Paul Lebowitz – IT'S JUST FISHING

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Thursday, January 07, 2010
Winter Wonderland

The Silly Season

Surviving a squid-fueled feeding frenzy at La Jolla 

Chaotic bumper boat conditions in the dead of winter. Who’d of thunk we’d see summer-like crowds of private boaters jostling for position with an oversized plastic flotilla? Just a few years ago such a scene would have been unimaginable, but no longer. The word is out on La Jolla’s torrid winter squid bites, when the usually wary homeguard yellows go on the rampage and seabass snap with abandon.

Whether we’ll experience such silliness this year is an open question. January was washed out. Only time will tell if that rascal El Nino’s tantrums put a damper on the entire season.  

I’m not going to tell you how to cash in if the history of the past few years repeats. For those who are there when it’s at its nutty best, the hardest part of hooking up is paddling out in the pitch black and one way or another loading up on candy – the squid that start this party. You don’t need me to tell you there’s a lunar element to this game.  

What’s interesting to me is that despite fishing elbow to elbow once word of a good squid float gets out, the scene has been pretty peaceful. Some of our better equipped private boat brothers generously hand off charity baits, while others wave kayakers over to pump in-line squid jigs in their lights.

We need this sort of friendly spirit more than ever now that the MLPA is breathing down our necks. The leading closure proposal brackets La Jolla north and south. Odds are in the future we’ll have no choice but put up with this sort of crowding, so we might as well learn to live with it.

If the positive trend is to continue, we must to do our part. We forget at times that we’re darn near invisible to boaters – and that’s on a good day. Throw in a dark, roilly ocean and we’re asking the impossible. None of us needs to start our fishing day with a terrifying near miss or worse. It’s a worry for the private boaters too. More than one’s told me of a close call with a kayak unseen until the last moment. The last thing they want to do is hit one of us.  

The next few paragraphs should please WON Editorial Director Pat McDonell no end. He won’t be alone. If you’re going to join the La Jolla squid party, a cheap headlamp just won’t cut it. Boaters motoring out from Mission Bay can’t see these pip-squeak lights even when they’re travelling at a sedate 10 knots. The situation calls for a bright 360 degree beacon.

What are the options? As far as commercially made products designed specifically for paddlers go, Scotty’s pole-mounted SEA Light is readily available. Unfortunately, this gizmo does only a fair job in this demanding situation. The SEA Light isn’t particularly bright, and has only a narrow beam. That gives it the appearance of a watered down blinker unless the ocean is flat calm.

The VISIPole hit the market a little more than a year ago. Made by YakAttack (, a small company founded by a pair of kayak fish crazy engineers, this pole-mounted light is an all-around winner. For starters, at a hair over 4 feet long, the bright omni directional Tektite dual LED lamp on top perches well overhead. Reflective materials improve low-light performance, and get this, the VISIPole floats.

Now for the rest of the story. This thing doubles as a flag pole for enhanced daylight visibility, something private boaters who ply popular kayak waters would love to see. The Orange model sports a 12 by 18 in safety flag, but I have a feeling most of the old guard will prefer the Jolly Roger or Patriot versions. All of them kick the snot out of the whippy fiberglass bicycle safety sticks with the obnoxious little triangular pennants some boaters would like imposed on us. Still don’t want a flag? Removal takes moments, leaving the excellent VISIPole intact for lobster hooping and other night time sorties. A bare bones model is also available.  

Whether you take the time to light your kayak is a matter of personal choice. The Coast Guard doesn’t require much of night paddlers, just a bright light ready at hand. It doesn’t even have to be turned on. I can’t imagine those who drafted the regulation pictured fleets of fishing kayakers out at night amidst a crowd of power boats. Let’s stay below official notice, and avoid incidents that might lead to more onerous requirements. Before you join the La Jolla mayhem this winter, add a side of safety to your winter serving of hamachi and biscuits.  

2010’s competition calendar gets off to an early start for kayakers

OCEANSIDE -- Kayak anglers who spice up their outings with the zest of competition can shake off the winter doldrums early this year. Rather than wait for the Fred Hall Shows, the de facto signal its go time for the season, two organizations are getting a jump on the gun.

Up first is the OEX Tournament Trail’s Oceanside outing on Feb 20. It’s an early start for the five event pro-style catch and release saltwater bass series. There’s a renewed emphasis on welcoming new competitors, who enjoy special incentives, but in most respects this points race follows its time-tested formula. Entry fee is a low $25 in advance; fish one or all. Optional $10 jackpot. Grand prize kayak, BBQ and raffle. Learn more at

The Chula Vista Yacht Club hosts its second annual South Bay Kayak Fishing Tournament on Feb 27. This one is special, contested in a terrific but underrated fishery featuring plentiful spotted bay bass and all manner of exotics. Both the contest and tournament site are as beginner friendly as they come. $50, with captain’s bags for the first 50 entrants. Catch and release bass and mixed bag categories; junior angler and big fish ($500 min) awards. The event benefits a good cause, the Chula Vista Nature Center. T-shirt, BBQ, and raffle following. Visit for more important details.

• SAFETY AND A PATRIOTIC STATEMENT – Kayak anglers who venture out at night, particularly into a crowded La Jolla squid frenzy, finally have a superior safety solution. The omni directional VISIPole light is bright and mounted well above the paddler’s head for superior visibility. During daylight hours, it doubles as a flag pole.

• LA JOLLA’S WINTER SQUID BITE YIELDS BIG REWARDS – When the squid float, the local trophies chew with abandon. Will it happen again this year? El Nino should have something to say about that. This nice biscuit was tallied by Al Drake during a prior season.

Reader Comments
I've used a VISIPole nearly since it's inception and I can't tell you how many collisions with folks on PWCs it has prevented. These folks scream around on their JetSkis during the day and aren't usually as vigilant about other water craft as power boaters are. Having a flag really helps! At night here in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, it isn't at all unusual to see 20 or more kayaks lined up for stripers at the local bridges and the light on the VISIPole is CLEARLY (no pun intended) superior to the stuff folks cobble together in their garage. No one will ever be able to say "I didn't see him."
Michael Guyer
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