HomeFeaturesA September Coho Kayak Derby: First-Timer Perspective

A September Coho Kayak Derby: First-Timer Perspective

How To Kayak Fish?

I wondered.

I have been kayaking for a solid couple of decades. And for 5+ years, I owned a cottage on Protection Island that I had turned into an office. I’d merrily paddle there in the morning and back to Stones Marina after a days’ work—what a great way to start and finish a day, always with a big smile! I was pretty lucky. But because I’d use my 14-ft Necky Manitou as a commuting vehicle, it never occurred to me to try fishing from it. Boy, did I miss out. Sadly, we sold it a while back.

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to participate in the final derby of the 2019 West Coast Kayak Angler Series. And while the coho weren’t cooperating, I still had a blast. I can’t stop thinking about how comfortable I was, how stable the kayak was, and just how accessible all the places were that I can’t get into with my 2601 Striper.

I won’t claim to be a kayak fishing specialist (yet), but there’s no doubt that Brad Torry is. Brad put together the West Coast Kayak Angler Series for the love of kayak fishing and to help give the sport a real foothold on Vancouver Island. It’s working. There were 23 participants in this derby, held at Pacific Playgrounds in Black Creek September 21 & 22. That may not sound like a lot, but watching Brad organize just this one event made me realize the amount of work involved—work that he gladly donates for love of the sport.

Brad hooked me up with one of his Old Town Predator PDL kayaks. I felt like a king on this ride! Easy to pedal (yes, you pedal it like a bike) and a small steering handle, I easily whizzed out of the marina—I even created a wake!


And I did! Towing a 6-oz slip weight with a hoochie (and later, anchovies) was really a breeze. However, jigging was just as fun when I started to run out of steam. And it was productive—no coho, but I pulled up a nice quillback rockfish.

Gear for Kayak Fishing

Less is more on a kayak. There’s no need to get carried away with tackle, supplies, and gear. However, be it on Old Town or another fishing kayak brand like Wilderness Systems, there’s plenty of room for more than you’ll ever need.

Wilderness System Radar 135.

Mine was tricked out with a Lowrance Hook 7, a small manual downrigger, rod holders, and a storage box filled with more than I could even think about using. I did find that since my hands weren’t busy paddling, I enjoyed holding my rod while trolling, rather than using the rod holders. I hated the idea of reaching for a hooked-up rod or maybe missing a soft bite. I brought a small Plano 3500 with some casting lures and jigs, as well as some bait and hoochies for trolling separated in zip lock bags, tucked into a small waterproof bag alongside my lunch and snacks.

I did bring a net and would always recommend having one, but I can see how easy it would be bringing in a well-played fish by the line or the tail. A gaff isn’t a bad idea other, but not mandatory.

As for rod and reel, I’d say anything goes. I saw folks using a mix of level winds, spinning, and mooching. Because we weren’t spotting fins (fish on the surface), it was mainly a jigging and trolling situation. I did have a spinning rod all set up and ready to go with small brass and orange casting lure … just in case.

Darcy Curr jigging on an Old Town Predator PDL.

Weather for Kayak Fishing

Like any other fishing, weather plays a role—a significant one. And with kayaks, waves and wind are always an issue. You have to pick your days and know your limits.

Anthony Reid enjoying hot coffee while pedaling in the rain.

I think on a weekend like this one where we got every different kind of weather system—rain, wind, sunshine, flat-calm, and waves—I would advise kayaking with a friend. At the very least bring a floating VHF radio with you, especially one that has GPS/MOB; I’m a fan of the Standard Horizon HX890; it’s what I keep as a backup on my boat. I also recommend a tall mast with a flag so boaters can see you. An air horn isn’t a terrible plan either.

Dustin Semrok working for coho – note the orange mast with flag.

Kayak Fishing on Vancouver Island?

I’m in! And if you haven’t tried this before, I can’t encourage you enough. Just one day out and you’ll fall in love with it. Look for more articles about the sport here and in Island Fisherman Magazine going forward!  Also, if you want to connect with others on the Island who are passionate about the sport, be sure to follow the West Coast Angler Series on Facebook, as well the Vancouver Island Kayak Anglers—a great bunch of people who love kayak fishing and are organized very, very well.

Top Row (L to R):  Clayton Wood, Darcy Curr, Curtis Schriever, Tammy Morrison, Luca LaNour, Shirley Partridge, Steve Borley, Dustin Semrok, Les Yamada, Allison Bligh, Paul Theriault, Chris Harrott, Joel Unickow
Front Row (L to R):  Brad Torry (Organizer), Gary Conway, Anthony Reid


  1. Yes I have the tall orange mast and flag. And I also have a air horn and a VHF on my rig. You can’t see that in the pic. Also Always Always Always have a PFD on.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.