Islas Coronados, Pescar en el Kayako

          By John F. Pawlak

On October 25th, 2002 four very excited ocean kayak fishermen sailed out of San Diego and cruised to the Mexican Islands, we call the Coronado Islands, for a full day of kayak fishing adventures.

The day began at 5:30 am in the parking lot of the Shelter Island boat launch.  There I met up with Andy “Iceman” Allen, a 40 year old business owner from El Cajon, CA who paddles a Scrambler XT.  Al “YakAtak” Silebi, a 36 year old Navy veteran of the Gulf War who currently is a full time student and musician from North Park, CA, he paddles a Fish “n” Dive nick named “The Aircraft Carrier” because of its gray color and large flat deck, equipped with every kind of fishing gadget known to man.  Gregory “Fishhead” Knab, a 25 year old media development and management expert from Hill Crest, CA,  who paddles a Kahuna.  And myself, a 45 year old designer from El Cajon, CA, paddling & paddling & paddling a Scupper Pro TW.

This was going to be a dream trip of mine and I couldn’t be in better company.  The Iceman and YakAtak are both championship caliber kayak fishermen having beat out 150 other kayak fishermen earlier this year at the Jim Sammons La Jolla Kayak Fishing Tournament, which is far and a way the largest kayak fishing tournament in the world, drawing competitors from across the state of California and Arizona. Andy took first place in the offshore division and Al won the Bay division.

We loaded the kayaks on Andy’s’ 22’ boat named “The Ice Bucket” while it was there in the parking lot, at the end of the day we would unload the same way.  We loaded the three shorter kayaks across the front of the bow and my longer kayak fit nicely on the side of the cabin.  On the way out of the bay we made a stop at the bait barge for a scoop of Sardines. 

The trip to the islands was uneventful. The skies were clearing, the water was glassy and the air was so clear we could see the Coronado Islands right from the start.  Captain Andy navigated by line of sight while standing on top of an ice chest so that he could see over top of the kayaks that were lashed across the bow.  The trip took an hour and a half and the first sea creature to greet us was a large, round, approximately 70 lb., Mola Mola that was lazily splashing about on the surface, followed a pair of friendly sea lions, and then off the port bow appeared a pair of Mexican Navy gunboats on border patrol. Wow country boy! I don’t think were in Indiana any more.

Andy anchored the Ice Bucket on the lee side of the South Coronado Island.  Unloading was pretty easy.  We just held on to the bowlines and one by one slid the kayaks over the side. There was a step on the back of the boat we used to get in and out of our yaks.

By 8:00 I was in the water and paddling out to the south end of the south island between the point and the tuna pens.  The sun was shining and it was now hot enough to strip down to a T-shirt.  I wanted a Yellow Tail and was using Sardines for bait.  I fly lined one and put one on the bottom. The yellows never showed but I did get a 2 lb. 7 oz Sand Bass on the halibut rig.  About 10:00 a 15-knot wind from the west began blowing.  Before I realized it I had been blown off the point and was drifting into the tuna pens.  So I pulled in my lines and paddled over to the shore were I would be sheltered from the wind.

The South Coronado Island has steep sides that are scarcely vegetated, mostly with sagebrush and cactus.  We could see nesting sea birds; a few fuzzy young seal pups, and wild burros silhouetted on the ridge tops. The water here was as clear and beautiful as any I have ever seen.  The bottom was bleached white by the sand and the blue-green water was clear to 30 feet. Near shore there were boiler rocks and small patches of bright green seaweed.  I was more than happy to spend the rest of the morning here paddling around and fishing for Calicos

With the island being round and kayakers being explorers at hart we soon separated and lost sight of each other.  Three of us were able to keep in constant contact with the use of hand held radios.  Fishhead and myself were using Standard Horizons’ HX260S and Andy was using a white & blue Uniden brand radio, kept water proof by placing it in a water proof bag that he could also talk though.  YakAtak didn’t have a radio and he decided (with out telling anyone) to spend the morning completely circling the island.  The long distance paddle took longer than he expected and when he didn’t meet us back at the mother ship for the 1:00 lunch Andy was concerned.  We tied the kayaks off on the stern of the boat, pulled up anchor and started to cruise north around the island until we saw him paddling in on the horizon.

By 1:00 I had managed to catch one Sand Bass, Fishhead caught a couple of Whitefish and two nice red & black Sheepshead off the bank in 10 to 20 feet of water, the largest was a big old fanged goat that weighed 6 lbs 9oz.  YakAtak had spent most of the morning paddling the windward side of the island and stopped to fish only when the screen of his fish finder filled with marks.  He had a Mexican limit of game fish including Sand Bass to 3 lbs 6 oz, White Fish to 2 lbs 3 oz and copper colored Rock Cod.  This being the first time he tried this and not wanting to get out of sight of the boat Andy had stayed on the southern point of the South Coronado hunting Yellow Tail.With every body onboard and the kayaks trained behind Captain Andy motored over to a small, wind protected, clear white sandy-bottomed cove where we once again anchored for lunch and a few hours of rest.

I filleted some of the Whitefish and Chef Andy grilled them on the bow for fish tacos, chips salsa and the best triangular cut home made brownies I’ve ever eaten.  We rested for a couple of hours and waited for the mid day winds to stop blowing for the evening.  While the rest of us talk Fishhead continued to catch some nice whitefish off the back of the boat.

At 4:00 pm Andy got back in the saddle, lit a cigar and paddled away with the rest of us soon following.  YakAtak and myself paddled back to the south end of the South Coronado Island and along the way he studied his Garmin 160 Blue Fish Finder.  He would all of a sudden stop paddling, back paddle a little and then say, “ Drop your line right here” and each time I would catch a fish or two.  Together we caught Whitefish, Calicos, and Sculpin like this non-stop until Capitan Andy came looking for us in the Ice Bucket.

We left the island just after seeing a spectacular sun set.  The run back was uneventful until we ran out of gas while right in the path of a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship that was departing the bay.  Andy quickly switched gas tanks and we got out of the way just in the nick of time.  We made it back to the boat launch at 9:00pm.

The weather this day had been mild and I believe we could have easily towed the yaks (rather than loading them on the boat) to and from the islands. With the Los Coronado Islands, Catalina Islands, and a few other Mexican near shore fishing destinations so close to San Diego and coupled by the rising numbers of very capable journeymen ocean kayak fishermen I would think it safe to say that some day soon we could expect to see regular charters that will ferry kayaks on one or two day trips that would be similar to the one we experienced today. 

Eagle Eye