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Messages - LoletaEric

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Hookups and Fishing Reports (Viewable by Public) / Shelter Cove - 9/11/21
« on: September 18, 2021, 10:58:29 AM »
Late post - didn't want to encourage any more yahoos to descend on the Cove!   :smt005

Last Saturday was a grim anniversary for our country - 20 years since the 9-11 attack.  It was also an anniversary related to kayak salmon fishing.  On September eleventh two thousand and six I caught a big salmon at Shelter Cove - the biggest I've caught at 38 pounds.  I knew I'd hit a big milestone, but I really didn't know how that fish would change my life.

Here's a link to the report:  http://www.norcalkayakanglers.com/index.php?topic=5461.msg44838#msg44838

That big salmon was the largest I'd ever heard of from a kayak in the salt along the Nor Cal coast - until this summer.  2021 has had more 30 pounders than any year that I can remember.  Drew got a 39+, my guest Erik got a 39, Tom McD got a 37, and last Saturday my guest John got a 35.  Along with dozens or even scores of fat 20+'s landed by kayakers, all of these trophy salmon have made for an amazing season - one that we should be very thankful for.

Back in '06, I really had no idea how that 38 pounder would change the trajectory of my entire existence.  By March of 2007 myself and 5 other NCKA enthusiasts met up at the Cove to look for chrome over two days.  We didn't land any, but we had a blast trolling together, fishing from the rocks along shore, partying at the campground and getting to know each other.  It was PK/Sin Coast/Cen Coast, Sonny/Sailfish, Chris/MBYakker, Etienne/Sackyak, Hawk/Swellrider and me - Eric/Abking/Black Ab/Loleta Eric.  This was the birth of Gimme Shelter.

Over the next several years, what turned into the largest kayak fishing event on the west coast evolved into an AOTY-style rockfish and lingcod tournament with hopes of salmon and surprise Pacific halibut spiced in.  Getting so many skilled anglers on the water in such a special place led to tons of amazing catches - it's easy to see the influence of GS on AOTY when you see the graph showing how many largest of species have come from the month of May.  Gimme Shelter went way beyond the catches though.  The NCKA community has been a strong one since the beginning in December of 2004, and GS became one of the events (along with Elk/Albion, Crabfest, Yakhopper Series...etc.) that helped to propel many of us into a much deeper understanding of and appreciation for the brotherhood that we were building together.

What activity do you do where you have met some of the best people in your life?  What online community and outdoor pursuit have introduced you to the best friends you've ever made?  For me, it's been kayak fishing - hands down, no comparison to anything else in my 52 years on this planet.

I've known for a long time that kayak fisherpeople are great friends to make - it's someone who has their shit together enough to be on their own boat, so they end up being the type of person who'd give you the shirt off their back.  And here's another common trait I've seen among this demographic that we occupy - the positive vibe.  The stoke that comes from kayak fishing is hard to match.  It's about challenge, discovery, nature, wild animals...  and the fishing is better than any fishing - again, for me, it's hands down, no comparison.

I've printed, sorted, hauled and distributed tens of thousands of dollars worth of t-shirts, hoodies, rash guards, hats and Hawg Trough extensions!  I've watched children grow to adulthood, weddings occur and families develop, birthdays and other milestones celebrated, and all measure of other life events - lifted up and bathed in the light of the communitas that we have nurtured and held sacred here.  This place and the people - the family - mean the world to me.  I am so grateful for where this sport has taken me and how the love of NCKA has affected my life and that of my own family, and that big salmon may have been the one factor - the spark that started all of it.


So, jump to a month ago.  John posted up an interest in launching his PA14 at Bolinas.  This was met with immediate and nearly universal "bad idea" responses - and rightfully so.  I read his words and saw his obvious desire to get on a big king from his yak, and I thought, "Dude needs some Cove."

It wasn't long before he contacted me, and we set a date - 9/11/21.  I didn't mention it at the time, but I of course knew right away that this was the anniversary of my biggest salmon.  I thought to myself, "this is the type of year where we've got a good chance at another nine-eleven hog..."  At the time I gave him a head's up that the salmon bite was already tapering off - he was all about the trip - wanted to learn the way.  We were on.

Our day came, and that morning I was stoked to meet a new guest who was ready to hit it hard.  We made our way out onto the grounds, and the bait was so thick it seemed like we'd never get to the edge of it.  I told John how I wanted to work the scene, and he was all about it.  Soon he had a king on and to his kayak!  Before I could get in position to net his fish, it turned and spit the hooks.  This was important progress toward catching a fish!

After a few more passes through the zone and some missed bites, I'd just re-baited John's hooks and he'd sent his bait down, and he was on!  He got my attention and announced that he was on a big fish.  I didn't doubt it, but I've heard that assessment before...  I cleared my line quickly, and as I got up on him I could see that he already had a big salmon up by his yak.  This was way too early!  I was like, "it needs to run!" and he tried to let it do its thing, but it seemed to be somewhat subdued.  I brought the net out - half expecting the fish to go wild upon seeing it.  It didn't.  Instead it laid there - seemingly ready to be netted.  I scooped...  The fish made an evasive maneuver, and now it appeared that the weight may be tangled in the net.   Oh shit.

That's about the worst thing that can happen - the weight getting in the net.  It happened twice last summer (2020), and I lost one nice halibut and one nice salmon due to it.  This year I've been committed to avoiding that fate.  It's been great until last Saturday... 

As I looked at this monstrous salmon on my guest's line, as it floated on the surface next to my net, I was resigned to the fact that it may be about to be gone.  I'd allowed the weight to get in the net, and this almost never ends well.

The fish ran a bit as I lifted my net, and somehow it was still on John's line.  I pulled the net back and soon had another chance at it.   That's all I needed.  We had it.

The weight had broken off instead of my leader breaking - this is great validation, and, frankly, it felt like a fucking miracle!

After a brief celebration, we secured the fish on a stringer and under multiple burlaps.  We looked around for more biters. and within an hour or so we headed  back to launch to take care of the catch.
With the big fish documented and stowed, we headed out for the second half of our day.  Got a big black in the bag before the bite basically went cold, but there were birds working and brown water nearby.   We ran our bait over it, and it wasn't long before I had a hot salmon on!  I fought it for probably only less than a minute before it spit my hooks and was gone.

I was bummed to miss what felt like a stout Chinook, but all in all I was totally stoked to have had my guy hook multiple kings on a slow bite and land a 35 pounder.  Our day turned out amazing when otherwise, if we'd not landed that hog, it would've been a pretty slow session.

This salmon obsession is potentially a total mind F*&%, but this season the rewards continue to outshine the input for many - just gotta put your time in, really.  And, remember, it's like Lotto out there - no one gets them every trip, and often the guys who get the most are the guys who go the most.  It's a wonderful pastime, but catching a salmon from a kayak isn't the end game.


It's been almost 17 years here for me.  NCKA is just an online forum where a bunch of mostly middle aged fishing enthusiasts have discovered or are discovering how fun and rewarding it can be to do their thing on kayaks.  That last sentence is inaccurate - it's a lie.  NCKA is not "just" a place to develop your kayak angling focus.  It doesn't have to mean the same thing to everyone or even to most of us.  I know this though - many of us have come to know that this place is a true community where family values and real love have shaped more lives for more good than any other type of congregation, club or group that I know of.

Looking forward to the next 17 years, more life changing catches and meeting more friends.   :smt001

Nice one, Mike.   :smt001

Hookups and Fishing Reports (Viewable by Public) / Shelter Cove - 9/8/21
« on: September 10, 2021, 01:53:13 PM »
Hit it hard on Wednesday with Tim and Don looking for salmon.  It was a coho-only affair, with a little stack of rockfish harvested as bycatch.  The odds in Salmon Lotto are getting longer, but the chance for a jackpot is still there.  It can be a tough game to play - hoping for another couple of touchdowns before the fourth quarter ends.

It's been an amazing salmon season with more 30 pounders than I've ever seen/heard of, and the bite close to shore has been off the hook at times and lasted for almost 2 months.  But...  I'm looking forward to getting back to 'normal'.

In the coming weeks I'll shift to big lingcod focus, and a Pacific halibut is on my radar too.  I've got a short list of locals who are ready to go remote when I see the right forecast, and I'll offer that option to others who book a date and have a FAC forecast come up on their day.  Catching and releasing a big ling (with some photos and vids for sure) or smashing an AOTY record are hot game along the Lost Coast.

See ya, NCKA.   :smt001

Gearing Up and Rigging Up / Re: X-Factor seat scuppers are cracking
« on: September 07, 2021, 05:37:48 PM »

The guy in the post had different cracks - yours look like mine.  They're not minor.  They flex and let water in while you're boating.  I've been welding mine occasionally for years and monitoring how much water gets in - usually only around a gallon or less.  I don't think it's brittle - it's a design flaw and not enough strength where the stresses of strapping or even just sitting on it show up.  They're awesome boats, but they come with liabilities and a company that often fails to get it right, IMO.

Good luck.   :smt001

General Talk / Re: SWS white shark sighting and attack
« on: September 06, 2021, 08:50:35 PM »
"Has anyone else had an encounter like this before?" = new to the sport...

Yeah buddy.   :smt001

Hookups and Fishing Reports (Viewable by Public) / Re: Shelter Cove - 9/4/21
« on: September 05, 2021, 09:44:55 PM »

Hookups and Fishing Reports (Viewable by Public) / Shelter Cove - 9/4/21
« on: September 05, 2021, 09:43:13 PM »
Mark scored an Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro several months back, installing some rod holders and adding it to his fleet as his first fishing boat.  Having found some success with shore fishing rockfish and lingcod, he looked me up hoping to learn more about targeting fish from the yaks and accessing more productive offshore reefs.  We went over some options and landed on a plan of putting him on one of my X-Factors for a day at the Cove - I love outfitting guests on my ultra-stable platforms with plenty of room as well as sonar.  He wasn't opposed to catching a salmon, but his desired targets were the bottom dwellers - a big ling or a vermillion were at the top of the list.  This was a refreshing change for me after two straight months of salmon focus.  Of course we'd still run barbless and hope a Chinook showed up, but going onto the reef first thing and doing the offshore tour sounded great.

Saturday was our day.  I thought the crowds of salmon-crazed boaters may be back for the holiday weekend, so we met up early and got on the water shortly after first light.  Traffic wasn't too bad, and the salmon bite seems to have cooled off in general.  We passed some bait over the inshore area before heading out into the fog to find some rocks.  It wasn't long before we were on a nice grade of black rockfish.  We loaded a few on the stringers, and within an hour Mark had a lingcod up too. 

I remember transitioning from spearfishing and shore fishing to the kayak and how revolutionary it was to be catching so many fish from the plastic compared to the hard to access shore spots that I'd long ago worked to find and fish myself.  This revolutionary feeling was now Mark's domain, as he expressed how stoked he was to be catching quality fish in numbers.  Guests catching fish is an ideal for any guide, and guests feeling revolutionary joy is even better.

As we mined the nearshore, I was monitoring the radio to see how the salmon fishing was going for the fleet and a few friends on the water nearby.  Other than one nice fish that Jay Webster picked up early, it sounded slow.  As the fog lifted we could now see a small fleet, and by mid morning most people were peeling off to go rockfishing.  I was feeling content with that since our focus was bottom fish, and then Mark hooked up on something that started running up to the surface away from his yak. 

We weren't there to get one, and the bite was slow around us, and I was even feeling like I was in a therapeutic place, moving away from my own salmon obsession with this trip...  and Mark's on a hot one.  This is probably the opposite of what I call "salmon torture" - where you do everything you can and burn down your day just to skunk or to miss a hot fish.  Salmon torture got turned on its head here - we got this fatty in the net within 5 minutes or so.  Mark had suddenly been exposed to not just a better rockfish and lingcod bite than can be found from shore - he'd now felt how a salmon fights.  If you know, you know.

Thank you, Fish Gods, for this gift of good fortune and the accompanying psychological relief.  I needed some kind of shift away from the obsession - if only briefly...

We went on to do the Whistle Buoy tour - hadn't been out there in 2 months I think (Twilight Zone compared to hundreds of other guided trips here over the past 8 summers).  We got on around 10 species, found another decent ling, saw a whale nearby, and Mark got the proper intro to targeting the reef species that he was seeking - along with a 23 pound chrome bonus.

I'm looking forward to more well-rounded trips with multiple targets, and a few more salmon to the net will be welcome too.  A big thanks to Mark for a really fun day where his open and authentic expression of joy at catching the reef species helped me to put it all in perspective, and we got the bonus too.

I'm stoked to get more people progressing in this sport and to look around for all the species while always having a chance at the top targets.  I'm feeling ready for more awesome catches and inspiring attitudes.  Summer's not over yet.   :smt001

Hookups and Fishing Reports (Viewable by Public) / Re: Santa Cruz haliís
« on: September 05, 2021, 09:34:31 PM »
Good to see a strucdog report.   :smt001

Gearing Up and Rigging Up / Re: Recommended lures to target Lings
« on: September 05, 2021, 08:07:43 PM »
Use big stuff - whether it's bait or tackle.  You've got to become somewhat committed to trying to avoid rockfish bites if you want to increase your odds of getting a ling to bite.  The best ways to do that are to use big and go deep.  It can get discouraging if you do shut your own rockfish bite down, but keep your eyes on the prize.   :smt001

Damn, that was an awesome response Jewli0n, and it's probably the best explanation I've ever read.  Congrats on your enjoyable outing, and experiencing what Da Cove has to offer on so many levels.  Awesome.  :smt004

I appreciate that! Thanks  :smt001

+1  from me for sure.   :smt001


Saturday with Julian and Brianne.

Met my people in the dark and got on the water early.  We missed some promising bites and lost one salmon before it could be ID'd, and over the course of the day we all landed coho to the fine mesh release net.  Like most of the fleet though, the Chinook weren't going for us.  We pushed into overtime before finally heading to the reef where we put away three lingcod and a few nice rockfish.

After a great run since mid July with salmon on every trip but one, my guests and I were bound to strike out in the game of Salmon Lotto sooner or later.  Even though I write about how the bite can be random and the sport can be a real psychological gut punch, it's hard to not get a little bummed when I professionally guide my people to a salmon skunk.  On this day, guests who are literally young enough to be my kids displayed attitudes of patience, understanding and joy in the face of not getting the right hookups.  The way Julian and Bri ("Bree") navigated this day was impressive - they're all about learning and discovering, and their positive energy   buoyed my own spirits for sure.

I've got some plans in mind for how I may change the structure of my trips (and my brain!) to veer away from the pure salmon obsession.  Employing strategies that focus on a full tour with a well-rounded stringer and then celebrating the salmon if they show  is the way I've done it for years, but a "hot bite" throws a wrench in such reasonable plans!

I'll add this issue to my list of fishing first world problems and close with a big thank you to my guests - the "kids".  I've found that, in striving to give my best to my guests in these trips, the overwhelming response is that they also give their best back to me.  This pushes me to an even better place, and the feedback loop of positivity and community is perpetuated and strengthened.  Here's the catch - I'm getting paid to provide not only my best attitude, instruction and ability, but also the right bite.  When that bite's not there and those who are paying me respond to what I do in a way that lifts me up, I basically have no choice but to try to exceed the sum of what's already been given.  What I've described is a gift - not only to a business person but to anyone, in any interaction.  When I land in such a position, I try to be humble and thankful, and to have young people in their 20's be the ones who went on that journey of human nature with me, it's even more of a powerful lesson.

In kayak fishing we try to be kayakers first - anglers second.  Way to be positive and compassionate people first, Julian and Bri.  You will both go far by leading with your heart in this way.  Thanks again.


Wednesday with Erik and Wendell.

I put both of these guys off at least once when winds were up on their booked dates.  They're both local, so I combined them into a group day, and we ended up with good fortune for sure.  It was deja vu for the season with some early cohos gently released, and then Erik hooked into a powerhouse.  I cleared my gear and got up on him, and it was apparent that he was fighting a substantial fish.  It wasn't budging for him - wouldn't come closer and didn't shake its head.  The fish started towing my guy toward the lighthouse point, and I paddled along as an escort.  When the fish stopped I tried to coach Erik on lifting it and reeling down on it, but this king wasn't having it.  It would come to the surface about 50 to 70 feet from us, and when I'd paddle toward it it would descend or just pull further to the southwest.  I'd seen right away that it was a very large salmon, and at one point Erik said, "it looks super fat", and I'm like "DON'T TALK ABOUT IT!"

About half an hour later we were past the point in more than 40 feet of water, and this bruiser didn't seem to be tiring.  I adopted a new strategy where I'd stay out in front of the fight, and if the fish came up I'd paddle toward it - I hoped it would flop over on its side due to fatigue, but it kept descending and slowly pulling.

Wendell, in the meantime had continued to troll around us at a safe distance, and at one point he had a fish on - we lost him in the fog as I had to stay with Erik and the sack of concrete that he was attached to.

Our time finally came.  Erik was getting tired, but I had him pull on the fish again, and once more it came up to the surface.  I paddled toward it expecting it to just descend and pull again, but this time it truly was tired.  I've never netted a fish so far from the boat that's fighting it.  I've also not lost one at the net all season (knock on wood), so I was a bit nervous to take a stab at the slab right out in the open.  I put the net near it - showed it to the fish - and expected another reaction from this chromey suitcase of muscle, but it was pretty still.  I got in the right position and scooped, and we had it.  A fish that actually made my giant net look normal sized!

We celebrated, and I put a priority on bleeding the fish and getting it secured in my tank well with wet burlap covering it completely.  Sealions have been known to swipe a salmon right off of a kayak if they see an opportunity - not to mention the possibility that a lion or even a shark could come along and attack it in my net.  I must've had some good adrenalin going to get a near forty pounder behind me in the well.  The day would be all cream from here on out.  A lifetime fish will do that.

With the fish secured we paddled at a good pace back to the inside to find Wendell - he'd landed his fish - a rockfish!  The three of us kept fishing, more coho were caught and treated well, and then Wendell was on his own Chinook.  He played it nicely - it didn't do anything comparable to Erik's toad - and we soon had his 20 pounder in the net.  Now the day was even creamier.

Picked up a shaker halibut (first in a couple of weeks), more coho and then I got my turn - 18 pounder bagged.  The three of us were stoked to have each gotten a fish, and having Frankenstein under my burlap pushed me to suggest that we go in to process the three kings and get them on ice, and then we could launch again to look for some rockfish and lingcod.

Drove up the hill to wash the scales off the fish, and the official weigh in at the boat launch had Erik's monster at 38.5 pounds, but the fat body on that thing was leaning against their shed - it was a bit heavier.  My own scale had it near 39.  No need to split hairs - it was a beast.

I sliced and diced and we got all the meat put away - along with a nice visit with some friends from the bay area, Alastair and Andrew, and we took a minute to put away some sandwiches before launching again.  As we pushed off from the trucks, I saw wild marks on my sonar right in the harbor.  I told the guys not to put their gear down, but I had to check this out.  I lowered my bait and trolled through the marks, and - boom - I caught a coho inside the breakwater right where we launch when the tide's low!

We made our way to a favorite rockfish zone, loaded up on blacks and missed a couple of lingcod, and before long the day was nearly done.  By mid afternoon we were on shore, loaded up and putting away a few pounds apiece of rockfish fillets for the guys.  Smiles were still powered by the morning's special catch, and, along with the fact that we'd each caught a keeper salmon, the big fish definitely had the overall effect of making the day quite amazing.

One cold beer apiece at the Tailgate Fillet Station, a toast to an awesome trip, completion of the business deal, and soon my guys were on the road for home.  I lingered, took a swim as I often do after working hard since 330AM, looked out toward the Bell Buoy with appreciation for this wonderful vocational pastime that I've carved out for myself, and I was soon rolling for home too. 
It's hard to call this trip or the giant salmon the "culmination" of an amazing summer - it's all been off the hook, and I'm committed to remaining ready and doing what I can to make dreams into reality for a few more guests before the seasons change.  I've gotta keep my eyes on the prize here and meter the passion along with the energy that's needed to administer it. 

It should come as no surprise to those who read these reports or who interact with me on the water or on the beach that my emotions can become very raw and exposed from this work.  My intention is to be my best self, but the extreme early rising, long hours, diligent focus and dedication to proficiency can take away some of my ability to be sweet and patient.  Thank you for understanding that I am running a marathon here.  I'm distinctly aware of and focused on my overarching goals to display virtue, and at the same time I'm allowing myself to run so hard that the roughness is inevitable.  When I get to the end of this gig - whether it be this incredible season or my guide career as a whole - I want to retain the knowledge and satisfaction of having put everything I am into this.

Thank you for the love.

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