted for my choice of last two sit-on-top kayaks: an Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro and a Paddleyak Swift. Both are narrower and so faster than the Prowler (which I have now sold) but that is not necessarily better for catching fish. But it’s better for my other goal which is paddling round the entire coastline of Cornwall on a SOT kayak.
My most unusual catch to date has probably been a Twaite’s shad. In fact I have caught two-one on the south coast and one on the north-both on GULP sandeels. With a bizarre name like that you would expect them to be small, pale and floppy but they are hard-fighting and impressive. The first one I thought was a herring and brought it home purely to identify it. I was depressed to discover that they are a ‘rare and declining species’. I felt I ought to cook it so it wasn’t a complete waste but it was tasteless and full of little bones. Double depression.