Extreme Kayak Fishing w/ Joe Hector
by Danny Floyd
Photos: Perrin James
“You are the Captain, the Navigator, the First Mate, and you are in control of yourself. It’s all on you.”
—Joe Hector, Extremekayakfishing.com
I must admit I’d never used the word fishing and kayak in the same sentence before. Kayaking to me was a visual of a serene setting, on a lake or some flat body of water, meandering through trees and creeks, maybe like the Indians did, a hippie-dippy nature- scene with granola in the boat and folk songs (“This land is your land, this land is my land……”) in my ear buds. Peace.
So when I started to hear about this new thing called kayak fishing, I thought “this is a neat idea. As long as you are in some kind vessel that floats and you know how to fish, why not?” What I didn’t know is just how advanced and popular this sport has become, and even more so, that folks were actually taking kayaks offshore and not only catching a lot of fish, but a lot of BIG fish.
So, with Google to the rescue I found a website called extremekayakfishing.c om and luckily, the folks who run it are right here South Florida, Joe and Maria Hector. They are local pioneers of a flavor of kayak fishing known as, you guessed it, extreme kayak fishing. How do you define “extreme?’ According to Joe, it is an angler that goes offshore, had his or her kayak tricked out with all the latest gear (just like a regular fishing boat), and fights winds, current, and the open ocean, and catches really big fish.
As Joe tells me all this, I am getting hooked, err, interested. This is sounding pretty cool, pretty dangerous, sort of like a big Pumphouse swell during the Hurricane Sandy days. A huge fish on small tackle in a little bitty kayak, pulling you around the Atlantic until you can land it? How the hell…..? Visions of Moby Dick!
Ok, so how does one get started? Is this a sport where kayak experts need to learn how to fish, or excellent fishermen who need to learn how to kayak? Joe offered his take. “When extreme kayak fishing started we had a lot of good kayakers who weren’t good fishermen, so the focus was making these people better at fishing, and now they are catching big fish. It’s very easy to get started. There are a lot of great videos on YouTube and on our website. At first, get a kayak and practice with no gear. Get out in the surf, get used to the conditions, start to go farther and farther out until you get comfortable, and then add your gear”.
Ok then, sounds simple. But what kind of kayak and related gear does a starter need to get? We learned that any kayak will do, from the paddle variety to those equipped with petals (like a bicycle). Many like to be able to pedal since it frees up arms to fish with, plus it’s easier on the body after a long day on the water. This enables kayak fishermen of all ages to participate, from kids to seniors. Also, any kayak can be customized, so you can start with a basic kayak and add to, everything from storage, rod holders, live bait well, downriggers, outriggers, even pontoons. Starting to sound like a regular fishing boat, right?
So now for the “dumb” question. “If you hook a big fish, won’t you simply topple over, since you are in a kayak, not a boat?” I have this visual of absolute chaos, capsizing, being pulled into the depths of the Atlantic, clutching my favorite rod and reel with all my might, trying to decide when to let go. “Actually, the kayaks are very stable, some up to 36” wide so you are usually in good control of the kayak, and they are very buoyant” Joe advised. “The biggest mistake people make is taking their eyes off the horizon, when they catch a fish, or even simply turning around to get some bait. When you hook a big one the kayak will turn, so just keep your eyes on the horizon.
Whew, I feel better.
Finally, and most importantly, Joe offered this up: “When you go offshore, safety is number 1. You are in big open water with currents and conditions. Always have a partner, life vest, and safety flags. Know where your land mass boundaries are and don’t go outside of them.
Last but not least. If the fishing isn’t good, find a body of water, hop in your kayak and enjoy your day.
Do’s and Don’ts:
- Never go offshore alone
- Never go out at night
- Always have a life vest
- Always put up a safety flag (expect that boats will not see you, and a fast boat and a kayak at water level don’t mix well)
- Know your land mass boundaries and stay within them
To learn more about kayak and extreme kayak fishing, search out videos on YouTube, and visit www.extremekayakfishing.com for local kayak fishing news and information and upcoming tournaments. Joe recommends Nautical Ventures in Dania Beach for the best kayaking gear and accessories.