Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Goal Zero Feature: Kayaking the California Coast

Here's a short piece I put together for Goal Zero Solar that was featured on their site yesterday. I think it accurately summarizes my spring and summer. Full post HERE.


Guest post by Jason Self.

When asked recently to describe my best moment on the water this summer, I was stumped. Not because of a lack of exceptional moments, but rather, too many to chose from. You see, recently I made a big move. I quit my job, left my friends and family in the city, packed up my gear and moved to the coast of far Northern California to start fresh. I am a sea kayaker and to me, the rocks, reefs, and surf breaks around Trinidad, California are paradise.

Like most of us, I spent the majority of my time grinding away to save money and squeeze out time for a weekend at the coast, or a week of vacation traveling to a far away destination to complete an expedition, all to satisfy my desire for exploration and adventure in the outdoors. It all began to seem trivial. “Why spend 99% of my time wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else?” I thought. So in December of this year I decided to relocate to my dream sea kayak destination. Now instead of a week long expedition once a year, I live it every single day, and I couldn’t possibly be happier. So picking my best moment this summer was a challenge. Every day is magic.
In April California Gray Whales were thick around Trinidad during their migration North from Baja to Alaska. In a two week period, I encountered twenty six gray whales while sea kayaking. Mostly mother’s with calves, some of them spouting, jumping, and slapping their flukes within twenty feet of my kayak, some appeared directly beneath me. Every single encounter was mind blowing. Nothing is quite as humbling as being made to feel like a tiny insignificant speck of life, looking out over the infinite ocean being dwarfed by massive whales.
self_GP-CP-6In late May, bottom fishing opened in Northern California. With world class ocean fishing now 400 yards from my house, I’ve been able to get out nearly every day. What was once an itch I could only satisfy a few times a year is now a weekly activity.

In June I encountered the first shark I’ve ever seen in ten years of sea kayaking; a small four foot salmon shark just a few feet off the launch beach. This was a pivotal moment for me. Like most children of the 70’s, I saw the movie ‘Jaws’ when I was young, and like most people, it gave me a totally skewed & unrealistic perspective on shark behavior. I’ve been paranoid about them for most of my life. My first encounter was an incredible experience. The salmon shark was docile & friendly (the opposite of Jaws) I was able to paddle close with it for ten minutes before it slipped below the surface and returned to sea. Since then I’ve had two more encounters with sharks, one large thresher, and one great white. In both instances I was fishing from my sea kayak with a stringer full of fish hanging in the water. With both sharks, the moment they saw me they turned tail and swam away as quickly as they could. They were afraid of me! I managed to snap a photo of the salmon shark with my GoPro, and the reaction I received from so many people; “That’s dangerous!”, “You’re crazy!”, “That’s so scary!”, furthered my realization of the bad rap sharks get. I realized society has been fed a load of misinformation about sharks, playing on people’s fears. The more I learned first hand, the less afraid I became. I realized it’s not sharks people are afraid of, but the fear of the unknown, and the media’s portrayal of sharks plays into this fear.
Of course, happiness means nothing unless it’s shared, and my greatest satisfaction comes from introducing these unique experiences to others. Coaching and guiding is my true passion. It gives me the opportunity to show people first hand the immense beauty of the coast and it’s wildlife, and the threats facing it. Seeing people’s faces light up with excitement when encountering a whale, catching a fish, or riding a wave for the first time is what it’s all about for me. Each time I know I’ve helped spark a new passion for someone, my mission has been accomplished.

You can find more from Jason at the following:

Jason uses the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus and Sherpa 50 Solar Kits to power his adventures. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Kayak Angler's Choice Awards 2014

I'm incredibly honored to be nominated in the 2014 Kayak Angler's Choice Awards for the fourth year in a row. This year I was nominated in the Angler of the Year category, and I have to say the list is filled with some incredible kayak fishers, most of which I don't hold a candle to. Again to who ever nominated me, thank you. 

Although this blog won the Best Kayak Fishing Blog category last year, it was not included this year due to a new rule requiring nine posts through September. As I've neglected you a bit this year while launching my new business in California, I only had six posts at the time of cut off. I'd like to think the focus at this blog is quality not quantity, but I also understand the need for the new rule. There's always next year!

Votes for the Kayak Anglers Choice Awards will be taken for 3 weeks. Week 1 and week 2 top 50% of vote-getters in each category will advance to the next round, with the exception of the "Angler" category. The top fifty will advance to Round 2, and the top 10 of those will advance to the final round. KACA polls will only be active during the voting and nominations phases.

There will be three rounds of voting:

Round 1: 12am EST Monday Oct. 27 - 8pm EST Sunday Nov 2

Round 2: 12am EST Monday Nov 3 - 8pm EST Sunday Nov 9

Round 3: 12am EST Monday Nov 10 - 8pm EST Sunday Nov 16

Results will be announced on November 24. Cast your vote for your favorites by visiting

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lumpy Waters Symposium, Survivorman Les Stroud

On October 9th, 2014, I made my way North up the coast to Pacific City, Oregon for the sixth annual Lumpy Waters Symposium hosted by Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe. This was my fifth year coaching at the event, which is the largest sea kayak symposium on the West Coast. I was honored for the return invite, and planned to lead handline fishing classes targeting lingcod, cabezon, rockfish, and greenling. 

Mother nature had other plans apparently. I arrived just before dark to a windless, 3-5ft long period swell. The forecast for Friday picked up a little to 4-6ft but it still looked promising. The forecast for my class days on Saturday & Sunday, however, did not.

Students arrived late morning on Friday, and after a short paddle inside the cape, I decided to shoot some photos on the beach during the "Fear to Fun in the Surf", "Beginning Long Boat Surfing", and "Short Boat Surfing" classes, knowing this would likely be my only chance to capture the scene. I typically have little opportunity to snap photos while I'm leading a class. Here are a few from Friday:

Overnight Friday the roar of the surf grew louder. I woke before dawn to scout the cape, knowing by the sound of the breaking waves that there was no way we were getting offshore and out to Haystack Rock to jig for bottom fish. The ocean and the forecast aligned, and I was staring a 9-14ft long period swell with a huge shore break right in the face. Those conditions are challenging for paddling no doubt, and one hundred percent miserable for holding position and jigging from our sea kayaks. I resorted to plan B, again, with a little bit of disappointment at the uncooperative conditions for yet another Lumpy. The only option for running my classes would be crabbing in protected areas such as inside Cascade Head at the mouth of the Salmon River, or in Tillamook, Netarts, or Nestucca Bay. On Saturday I chose Cascade Head.

At Cascade Head we didn't find as much protection as we were hoping for. We immediately paddled down about 3/4 of a mile  to the mouth and found ten powerboats trolling in 8-10ft waves and a strong flood tide pushing upriver at 4-6kts. We quickly retreated upriver and soon took shelter at the last bend before the surf zone. We found an eddy I had crabbed many times before in a sheltered spot and began fishing for dungeness. After my students had gotten the hang of it and caught a few keepers, I decided to drop my full size crab trap. My students use Crab Hawks and handlines, which are much more conducive to sea kayak transport on multiday trips than a traditional trap. Since Crab Hawks are not legal in California, I've had to look at other options. Although the full size trap is difficult to manage from a sea kayak, I got the hang of it and caught a few keepers in about an hour of fishing.

Satisfied my class had a meal caught already, I drifted upriver one hundred yards to get out on the beach and relieve myself in an area up from two bends in the river, where I had never seen a breaking wave in the dozens of times I had been to this spot. I pulled both feet out of the cockpit and was just about to get out of my boat when I heard the roar of a breaking wave fast approaching. "Ah sh*t." I thought to myself, "I'm going for a ride." Instantly I looked to my right to see a three to four foot foam pile wrapping around the bend with less than a second or two to scramble safely from my boat and secure it on the beach. I decided riding it out would be the better option. I braced and back paddled and got tossed around. The river surged skyward beneath me up four feet from where I was a second earlier. Suddenly the fallen tree high on the bank was at water level, and I was headed right for it. I back paddled hard out into the river narrowly escaping the tree and pulled my feet back in the cockpit. One of my students asked; "Did you see that 10ft log in that wave? It was headed right for you." As the words were leaving his mouth, another surge came through and smashed the huge log into the fallen tree I managed to dodge just seconds before, sending woody debris flying everywhere.

The huge surf carried a massive storm surge with it. When we paddled back to the boat launch just after high tide, the parking lot was inundated with water. A few two foot curling waves broke up river from the launch, nearly 3/4 of a mile upriver from the mouth. It was impressive. Even the power boaters retreated and gave up trolling the mouth. It was just to gnarly.

Our efforts were rewarded with a half dozen keepers to enjoy during happy hour that evening. The frenzy ensued, and only bits of evidence the crabs ever existed remained. 
On Sunday I chose Nestucca Bay as our crabbing and salmon fishing destination as Cascade Head was a lot to deal with. I had only fished Nestucca once, so I had avoided it the day before due to my lack of beta. With a little internet research we were able to paddle directly to prime crabbing grounds, and everyone was landing keeper dungeness within minutes of our arrival. After we'd caught enough for a group meal, we unhooked our crab hawks and attached leaders and lures for salmon trolling. We managed one taker who spit the hook quick, but no salmon boated. That's typical river salmon fishing if you ask me. That kind of salmon fishing is a war of attrition, won by the angler who puts in the most time. As we trolled for only an hour on the way back to the launch, I didn't feel too bad about the salmon shut out. I stuck around Sunday night to hang out with the other coaches, play Foosball, have a few beers, and relax. It's always a pleasure spending time with my sea kayak family. 

I made my way back to Northern California on Monday October 13th, washed my clothes, and headed to Texas for my twenty year high school reunion. 

Normally I would not report on that here, but on the way home, I ran into Les Stroud and crew from the Discovery Channel TV series "Survivorman". I've learned a lot from his show over the years, and being an outdoorsman and wilderness guide, I was excited to meet one of my heroes. It turned out he was booked on my flight and headed to my area to shoot a new episode of the show. Our flight was delayed, then cancelled, and I found myself standing in line at customer service next to Les' crew. I introduced myself, told them I was a guide and sea kayak coach, worked for an outfitter in the area, and could help with gear, location scouting, and local beta. We swapped numbers, got our hotel vouchers, then went our separate ways. I didn't expect anything to come of it. An hour later I received a text invite to meet for beers at the hotel. We had drinks, chatted, and hit it off. Today I'm working for the show, rounding up camera equipment, camping gear, and general info for the crew. Life is a freaking trip that's for sure. 

This morning my partner Shay and I were chosen for the Bomber Gear photo shoot in Trinidad. It appears the craziness is going to continue for a while. I'm grateful for every second of this Hollywood stuff. I have to make hay while the sun shines, because it never lasts! I'll be sure and give a full report in two weeks of my shenanigans working with Survivorman for the next week or so.

Until next time,


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Kayak Fishing on Reality TV

My fellow fishing guide Eric Stockwell (photos) and I had the opportunity to work with a SoCal TV crew a few days ago shooting a pilot for a show about food foraging, and farmed vs. wild food. It's set for Pivot TV; part of the Bravo Network.
I met the stars of the show; two chef's from LA, at the marina on Humboldt Bay, where I gave them some basic directional control and safety lessons to prepare them for the next day on the ocean and salmon fishing. The lesson went well, and I felt confident we could safely take them on the ocean even though they had less than four hours of kayaking experience.
The next morning we launched at Shelter Cove, CA to ideal conditions. SW swell 3-5ft @ 9s, W winds to 5kts, and a high of 80F without a cloud in the sky.

We trolled about a mile South of the launch and managed to get into some fish before we headed back to shore to grill it up.

I learned a lot about video production and made some good connections. Overall the experience was awesome. Any day on the ocean with friends, especially an amazingly beautiful location like Shelter Cove, is a great day.
If it seems this report is lacking in details, it's because it is. I'm not at liberty to discuss details of the plot until after the show airs, which at this point, I don't know when that will be! As soon as I find out, I will let you know here.
Up next is the Lumpy Waters Symposium in Pacific City, OR and I'm stoked to lead handline fishing for sea kayakers, and see all my old buds from up North.

Until next time,


Monday, September 29, 2014

Kayak Fishing: Ocean Paddler Magazine Cover, Reality TV Show, Handline Fishing Classes at Lumpy Waters Symposium

I've got tons of stuff to update you with. It's short and sweet as I'm short on time, so here we go!

First, I am honored to be featured on the cover of Ocean Paddler Magazine this month! This is my first appearance on a cover and on the best sea kayak mag no doubt. Chris Bensch shot the photo for the second part of my series on handline fishing from a sea kayak. I'm wrapping up the third and final installment this week. It is set to publish in November.
Tomorrow Daniel Fox comes to town and he's shooting the last few photos for the OP article, then we are doing a radio interview on KHUM's Coastal Currents to promote his W.I.L.D Youth Wilderness Camp Fundraiser. Daniel is an amazing photographer. Check out his photos from his WILD Image Project . I am excited to shoot with him, and I'm stoked for the opportunity to help promote a project as near to my heart as the WILD Youth Wilderness Camp.

Later this week I'm teaming up with fellow Pacific Outfitters Adventures Guide Eric Stockwell to be featured on a reality TV show pilot set for a cable network. I'm not at liberty to name networks, shows, etc. until after it's set to air. We're taking two chef's out kayak fishing for salmon at Shelter Cove, CA. The show is all about food foraging and farmed vs. wild food. I will most definitely post updates here as I'm allowed.

A couple of days later I pack my sea kayak, fishing, & crabbing gear up and head North to Cape Kiwanda, Oregon for the Lumpy Waters Symposium. I'm leading two handline fishing for sea kayakers classes where we'll focus on catching lingcod, rockfish, cabezon. Both classes are currently full.

I have been doing more sea kayaking than fishing as of late but still manage to squeeze in a few hours here and there. We had some decent conditions push in following the hurricane in SW Mexico. The Trinidad area was a bit lumpy for fishing, but we had fun paddling around and playing in the rocks. 

I plan on taking tons photos and giving you a full report on all activities towards the end of October. I'm thrilled to have so much happening in my little world of sea kayak fishing, but I look forward to November and catching my breath!

Until then-


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2014 Kayak Fishing Tournament

On Saturday, September 13th 2014, There was an annual multi-species saltwater kayak fishing tournament in beautiful Trinidad, California. As much as I wanted to fish, I'm not into competition, and my duties as an organizer took priority. I ran safety and shot photos before heading down to Eureka at 11am to teach kayak classes at Paddlefest. It was a busy weekend, and I get to fish here all the time! This was about showcasing Trinidad, CA; Humboldt County's kayak fishing paradise, to our out of town guests, and to thank our local kayak anglers for their support.

This was the fourth year of the annual tournament, and the biggest turn out in tournament history. With such incredible fishing in such a beautiful location, it's easy to see why kayak anglers came from as far away as Los Angeles, Portland, Sacramento, and all over the West Coast to spend a fun filled weekend fishing with friends.

This tournament is a little different than the rest; All human powered craft were welcome to compete, including sit inside and sit on top kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddleboards. We also added a few special categories such as the Barbie Pole and Handline Challenges.

Our goal was to take kayak fishing back to it's roots. Back to the days before the kayak fishing industry exploded, when it didn't matter how you got to the fishing grounds, only that you did. Back to the days before corporate sponsorship when anglers used what ever they had available and just went out and had fun.

Early that morning, anglers rallied at Trinidad Harbor. 45 two man teams went through a safety inspection on the beach before the official first launch time set for 5:45am. At 5:45, the competition began, and most contestants hit the water as quick as they could to get to their targeted areas before any one else.

Others elected to take it easy, waiting until first light before launching off the beach and onto the ocean.

Competitors were greeted with mild conditions; NW swell 3-5ft at 8 seconds, N wind to 5kts, and mild temperatures of 50-65F. However at first light a heavy but patchy fog crept in, testing even the most seasoned kayak angler's navigational skills.

The patchy fog didn't dampen spirits or catching. The bite was red hot. Within 15 minutes of first launch, fish were being boated. Including the big fish winner of the tournament, a 39" lingcod.

As the fog lifted, we were greeted with one of the most picturesque views on the California Coast:

Anglers were required to return to the launch by 2pm for weigh in. As the results came in, one thing was clear; the level of talent and skill held by competitors was impressive. One of the biggest cabezon we've seen this year was wrangled by Kiet Pham, who missed the deadline for registration due to other obligations but was able to drive 400 miles through the night to make launch and fish with us. This pig measured 28 3/4 inches and over 19 pounds.

The "Biggest Fish" Award went to Chris Coleman of Team Redneck Yacht Club, who boated a solid 39" lingcod.

Other Biggest Fish Winners included:

Mark Bayles with a 17" greenling
Kenny Baker with a 23" black rockfish
Matt Baron with a 14.5" blue rockfish
Matthew Mayes with a 25" cabezon
Ron Saufferer with a 21.5" vermillion rockfish.
The "Handline Challenge" was met Michael Owens, who in his canoe landed a 27" lingcod with no rod or reel to take the category win. 

The "Barbie Pole Challenge" was met head on by Mike Bailey, who landed a 30 3/4" lingcod on his stock Spider Man kid's fishing rod to take the category. Several competitors switched to the kids pole after landing several species with conventional gear, but Mike stayed true to the Spider Man pole for the entire tournament.

Team Lost Coast Anglers made a great video of the kiddie pole action:

For the overall tournament competition, 8 eligible species of fish may be turned in for points, with a maximum of the 6 best fish scored on a points per inch scoring system.

Species/points eligible:
*GREENLING – 11 PTS PER INCH                           
As anglers returned to the launch, it was clear that the competition was steep.

Team "Bald Eagles with a strong showing:

Team "Humboldt Hookers" shows their stoke:
Team "Redneck Yacht Club" and Chris Coleman's Biggest Fish winning 39" Lingcod.
Team "Slayers" struggling to lift their load:
Team "Straight Hook" with a strong showing
Team "Tsunami" styling it.
That evening after weigh in, competitors gathered at Emerald Forest of Trinidad for a family friendly fish fry & pot luck before the awards ceremony,
Winners were awarded in all categories including the grand prize of a pair of Old Town Predator Kayaks. Cher-ae Heights Casino, NRS, Sea to Summit, Lowrance, GoPro, Midland, Big Hammer, B2Squid, Blue Lake Casino, Johns Cigars, Ice Breaker, and Mad River Brewing contributed prizes for winners and participants as well. In all, over $6000 in prizes were awarded. The overall results are:
10th Place: Team Cast N' Blast (905.50 pts)
9th Place: Team Cod Pieces (909 pts)
8th Place: Team Straight Hook (913.25 pts)
7th Place: Team Owens & Bayles (940 pts)
6th Place: Team Knot Again (980.25 pts)
5th Place: Team Bald Eagles (1006.25 pts)
4th Place: Team Scooter (1036 pts)

Our top three teams finished neck and neck, with only two points separating second and third place wins.
3rd Place: Team aMayesing Brothers - Mathew & Chris Mayes (1056 pts)

2nd Place: Team Bloody Decks - Boyce Meredith & Cameron Pascual (1058 pts)

And the overall winners and Trinidad Rockfish Wars IV Tournament Champions are...
1st Place: Team Rodfathers - Rob Knoles & Adam Koons

Congratulations to all winners and participants! Thank you all from far and near, and thank you to all of our sponsors, supporters, friends, and family for making this year's tournament the biggest and best yet. We're already looking forward to next years tournament.