Dennis Spike

Not Waiting for Spring


Hoping Everyone had a Happy Holiday Season and Wishing You A Very Fishy Year in 2019!!!

Come January, while many fisheries are gearing up for next season pursuits like striped bass or waiting for various fisheries to open, others appreciate winter targets.  Northern fishing lodges are long shuttered and somebody somewhere’s out there checking the ice.  Thinking back on the years, it’s clear that kayaks make the season longer for most fisheries where you don’t need an ice hut.  Beyond the Golden State, I’m seeing a lot of nice action along the Gulf for redfish and it appears, kayak bass fishing never slows for anything but bad weather.


Here on the California coast, we’re lucky to be able to fish for something every month in most years. Even when storms are frequent, the windows of opportunity add many productive days to the season.  Dungeness crab opened the first weekend of November here on the Sonoma coast.  Spiny lobster is open in the south and the bugs are crawling. That’s parallel to fishing for trophy lingcod and rockfish that stays strong until the last day of the year in our region, reopening again April 1st.


That said, it was a sensational fishing season on the Sonoma coast that started with a fabulous show of king (chinook) salmon that followed a dismal forecast.  Salmon were landed well into the Fall, a reminder for why salmon season is open until October every year.  We fished mostly baits on the troll and I only saw a few lead balls dropped as more kayak anglers incorporate descending planers and utilize downriggers.  Anchovies packed the nearshore for about 3 weeks and humpback whales put on quite a show scooping up the bait, nearly alongside the kayaks a few times.  Whale photo attempts were unsuccessful, the fishing was great!

The season-long onslaught of lingcod continued with guide Tommy Welborn taking home a few nice ones and releasing 15 more one day.  Lots of fish made it to the table for our guests and lots more were released.

So here we are in the first week of 2019 and rockfish is closed for 14 weeks or so.  In between ocean swells and rainstorms rolling off the Pacific, we still find plenty of summer-like days. We’ll harvest crab, fish the river (by kayak) for steelhead, gather mussels and clams and fish the coastline from the kayaks for perch with a chance of seeing something bigger like halibut or stripers..

Outlook-Parallel to Crab Trips, kayak fishing for steelhead on the Russian River is our other main pursuit for the next 3 months. Fishing for lingcod/cabezon/rockfish and The Coastal Kayak Fishing School trips will resume in April with crab combos offered through May.  Reserve trips well in advance with a small deposit at the site.  Trip deposits are fully and unconditionally refundable.  Salmon will open in April or June (it differs by coastal fishery region) and with last year’s surprise showing, we anticipate some good runs this season.  Salmon and steelhead trips require quick action for success and are booked “on call” with one to 5 days notice when the fish show up.

Contact us directly to go “on-call” for notifications. Like all our trips, you’ll learn what you need to know to tackle this fishery on your own if that’s what you are after, or just let the guide put you on the fish.

Come fish with us in one of the best kayak fishing destinations in North America!-   Lots of fish, eye splitting splendor and easy to get to.

We can fully outfit your fishing trip as needed.  Many popular fishing kayak models available including pedal drives.

Originally based in So Cal, I came to the Sonoma coast nearly 12 years ago from the Sea of Cortez near Cabo.  Simply stated, with lingcod/rockfish, salmon, dungeness crab and a lot more including endless freshwater opportunities, the Sonoma coast is one of the finest destination kayak fisheries in North America. This fishery is easily accessible too!  We get more guests on more quality fish here than we ever did on Baja’s East Cape. We catch different species in a completely different fishery with better results. In comparison, the number and size of fish from lingcod to salmon, the variety of species, lots of double digit fish and the sheer number of days we get to fish on the Sonoma coast continues to blow the minds of guides and guests alike.

Kayak fishing opportunities exist year `round in our region and like any fishery in the U.S., fishing regulations have a lot to do with it.  The only month(s) I missed in the past few years was due to a broken hand this past Aug/Sept.  Thanks to everyone who knew I was benched and doubled down on sending me pictures of their catches to make me “feel better”!  Thanks a lot.

Getting here is easy flying into San Francisco or Oakland (about 90 minutes away) and renting a car.  Quality camping and rreasonably priced lodging is available in Bodega Bay, Occidental, Jenner, Fort Ross and Sea Ranch.  With so much to do around here, you can have a great buddy or a family trip they’ll want to do again.  If you are into wine……..San Francisco to the south, Mendocino north, Napa…. but most folks keep busy as they want right here in West Sonoma County.

Late Update: The groundfish season has been extended from last year and opens April 1st in the SF region.  No joke!  The limit on lingcod is one fish per day (precautionary management action), canary rockfish is 2 per day. Overall, this is great news for a fishery that went from open year round to complete closure just a few years back. I don’t think anyone thought we’d likely see the fishery open 9 months out of 12 so soon.  That’s testimony to real progress in establishing a healthy, sustainable fishery.

Whack `em!



170# Dogtooth Tuna

Raf Vargas, age 45
Yigo, Guam (originally from Levittown, Puerto Rico)
Dogtooth Tuna 170 lbs, 70.5 inches.  Weighed and witnessed at the local Fisherman’s Coop.
Landed on Wednesday 5 December 2018
Edited Angler Account:
The fish was hooked on a 500 gram jig. The bite happened while vertically jigging at 700+ feet and the fish bit the lure very close to the bottom. It took about 1 hour 50 minutes to get it to the kayak plus, another 10 to 15 minutes to figure out how to get it onboard.  I was fishing alone with my GoPro cameras rolling.

45# Pacific Cubera Snapper


Also known as the Pacific Dog Snapper, this is the largest snapper specie in the Pacific.

Landed by Gregory “Miles” Panto on April 16, 2018

Location-Sea of Cortez, just north of Los Barilles, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Hometown-Seattle, Washington

Angler Account: “I hooked it in about 100 ft of water, jigging a candy bar over a rock face, north of Punta Pescadora.  The fish was weighed at Smokey’s in Los Barriles, just an hour and a half after getting it to the beach.  Smokey’s weighs the local catch for anglers, it came in at exactly 45 lbs.”

Detailed account of the catch: “The morning of April 16th was the first calm day after a week of insane, unseasonable wind and the north swell was still almost big enough to keep me off the water.  But I knew there had to be some really hungry fish and scattered bait, so I pushed out.

I paddled out about 3/4 of a mile off a small wash north of Punta Pescadora, where I’d previously found some rock clusters and nice depth variations.
The first drop of a red candy bar jig hooked something small and while reeling it up pretty quickly, it got off.  I let the jig drop again and before it got back to the bottom it was picked up again, by something much bigger.
Knowing it was likely a snapper and already off the bottom by quite a bit, I put very little pressure on it and he swam around in various directions for a while at that same depth.
After a while of that I gave him some pressure, trying to get him up, and realized I had something crazy.
For the next hour or so it was gain a little—loose a little, while chasing and trying everything to gain some line.
I’d hooked it on the smaller of my two poles, so I was working with 50lb test on a small (borrowed!) vintage rod and a light sealine real with maybe 300 feet capacity.
At one point I was pretty sure I’d never get to see what I’d hooked, but every time it changed direction I could feel its mass, and I was pretty damn sure it was a dog snapper.
When I finally got it up into sight I literally screamed.
I knew right then it was a kayak record, and was surprised when it weighed in at only 45 lbs…it really felt bigger!
                               That was one bad-ass fish!  My Kayak is a Native Watercraft Propel, which I love.”


















Descending Black Seabass and Rockfish



3/27/18-Revisiting the Safe Release of Fish

On the heels of rockfish season opening soon and snapper and other coastal species seeing their seasons with size and retention limits, the successful release of traumatized fish is crucial to conscientious fishing.  Here on the California coast, anglers are too accustomed to releasing traumatized no-take, under and oversized species for the ospreys and crabs to eat, the case in many similar fisheries.  In the time since this was first published, “release tools” have become readily available on tackle shelves

Kayak Fishing

Canary Rockfish-CA Daily and Bag Limit, One Fish

 Getting a feel for a good hookset and SLOOOOOWWWWWLLLLLY moving the fish up the water columns on the lightest drag possible will keep its eyes in its head, the bladder in its belly and a long sporting fight to effect a healthy release.


Releasing ocean fish with inflated bladders is a necessary angler skill and . With so many restrictions in today’s fishery, from rockfish to snappers and groupers plus the depths we can fish and more, possessing a release rig has become a matter of angler consciousness.  We advise guided guests fishing shallow water rockfish not to “horse in” smaller fish and retrieve them slowly to avoid inflating bladders and killing the fish.  Shallow water returns are less successful.   This link to Sportfishing Association of California details barotrauma and several release methods.  Release tools are effective but not necessary, most kayak fishers have what they need onboard.

From Captain Jerry Barber:

Black seabass are making a rebound from near exticnction and are being hooked and landed by more and more fishermen every day. The first problem when landing one of these giants is to identify it as a black seabass. Too often I hear, “What the hell is THAT?” when one is brought to the boat. If you are fishing on or near the bottom and bring up a large, usually spotted, grouper-like fish, you probably have caught a black seabass. Now you have a problem. These fish are fully protected by law and MUST be released. The problem is how?  These fish are usually caught in deep water and their now-inflated gas bladder stops them from swimming back to the bottom.

Most sportfishers carry long hypodermic needles which are inserted into the side of the fish behind the pectoral fin. This deflates the bladder and allows the fishSafe_Release to return to the seabed. There are two dangers in doing this. First, it must be done correctly or the fish could be killed instantly. Secondly, when the needle is inserted through the skin, it picks up slime which is then deposited deep inside the fish. This can cause an infection which results in a long, slow death. I use a device that safely and efficiently returns the fish to the sea and I offer it to you for your consideration.  We do not recommend this invasive technique.

The device consists of a 5# rock cod weight, a 24″ piece of braided stainless leader and a 10/0 stainless hook modified to be barbless. Simply attach the hook to the weight with the wire leader and keep the device permanently on your boat. When a seabass is caught, tie a line from any convenient rod to the bend of the hook. (Use at least 25 pound test so the line doesn’t break) The hook is then inserted DOWNWARD through the UPPER lip of the fish and the weight is slipped gently into the ocean, followed by the fish. With the reel in freespool, the weight pulls the fish to the bottom where its swim bladder deflates naturally. If it doesn’t swim away by itself, a sharp upward pull on the line will pull the hook out and release the fish.

This “Safe Release”, as I call it, costs only a few dollars to build and is the easiest, and safest, device I have ever found. Take the time to build one and keep it in a convenient spot on your boat.


PVC Kayak Cart


*You need to add “T’s” to the top of this design to cradle the hull.  Pad the top of the T bars with a pool noodle or similar foam wrap.  Based on kayak manufacturers recommendations, we do not recommend supporting your kayak through the scupper holes.



What should I look for in a used kayak?


A summary of important considerations from Judge

Brittleness – if any of the plastic feels brittle (from being in the sun or just plain old) do not buy – and maybe don’t even take as
a gift – it’s up to you on that one. You need to know what a new kayak feels like before you start checking old ones.

Structure – look for modifications, holes and visibly deep scrapes in the hull. If you are concerned – ask the seller if you can fill it up with water. By doing this on dry sidewalk, you should be able to tell if it leaks (and there will probably be a lot more pressure on the hull when it’s full of water than it will be when you are on it in the water). Modifications – any holes put into the hull are a possible source of leaks. Check them out. Real small holes (like for pop rivets) can be filled with plastic and a heat gun (from Home depot), hot glue or even some shoe goo. Look it over top and bottom -particularly to see how the wear is around the supper holes on the bottom – a place of particular wear as you land on the beach.

Form – The plastic boat can be misshapen as a result of being tied to a car or truck in hot weather. They say in the OK book, that they will regain their old shape if allowed to heat and cool on a level surface with no tie downs. If you find a boat that seems to have cooled to the wrong shape, you may or may not be able to get it right again. Also, the booklet says that hanging them by their handles can make them warp. Again, I don’t know if they will “right” themselves if allowed to heat and cool on a flat surface – Maybe this is a question for a dealer or manufacturer.

How do I install FLUSH MOUNT ROD HOLDERS on my kayak?


Thanks to Wali for his excerpt from the Idiot’s Guide.

How? Poke large hole(s) in your perfectly good Kayak and set it in place with some stick-um and screws. Seriously though, it really is about that simple. A 2 1/4″ hole saw works real well to poke the hole and I like 3m 4200 as a sealant. Don’t drill the screw holes until you put the holder in place and rotate it to the position you want your rod to point in and it fits inside your hull (I shortened mine some). Be careful and don’t over tighten the screws (just enough to pull it almost flush and make the sealant ooze (wipe clean) Make sure you use stainless steel hardware. Most come without a bottom and you need to cap it. I sanded mine down some and fit an abs cap (2″ I think) on it and sealed it   I have three. Hope that helps

Can I install the CKF Paddle Clips on kayaks with rounded sides like The Ride, Prowler and Malibu Kayaks?


Yes…..You can install the CKF Paddle Clips on the Prowler and other “rounded” kayaks by flexing the base to conform to the hull. Stainless nuts and bolts are recommended when access to the interior is afforded. Snug the paddle clip base down gradually alternating back and forth between each fastener. Stainless sheet metal screws or rivets will work when a “blind” fastener is needed. The Paddle Clips should be installed at room temperature or warmer for an easy application.

How do I get tar off my kayak?


“Years ago I suggested on this web site, orange hand cleaner for removal of oil/tar. Spike emailed me asking that I keep an eye on the cleaned area for signs of “reactions”. I still have the OK Scrambler. The area cleaned looks the same as the rest of the kayak. I do store the kayak
indoors and use “303” protectant about once per month. Perhaps the extra care has been helpful.” 

Thanks to Bill Hartman, Oxnard California.

How do I avoid backlash when I cast?


Thanks to Ed Whited  for providing an easy primer on casting an open face reel.  The information applies to Shimano Corsair & Calcutta, Daiwa Millionaire, Abu Abu Garcia Ambassador and similar reels.

I have two Corsairs, both of them are the new versions. I have caught yellowtail, bass and barracuda with them.
They cast great and the drag system is the same as the Calcutta’s.

Always watch your jig when you cast, If you do not stop the spool with your thumb when the jig hits the water, you will get a backlash. To help with your casting, and/or minimize your backlashes, make sure that your spool adjustment is correct. This is the knurled cap on the right hand side plate. The purpose of the adjustment is to take the play out of the side to side movement of the spool. I like to tighten the knob until I can no longer here a “Click” or sound as I try to move the spool side to side with my thumb. Too tight and you will limit your casting distance. Always watch your jig when you cast, If you do not stop the spool with your thumb when the jig hits the water, you will get a backlash.

The next item is the proper adjustment of the “Weights” on the left-hand side of the spool. These weights are located on the left-hand side of the spool. You have to disassemble the reel to access them. Unscrew the two slotted knobs holding the right hand side plate to the frame and remove the spool from the reel. Look at the left-hand side of the spool. There is a series of 5 (as I recall) weights on the left side of the spool arranged in a circular or star pattern. The weights can be pushed toward the center of the spool’s shaft to turn off the weight or pushed outward toward the spool’s rim to turn them on. Be careful not to damage the weights. I would turn them all on until your thumb becomes more educated and you can then start turning some of the weights off to lengthen your casting distance. When you re-assembly your reel, make sure the release (free-spool) button is in the up position or it will not engage the release mechanism properly. This will be apparent by the button remaining in the down or disengaged position and not engaging when the reel handle is turned. The easiest way for me to prevent this is to turn the reel upside down so gravity pulls the release button into the proper position as I reassemble the reel.

The issue of the line being caught between the spool and frame is a function of the line diameter, spool looseness (see second paragraph) and backlashes. Everyone, no matter how experienced, has backlashes at times. Experience and proper adjustments will minimize the backlash frequency. Try not to use line of a diameter smaller than what the reel is designed for. With smaller diameter line the frequency of catching the line between the spool and the frame increases and the line’s tolerance to damage decreases.          Ed Whited