How Do You Measure a Good Day of Kayak Fishing?
By Aaron Rubel
Jackson Kayak National Fishing Team Pro Staff
What is your measure of a good day on the water? Is it a pursuit of landing that big fish, discovering a new species, or maybe the sheer numbers successfully caught? In a recent outing, the measurement of success evolved for me throughout the day. After taking cover from an early morning thunderstorm incoming from the Gulf of Mexico in shelter of shoreline seagrass, it didn’t take long before white and speckled trout revealed themselves.
Finding fish in a large body of water like the Mobile Bay of the Gulf Coast may seem daunting. However, when preparing for a fishing outing in a body of water like this, study maps in effort to break down an area, seek transitions that look to funnel forage on tide movements, identify geography that allows bait fish and target species shelter from larger predatory fish, and always forecast how wind direction and the speed of it may influence your situation.
Where I launched from on this particular day in the southern half of Mobile Bay, there existed a series of interruptions along the shoreline that narrowed tide flow. Near these openings, an enormous school of white trout (otherwise known as sand trout) were found amidst bait fish and readily attacked my olive and white #6 Clouser Minnow fly. Understandably, white trout are not the premier target game fish species in the Mobile Bay area, but on a fly rod they are a load of fun. The initial thump on the take is worth every cast made to white trout by the fly angler. Most white trout caught on the fly will range between nine and fourteen inches. If you catch one that exceeds fifteen inches, consider it a trophy for this species. A recommended set up includes no heavier than a fifteen pound fluorocarbon tippet, utilize a rapala knot to attach a fly, and the kayak angler should make short strips with pauses of the fly line to attract a strike. Avoid using a constant rhythm while retrieving the fly. Mixing up the retrieval cadence will better represent injured and vulnerable bait fish.
As morning approached the noon hour, a disturbance in more open water caught my attention. There was a seam of current flowing off a large sweeping bank into an expansive cove. It appeared that this nervous water was moving methodically along the seam, evidence of feeding speckled sea trout. Presuming a small school of speckled trout may have found their way into this cove, I quietly paddled into position to make a cast, downstream of their projected path. After two or three blind casts, a group of four trout in two feet of water could be seen. In the cloudy estuarine waters of Mobile Bay, it is uncommon to sight cast to trout. In such environments, it is imperative to have a good pair of polarized sunglasses. During the morning of this trip, a pair of rose tinted Maui Jim Wassup polarized sunglasses helped to witness a 20 plus inch fish engulf a Clouser Minnow fly! Sudden disappointment upon losing this fight was quickly replaced by another opportunistic trout in the group who jumped on the drifting fly a split second later. If not for a good pair of polarized sunglasses, I would have given up on the lost fish and not witnessed the second one follow up for the take. Landing an eighteen inch speckled trout on the fly under such circumstances was exhilarating!
The ease in changing locations is a significant advantage of a light weight kayak like that of the Jackson Kilroy that I enjoy fishing from. When the bite slowed in the main bay on this particular trip, I decided to pack up and move to a different kayak launch along the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. The size of fish normally landed in waters of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is above average, but admittedly catching numbers of fish can be very tough at times. I only landed one fish after relocating to the refuge on this trip, but a 21.5” speckled trout was worth the effort spent in doing so.
The original plan based on fishing reports leading into this trip was to catch speckled trout, and a couple good ones were found and successfully landed in the process. However, running into a school of white trout, which doesn’t happen on every outing was a thrilling change of pace. As the day progressed, a unique goal rose above catching a large fish. One speckled trout was caught at dawn on a top water foam patterned fly, but the balance of all other white and specks landed came on the same Clouser Minnow fly. By the end of the day, this one fly had caught 49 fish! A great day by any measure, a tribute to the value of taking time in tying flies that last, and did I mention the beautiful scenery also enjoyed? The sport of kayak fishing is such a great way to explore and challenge our own expectations.
If you’d like to ask Jackson Kayak National Fishing Pro Staff team member Aaron Rubel a question about fly fishing for white trout, speckled trout, or other aspects of kayak fishing, you are invited to leave a comment!