I have had east coast offshore fishing on my bucket list for quite some time now. Every new offshore post that comes across the forum features incredible photos of beautiful fish that just a few years ago were thought to be accessible only by boat. Forum members like Pottymouth, NELBAG, Livinthedream and palmbeachpete share their stories that are sometimes reminiscent of Hemmingway’s “Old man and the Sea” as they are pulled around in their little fishing boats by wahoo, tuna and sailfish. After a couple of failed attempts to schedule a trip to the east coast with different forum members (storms and work conflicts) I was finally able to hook up with Doug Perez (FLATS BROKE) and his fishing buddy Joe Hector in Pompano Beach.
Joe and Doug run a very large and successful offshore kayak event called the Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament (www.extremekayakfishing.com) that features over $10,000 in prizes. It’s a product of their love of the sport, and it shows. Every week these guys bring newcomers out with them. They show them the bait, presentation and even exact spots to find the fish, all in an effort to promote offshore kayak fishing.
Doug and Joe were taking me to Pompano Beach, located in Broward County just North of Ft. Lauderdale and just South of Hillsboro Inlet. We met at 5 a.m. at Ace’s Bait and Tackle. There we stocked up on live pilchards and deep jigs. We arrived at the launch area, the beach just north of the Pompano Beach pier, right at 5:30. I have to admit, it was a little daunting. Being an inshore guy, I am used to calm, shallow water. According to Joe, the waters off the beach were “calm” with swells three to five feet. It took an effort to get used to that.
The plan was to head south, so we began peddling. At about a half mile from shore, we hooked pilchards on small circle hooks and began trolling them. It wasn’t long before my rod doubled over and I had a fish. The drag was singing as line peeled off the reel. Doug and Joe came right over to lend assistance. I gained line on the fish, and it would take it back, occasionally breaking the surface. After about ten minutes, I was able to see it as it passed under the kayak. “Cobia!” I yelled as Doug closed in with the GoPro camera filming. As the fish tired, Joe moved closer and was able to snatch it out of the water. It was indeed a large cobia, certainly my personal best at close to 40”. After some high-fiving and picture taking, we were off again.
After about a half hour we came across a bait fish school being fed upon. Doug was the closest and immediately was hooked up on another big fish. It was an incredible sight watching Doug in a kayak with a big offshore fishing rod bent over. I moved in closer to get a few photos and before too long, watched him pull a big blackfin tuna from the water. I sat there for a moment and pondered the scene. There was Doug holding a beautiful tuna just a mile or two from the beach. The high-rise condos were in the background and we were in about 150 feet of water. Whoever invented offshore kayak fishing was a genius.
Later, Doug also landed a nice almaco jack and Joe and I landed a few bonito. Not having any experience with offshore kayak fishing, I thought the bonito were exceptionally fun to catch. Joe did not share my opinion on that and advised me he was currently under the curse of the bonito. Late into the morning, I was looking at the beach and asked Doug what pier we were in front of. He said we were in front of Pompano pier. We had been peddling our Hobies non-stop for several hours and I thought we were a couple of miles up the beach, but we were peddling constantly just to stay in place against the strong current.
At about 11am it was time to head back. It was getting hot out and the guys told me the fish begin to turn off about midday. While trolling on the way back in I hooked another fish that I thought was a small cobia. It turned out to be the biggest remora I have ever seen. Back at the beach we took more pictures of the fish we caught and talked about our adventure. I was exhausted but in the best kind of way. The trip over was definitely worth it and meeting new friends was one of the best parts about it.
If you want to give offshore kayak fishing a try, I would recommend hooking up with forum members who are experienced with this type of fishing. Go over specific gear requirements and meet up with them so they can show you the ropes. Also, the fishing techniques are a little different depending on where you are fishing. One thing that is consistent among all of these offshore groups is that they hit the water very early. Anyone trying this from the west coast would want to find a hotel room for the night to make sure they are there to meet up with these guys on time. I know I will be over there again soon, maybe I’ll see you there!