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August 21, 2009

Cabo Kayak Marlin!

Striped marlin from a kayak? A Cabo San Lucas charter makes it easier than you think...


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Legs pumping, I pedaled away from the 70-foot mothership over Golden Gate Bank, just more than 20 miles from Cabo San Lucas. A gray whale spouted 50 feet to starboard, and I found myself mentally paraphrasing a certain Chihuahua: "I theen' I'm going to need a beeger boat!"

Try cruising over Pacific ground-swells with your butt parked at sea level on a 12-foot hunk of plastic for an unimaginably different perspective of the sea. The vastness of the ocean becomes at once overwhelming, just in case you happen to be jonesing for a reminder of your own insignificance.

Better yet, be that speck on the sea amid an ecological maelstrom, with gannets and pelicans diving frantically; gray whales spouting their distinctive loud, eerie "whoosh!" beneath misting geysers of exhaled air; sea lions barking and porpoising alongside  dolphins rushing past as they tear up  baitfish; free-jumping striped marlin lighting up silver in white spray even as you catch sight of the glowing blue trim from others gliding beneath you.

Fishing the impossibly deep-blue pelagic realm from a kayak could just as easily be terrifying as it is exhilarating, depending on one's mindset. Certainly, agoraphobics need not apply. However, once you overcome that initial shock of feeling mighty vulnerable, you're likely to experience a unique euphoria that comes from seeing the ocean at this vantage point while also realizing your own remarkable self-sufficiency.

I was definitely on my own from the moment 50-pound braid suddenly shot out of the Shimano Torsa that I held while slow-trolling a live caballito (scad). After an excruciatingly long drop-back, I pushed the lever to strike. Then nearly in the same instant, my line came tight, a big striped marlin went wildly airborne 100 feet behind me, my kayak whipped around and I was off to the races on that clichéd but still breathtaking Nantucket sleigh ride.

Not a Stunt!
When I mention those unforgettable days last December, a common reaction is: "That's nuts!" (or some variation on that theme).

Let me assure you this is not nuts and is in no way "stunt fishing." It's eminently doable. In fact, I felt no peril, and my effusive enthusiasm is borne of this single precept: Hooking, fighting and releasing striped marlin from a kayak is the most fun I've ever had with a fishing rod.

Don't take that lightly. I've fished near and far, fresh and salt, sampling some of the most exciting fisheries the world has to offer. When asked the inevitable question about my "favorite fishing," my habitual response has always been an unequivocal, "I can't really specify just one." Now, I can.

Making all this possible and within reach of most anglers is the Marlin Masters fleet in Cabo. A couple of years ago, owner Durance Lowendick decided to offer charter anglers the opportunity to catch billfish and other pelagics from a kayak. Accordingly, after considerable research, he ordered a fleet of Hobie Outback kayaks and purchased essential safety gear, including PFD vests, quick-release cutters and waterproof VHF radios.

For the first time, kayak fishing the blue Pacific off Cabo is an eminently possible option for visiting anglers.

With the concept so foreign to most, including fishermen who thought they'd seen it all, questions are inevitable. With that in mind, here are answers to some of the more fundamental questions.