January 06, 2023
By Doug Olander
Interest in fishing from kayaks has indisputably skyrocketed in the past couple of decades. As more and more anglers have immersed themselves in this form of fishing and sit-on-top fishing kayaks and related gear have improved, some yak enthusiasts are determined to push the limits of what’s possible from their little plastic boats. Here are the details on five of the most impressive kayak catches that reveal just what is possible, counting down to a grand finale.
5. Halibut - Alaska
Catching a 500-pound black marlin from his kayak in Panama (see #2, below) wasn’t enough for Adam Fisk, who then went kayak fishing in Alaska. In the chilly waters near Ketchikan in southeast Alaska in August 2021, Fisk and a friend slid their two Old Town kayaks off the back of an outboard boat. Fisk rigged a salmon head on his heaviest outfit — “a Daiwa Saltiga 50 on the same Adrenaline Custom rod I landed both marlin [500 and 450] with.” He used a 16/0 circle hook with a 250-pound mono leader.
“A couple of hours later, I felt a huge bite, and right away I knew it was the fish I’d been hoping for.” The battle began, but this was no marlin, and on that heavy gear it was over in about 15 minutes.
Fisk had the fish by the boat and, along with his amigo snapping some photos (pictured above), was able to tape it. “It ended up measuring 67 inches long, which translated into 156 pounds. That makes it by far the biggest fishing I've been able to pull into my kayak.”
In the following days, they caught more halibut up to 90 pounds but nothing to top 156. Fisk was so impressed with the action, he is now a seasonal kayak fishing guide at Waterfall Resort.
Fisk, it turns out, wasn’t the only angler to catch a massive flattie from a kayak. One year before Fisk’s catch, Jay Hicks, a 32-year-old Navy Seabee, landed a 186.4-pound monster in August of 2020 from his Hobie Pro Angler 14.
4. Swordfish - Florida
For most kayak anglers, swordfish simply isn’t a realistic target. After all, they spend their days hunting in very deep water — 1,700 feet give or take — which in most areas means 15 or 20 to 50 or more miles offshore. They also require specialized rigging with heavy weight, so typically electric reels are involved.
That might explain why no one has singlehandedly caught a swordfish from a kayak. Except for Chris Vecsey.
Granted, the Orange Beach, Alabama, angler and his Ocean Kayak caught a ride 70-some miles out on a big boat, not being keen on the idea of paddling for a week to get out there on his own. But other than that, he was on his own once dropped off way out in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
With a short-bent-butt rod he had put together for the purpose, using a Penn Fathom 60LD two-speed reel filled with braided line, Vecsey dropped a bonito (little tunny) belly strip down to 1,600 feet and waited.
When the bite came, it wasn’t savage, but with swordies that doesn’t mean much; sometimes a 500-pounder will chew with surprising delicacy. But this wasn’t a 500-pounder. When he got it to the kayak a half hour later, it proved to be a little guy (not quite legal) and he quickly released it.
But Vecsey had done it: caught a swordfish from his kayak.
In fact, at least one angler has caught a larger sword from a kayak, but not quite as independently as Vecsey, since the crew of this mothership had rigged and lowered the bait, then handed the kayak angler the rod.
3. Tuna: Bluefin - Massachusetts | Yellowfin - Hawaii
Any kayak angler that pastes a name on his yak (“Fortitude” in this case) has to be serious. Ditto any kayak angler that paddles miles off the coast of Massachusetts from the beach on a chilly November morning to fish for bluefin tuna. When Dave Lamoreaux did that in 2009, his solo capture of a 157-pound bluefin tuna captured the attention of national media. Lamoreaux had hooked and lost 14 tuna before that conquest that took him hours on the rod as it towed his kayak out to sea at 15 mph. Lamoreaux’s Fortitude is a 12-foot Heritage Featherlite — not a sit-on-top and not really a fishing yak, but seaworthy. Lamoreaux continued to make forays offshore, determined to land an even larger bluefin — which he hooked a couple of years after the 157. This was much larger — the angler guessed as much as 400 pounds — and after 15 miles and four and one-half hours, the line parted.
On the yellowfin front, Nick Wakida of Maui, had no special plans when he pointed his Hobie Revo 13 kayak out for some fishing on a July morning in 2016. He caught an opelu (a type of scad, similar to Florida’s goggle-eye) and let it trail out while he jigged some pinnacles. Suddenly the bait was inhaled and Wakida was hooked up to a freight train. Being in water too shallow — normally — for tuna, Wakida figured he’d hooked a big shark. During a prolonged battle when the fish dragged him miles farther out and farther up the coast, his rod snapped, but he still managed to eventually land a 187.6-pound yellowfin tuna.
2. Black Marlin - Panama
Adam Fisk, who in February of 2020 was head of operations for Los Buzos Report in Panama, took a busman’s holiday one morning to troll a small trevally for bait. When a fish slammed that offering, he never expected to see what cleared the water near his Jackson Coosa FD kayak: a huge black marlin, large enough to dwarf the kayak. Nor had he expected to spend four and a half hours fighting one fish. The enormous billfish leaped nearly 30 times, by Fisk’s count, over the course of the battle as it towed his yak over 10 miles off the southern tip of the Azuero Peninsula.
Later, Fisk said that with the 80-pound braided line at max drag, he couldn’t budge the fish. He could only hang on until the fish, very gradually, began to tire. Toward evening, Fisk finally managed to leader the monster next to his kayak to make the catch official, then handed off the rod to a nearby boat that could, without risk, spend the time necessary to resuscitate and release it.
Based on length estimates, Fisk puts the fish’s weight at 500 pounds. That beat, by 50 or so pounds, another big black he had caught in the same area from his kayak.
1. Greenland Shark - Norway
Yes, sharks are considered fish, and this amazing specimen is the largest, and likely oldest, fish ever caught on a kayak. On September 1, 2014, Swedish kayak angler Joel Abrahamsson set out to catch the biggest fish ever, by anyone, from a kayak. Abrahamsson had confidence — enough for a scientific team and film crew to shadow him in a boat as he dropped his bait, an 8-pound pollack (coalfish), into 1,600 feet of water off Andorja Island, Norway. The drop, at a measured pace to avoid tangling, took nearly a half hour and nearly as long to wind up and check the bait.
That alone was a workout for the angler aboard his Jackson Big Rig kayak since he had to do this several times until finally the target, a massive Greenland shark, latched on solidly and the battle was joined. And a battle it was: Greenland sharks are known to be rather sluggish, though they still manage to eat seals at times, and any shark more than 13 feet long is a difficult adversary, particularly from a kayak. Bringing the monster to the surface on a Penn International 50 with a harness was a slow, back-breaking task but an hour and a half later, Abrahamsson had done it.
He handed the rod with the tired shark to the scientific team who carefully measured it alongside the center console boat before releasing it. PENN Fishing and Freewater Pictures closely documented the catch eight years ago, talking to Abrahamsson about the experience and allowing viewers a never-before-seen look at the largest fish ever caught from a kayak.
Calculating the weight from the length and girth put the fish at 1,247 pounds, a record likely to stand for a long time.
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