Several months ago we were invited to visit Puerto Rico by Captain Omar Orraca of Caribbean Outfitters and the Tarpon Nest Lodge. I had many conversations with Omar about the best time to come for our target species of Tarpon and hopefully some offshore fishing as well.
I was very pleased to have my wife Allene along on this trip, she has wanted to visit Puerto Rico for some time, and my good fishing buddy Jeff Birdsnest Herman. Because of the twelve hours of travel involved with getting to PR from San Diego my wife and I decided to arrive a day early so that I could have a full day to get the kayaks and fishing gear all rigged up in a more leisurely pace. Though only ten minutes from the airport, finding the Tarpon Nest at 10:30 pm was not easy, the directions on Google maps were vague to say the least, add in the rain and the ever fogged windshield of the rental car and we had a challenge.
Arriving at the lodge at 11:30 at night we were greeted by Nick, Omars deck hand, who grabbed an arm load of gear and showed us to our room. The room was spacious and very nicely decorated, and even had rod/paddle holders on the wall.
The Tarpon Nest lodge is located just outside San Juan and as mentioned is only ten minutes from the airport, once you know where you are going. A short walk through the neighborhood brings you to a small town with anything from street food to nice restaurants. The Lodge has a private dock and you can be fishing within minutes of pulling away. They also have a large fleet of kayaks for anyone that visits.
The kayaks arrived nicely packaged and in great shape, one of the many great things about the Jackson Kayaks is that they arrive ready to fish, no real rigging is required other than some personal touches and a lot of stickers.
Though we had planned this trip around the perfect tides to make for the best fishing, what we couldn’t plan on was an algae bloom occurring just before we arrived which had killed off much of the bait in the area. Though we worked our tails off we had a long tough week of fishing. We saw lots of fish but they always seemed to be on the move with a major case of lock jaw. Our backup plan to fish offshore was also thwarted by strong winds and a swell that wouldn’t allowed boats out of the harbor.
Getting a bit frustrated with the lack of bites, Jeff and I downsized our gear and had some fun with the plentiful though mostly small Snook. I was also able to add a couple new fish to my species list which now sits at 118.
By the fourth day of fishing you could say frustrations were HIGH as we had still not had a single bite from our target species. We tried everything, live bait, dead bait and all variety of lures, it just was not happening for us. We were all getting pretty upset as we knew we only had two days left to shoot and at this point still didn’t have enough footage for an episode. You might say tempers were very near the surface for all of us just from the stress of it. Omar is so confident in his fishery that he has a guarantee of fish so this many days without a bite has him on edge along with the rest of us, which never really helps you fish better. Thankfully things were about the change.
Omar left us fishing in an area and ran around in his boat trying to scout out some fish. He gave us a shout that an area looked promising and we headed over to give it a shot. Of course we got there and it looked like the dead sea which made for a rather comical emotional outburst. I think the fish heard our desperation and decided to give us a little taste of what was there. We had picked up a few live baits and decided to troll them around the bay, I was the first one hit but that is all it was a hit and miss that stole my bait. I then put on another very large mullet that I got to watch the Tarpon kick the crap out of but never eat, but at least we were finally on fish that were being active. A few minutes later I look across the bay and see Jeff getting towed across the water with a leaping Tarpon off his bow. Unfortunately our luck was staying about the same as his fish also came unbuttoned. Not long after this the skies opened up on us and we were in a torrential downpour. We decided it was a good time to go in for lunch.
At least we had finally had a few bites and were fired up to get back on the water for an evening session. We saw a lot more fish rolling this afternoon but again they seemed to be lock jawed. Omar decided that our best bet was to fish the dead bait, which meant anchoring up in position and waiting for a bite, not something I am very good at. With one hour left our patience paid off, at least for Jeff any way. He hooked up and this time it stuck and he was off to the races.
The last day of the trip started much like the rest, up at 5:30 and on the water by 6:00. We went to the same spot that Jeff caught his fish the day before and set up with anchors and dead bait. The camera boat also had lines in the water and as fate would have it, they get a double hookup. ARE YOU FN KIDDING ME, I am only about a hundred feet away from them and they have to get a double and I am still waiting for my first hookup of the trip. I just sat in my kayak and enjoyed watching Omar fight the big fish, refusing the offer of the rod. I just can’t take a hand off fish. The fish did make some great jumps and I am sure the guys got some wonderful video of it. Both fish eventually came unhooked.
Although at this point I have not landed a fish and my frustration level is through the roof I try to just relax and if nothing else enjoy the awesome scenery. I mean it is not every day I get to paddle in the mangroves, see manatees, huge iguanas, and amazing bird life.
With the standard afternoon rain coming through it was time to head in for the always delicious lunch made by Jorge back at the Tarpon Nest.
Back on the water for our last session of the trip and I must admit my hopes were as low as can be. I just had the feeling that this was just not my trip. We worked a couple areas with no luck and still not a bit for me. With maybe an hour left to fish, Jeff paddled over to me and we just sat side by side soaking our baits and chatted about the trip and how the clock was winding down and it just wasn’t going to happen for me this time. We talked about what a great place this is and we have to come back for redemption because we know the fish are there. We talked about how nice the Tarpon nest and how nice our host Omar II at the hotel has been. We talked about how hard Omar and Nick had worked all week to get us on fish and it just wasn’t meant to be this time but that we had made new lifelong friends. And we talked about all the bugs that were starting to eat us alive as the sun was starting to go down and perhaps it was time to pull the plug.
And that is when it happened. My line started to peel off my reel at blazing speed. I tossed the reel in gear and the rod loaded up.
Now I have caught thousands of fish in my life and plenty of big ones but this one seriously had me shaking. I was so excited, relieved, amazed and scared to death it would come off. Of course I get the only tarpon that doesn’t do a single jump so not so good for the video or still shots but it also gave me a better chance of landing the fish. I did get another scare when the fish headed right for a manatee buoy and threaten to wrap me around it. Once I had the fish close I was setting up to land it I also had to deal with the hook in the middle of the lower jaw, right where I would need to grab it. Even with these problems I was able to solo land the fish and get the monkey off my back. A fish that because we had to work so hard for it will make an even better memory.
Our last night celebration was so much better because of that fish. A tough trip was made so much better by the great group we had with us. Huge thanks to Omar at Caribbean Outfitters for setting it all up and being such a great guide and working so hard.
Our crew, including my wife Allene, Will Richardson, Kelsey Thompson and Jeff Herman worked our tails off and did our best to stay positive and have fun on a tough trip. Thanks Nick for all your work on the boat and thanks to OmarII the manager of the Tarpon nest for being such a great host at the hotel.
We have just returned from my home away from home Rancho Leonero on Baja’s East Cape. The first week of the trip was one the guided trips I run down here each year and the second part of the trip was to shoot an episode of my show.
On the guided trip we had a group of anglers that were dedicated to catching big game fish only, which, when you move up the food chain, means less action. Everyone on the trip understood this but stuck to their guns of only targeting big game and to leave the little fish alone. Targeting these big fish also means hours of paddling, trolling live baits in the hopes of a hookup. The goal was to catch Marlin with the possible by catch of tuna and dorado.
We had fairly rough seas and a real mix of weather, from rain and wind to blazing sun but everyone stayed on task. The results of their dedication paid out with six marlin hooked and three landed plus several dorado and skipjack.
After the clients left it was my turn to fish and shoot some video for the show. My videographer Will Richardson, second camera Kelsey Thompson and Yakattacks Luther Cifers arrived to shoot with Sean and I.
The first afternoon was spent rigging up the new Jackson Cuda 14′s with Yakattack gear, and a couple cold Pacificos were consumed in the process.
Our plan on the trip was the same as my guided trip, Go Big or Go Home.
Though the fishing was not great we landed two Marlin and a bunch of dorado, which we had cooked up for us for dinner, and packed up some to bring home.
I got to return the favor helping Sean land his fish the next day.
I never get tired of visiting and fishing at Rancho Leonero and fishing with my good friend and boat captain Alonso Castro Mackliz.
If interested in joining me on one of my yearly trips to the East Cape please look me up at
People often ask me about how we get the point of view shots on our show, what kind of camera we use, and how we mount it on our Jackson Kayaks. For the past couple years we have been using the V.I.O POV camera because we feel it gives us better shot control and higher quality over other cameras available at this time. The V.I.O is also water tight and rugged enough to handle the abuse of kayak fishing.
Some of the other features that really appeal to us on this camera are;
An external waterproof microphone which picks up much better sound than anything else available from other onboard mics.
The POV Power which allows us to hook up the camera to an external battery so that we can run the camera all day without fear of running out of power when we need it most.
A wrist worn remote control which makes starting and stopping recording on the fly as simple as can be.
A recording looping function which means we can set the camera to record in a constant loop, only saving it when needed. This means we will never miss that shot of the fish hitting our baits.
This past week I had the opportunity to visit the lovely town of Oriental North Carolina to shoot another episode of The Kayak Fishing Show. Joining me on this trip were Brooks Beatty, from Jackson Kayak and Bobby Brewer a local who helped us set up the visit.
Oriental is a quaint little town with a lot of character, filled with small shops and restaurants like the Silos, which is actually in a Silo. The town has a love of festivals, dragons and all outdoor activities. For paddlers there are many choices of water to hit and for fishermen there are lots of species to target. For kayak fishermen it is ripe with possibilities. We were lucky enough to stay at the River Neuse Suites Hotel with rooms more reminiscent to a apartment than a hotel room.
On our first morning on the water we hooked up with Captain Ashley King of Keep Casting Charters, unfortunately we were greeted by high winds which kept us from being able to target the Old Drum known to live here. Fortunately Ashley had a plan B that would get us out of the wind and get us on fish. We moved from the bigger water to a nice protected spot out of the wind. This spot was gorgeous and had us fishing all around cypress trees covered in moss. Ashley promised us a good top water bite on Stripers and it didn’t take long until we had our first fish.
The Jackson Cuda 14 is a great stand up platform, at least for those more comfortable standing than I, and I got to see Brooks get the first fish while standing up tossing a Zara Spook and walking the dog. I discovered that I am not that good at standing and casting and even worse at walking the dog while seated. Because of my lack of coordination I switched to a lure I knew I could work properly and just hoped that it would do the job. My lure of choice was a Sebile Splasher and it wasn’t long before my lure choice paid off with huge surface blow ups and many hookups. Seeing my success Brooks switched to another lure which caused an equal amount of surface disturbance and noise and began to see the same great results. Many fish were hooked, landed and released that day and we can’t thank Captain Ashley for having such a great backup plan.
Brooks showing off amongst the Cypress trees
One of many caught on the Sebile Splasher
The next morning we stayed on shore to do some shooting around town and did an evening session chasing the big Red Drum. This time we hooked up with Capt. Mitchell Blake of Fish IBX. Captain Blake got us all rigged with Popping Corks, which are the hot ticket for the reds. We worked as hard as we could up until dark but we had to battle the wind all evening and just not found the fish. At least we got a good sunset.
With only one day of fishing left on the trip we got an early start to the next day, hitting the water just as the sun rose. For our final day we met up with Captain Dave Stewart of Knee Deep Custom Charters. Dave set us up with DOA deadly combination popping corks, which by this point my arm was getting a bit tired of popping. We reached the fishing spot to find grease calm waters and bait popping, which got all our hopes up. Unfortunately for me the only thing biting were Blue fish which just bit my soft plastics in half. It didn’t take long though for Bobby to get on a real nice Red Drum, which gave him a great ride.
Sunrise and grease calm waters
Bobby with a beautiful sunrise Red fish
It seemed like we were going to get on the fish as all the signs were right, but I think maybe fifteen minutes after Bobby landed that fish someone turned on the wind machine and we spent the rest of the day trying to battle or hide from the wind.
Later in the evening as things calmed a bit Brooks hooked a good fish which he got to the side of the kayak but lost before landing so no photos were taken. At the point of being on the water about twelve hours I finally hooked what felt like a good fish which towed me around a bit but as luck would have it the hooked pulled.
I know that given some better conditions we would have really put the hurt on a lot of fish, but this is fishing and you have to take what you are given. Even with the tough conditions we caught fish and had a wonderful time in Oriental. Every single person we met or dealt with on this trip were absolutely awesome and I wouldn’t hesitate to visit again given the chance.
A huge thanks goes out to all the people in Oriental for helping us put this trip together and particularly Bobby Brewer for handling all the logistics.
If you would like to visit Oriental I highly recommend the guides and locations that helped us out.
Capt. Mitchell Blake
Capt. Bobby Brewer
Capt. Ashley King
Keep Casting Charters
Capt. Dave Stewart
Knee Deep Custom Charters
Capt. Greg Voliva
Four Seasons Guide Service
River Neuse Suites Hotel
The Silos Restaurant
We have just returned from a great trip of kayak fishing on the beautiful Crystal Coast in North Carolina.
This was my first visit to this area and I really enjoyed it. Besides the kayak fishing there is so much to do there, inshore and offshore fishing and miles of awesome beaches to explore. You may even run into some of the wild horses that roam the area, climb to the top of the Cape Lookout lighthouse and you can see for miles.
Joining me on the trip were Brooks Beatty from Jackson Kayaks and Bobby Brewer, a local and fan of our show who helped put the entire trip together. Bobby also hooked us up with Captain Joe Shute of Fish Finder Charters as our guide for the week. The name of his business is spot on because he really found us some good fish.
The area we fished is seventeen miles from the launch so we were not going to paddle out so we loaded our kayaks onto Joes boat and made the run out to a WWII wreck that was known to hold Amber Jack.
First job in the morning was to load up on bait, which Joe did with a Cast net in a single throw, Then we made the run off the beach.
Once on location the plan was to troll live bait from the kayaks around the wreck. With the strong current using my Raymarine Dragonfly fish finder really helped me stay on the right spot. It didn’t take long for my first hookup and the joy of pulling on these real hard pulling fish. The wreck was in less than sixty feet of water and these fish love to run into structure so you had to fish heavy line and very tight drags to keep them out of the wreck. This worked much of the time but just as often even with my thumb on the spool I couldn’t keep the fish from breaking me off.
Just before the trip I received a couple new reels from Release reels and I was very happy with their performance on these tough fish, smooth drags and plenty of power is key and these reels had both. I love using knotless connections so I loaded my reels with sixty pound Seaguar Threadlock hollow core braid and used a short top shot of Seaguar Fluorocarbon fifty pound leader.
I think the coolest thing for me was getting to see Bobby and Brooks get their first big fish ever from a kayak, they really learned how hard these fish can pull and can really make your arms ache. We had many double hookups and caught fish until our arms burned and we were out of bait.
I was also pretty pleased to see how well my new Shark Shield worked. On two occasions on the trip I was able to test it out and see first hand that it does indeed deter sharks. First I had a small Tiger shark cruise right up to me I turned on the Shark shield and the shark immediately turned and swam away, on the next occasion I was reeling in a fish and saw a shark following it, again I turned it on and off went the shark.
This was simply an amazing trip and I can’t thank the people of the Crystal Coast enough for helping to make it happen.
Here are a few more shots from our trip.
I want to thank once again the wonderful people on the Crystal Coast for making this trip happen, Bobby Brewer for putting it all together, Brooks Beatty for bringing the kayaks and being a great fishing partner, Joe Shute for finding the fish for us and of course all our sponsors for supplying the great gear and of course our fans because without you we have no show.
For more information on this amazing location, please visit:
Capt. Joe Shute
Fish Finders Charters
Jim joins us with a quick update from the latest shoot in North Carolina’s Crystal Coast!
This week Jim has a chance to check out a cool new product from the guys from Spray Box!