There’s just something about opening day. Hope springs eternal, the sea is bluer, the boat sparkles after its off-season TLC, and the beer and burgers somehow taste better. A win is just icing; no matter the outcome the experience is one of those rare good times.
That was the case for the kayak anglers and free divers on hand for the Islander’s mothership season opener the first weekend of May, and as has become traditional, the trip was sponsored by WON. Although everyone aboard got plenty of fishing in at San Clemente Island, they just weren’t lucky when it comes to the weather.
As sometimes happens in spring, stiff winds and cold water greeted the big boat when it rolled up on the lee side of China Pt. Virtually nothing was eager to bite, not even the calicos that are usually so dependable at SCI. It wasn’t for lack of trying, although Islander skipper Shane Slaughter did catch sight of a pair of seabass as they flitted through the kelp just west of Pyramid Cove.
In these waters, the Islander is no stranger. The beautiful sportfisher was the first to break into the kayak and dive scene back in 2005, and remains a premier option for those who want to paddle water out of range of the mainland. In style too, with delicious meals, stateroom accommodations, and a superb crew that anticipates every need.
“An Islander trip is always worth it. I got a big calico on my first cast of the morning and thought it would be a great day,” Voe Cox said as he was standing next to the boat’s huge custom swims step. It makes the transition from boat to kayak and vice versa an easy deal.
Toward the middle of the day, Slaughter collected his kayakers and divers and made a run for calmer, warmer conditions on the lee side, but not before 13-year old Bailey Jones hooked into the eventual jackpot winner. The young lady was fishing of the stern when something took an interest in three sardines in a row, snatching the body but leaving the head. The fourth time persistent Bailey dropped her bait was one time too many for a 30-in halibut.
Bailey’s proud father James Jones chalked his daughter’s success to determination. “It’s great. She’s just a stud, grabbing baits, putting them on hooks,” Jones said.
Conditions under the cliffs were beautiful, with good-looking water that was briefly plugged with a fast moving school of bonito with a few yellows mixed in. Ultimately, they didn’t want to bite.
“I wish the fish hadn’t have had lockjaw,” Bob Burnett said after throwing bait after bait into good structure, places that “just had to have a fish there.” As it was, Burnett enjoyed some excitement when SCI momentarily showed its potential, giving up seven calicos on ten casts before fizzling once again.
Josh Bartlett came all the way from Santa Cruz for the trip. “I was running away from bad fishing up north. It was what I expected, and definitely worth the drive,” Bartlett said of the chance to paddle SCI’s distant waters.
Spirits were high despite the tough going, no doubt due to the Islander’s top-notch service and the tasty eats that warmed kayakers and free divers chilled by the weather. A fantastic goody bag from WON sponsors added to the enthusiasm. Everyone went home with one of Sebile’s hot Magic Swimmer baits, something that should score more than its share of calicos once the water warms up. There was Suffix line for all, and an assortment of Costa del Mar sunglasses to try on – two lucky anglers each took a pair home. The Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp hook assortments were put to immediate use – several anglers said the large assortment saved their fishing day.
Although this particular Islander mothership was the slowest in memory – hey, sometimes it rains on opening day, that’s just part of life – there’s plenty of action ahead for the big boat. With each day toward summer, the odds of encountering that hot bite will increase. 1.5 day trips are set for May 15, May 29, and June 19; there’s a longer 2.5 day scheduled for June 11. Book via OEX Dive and Kayak Centers, www.oeexpress.com. For more information on the all-stateroom Islander, a boat where the guys really ‘get’ kayak fishing, visit www.islander-charters.com.