"If you don't tie good knots, make sure you tie a lot of them."

Lahontan Cutthroat Fishing – Kayak and Shore

My daughter and I hit the lake for some Lahontan Cutthroat trout fishing. Most of our fish were caught from the kayak but we also managed to pick up a few from shore.

The lure that seemed to work best for us was the Rapala Countdown in Hot Mustard Muddler, size 7. This lake is a barbless, single point hook fishing area with no bait allowed. Our kayak setup was one line with two colors of 12lb lead core down, a 20 foot leader of 10lb mono, and a Rapala Countdown or 12 lb monofilament out about 75 yards and a Rapala Countdown. From the shore I was able to cast farther using a 9′ Shimano Clarus rod. I’d cast out let the Rapala sink for about 5-8 seconds (there was a deep drop-off near shore) then twitch once or twice, reel a few turns and let it sink for one or two seconds. This cadence caught three fish and so I feel confident in it. I also picked up one fish on an inline spinner.

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout
Lahontan Cutthroat Trout
Lahontan Cutthroat Trout
Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

Release of a Lahontan Cutthroat trout from rayborbon on Vimeo.

Review West Marine Abaco 13.5 Kayak

This is a short review of the West Marine Abaco 13.5 kayak. I picked up this kayak at the local store in Bellevue,WA for a sale price of $329. This is an amazing price for a brand new tandem kayak! Let’s face it, this is a basic tandem sit on top and it’s not going to be the crème of the crop kayak, but it does have a market and it will interest many would be kayakers.

I outfitted this kayak with two Surf to Summit GTS Pro seats. The first add-on I made was to place two YakAttack Geartrac 90 rails and a backing plate for each. The track mounts required a YakAttack Rigging Bullet to get into the tight spot on the gunwales with no real good access from the center hatch. I’ve been using a Ram 2008 Composite Rod Tube with a Screwball and a Scotty Powerlock rod holder attached to a Scotty No. 438 Gear-Head Track Adapter.

The first thing which drew me to the West Marine Abaco 13.5, other than the low price, was that it was a tandem. I wanted to share my time on the water with my 7 year old daughter. She’s a veteran at fishing and she likes fishing from the kayak because it doesn’t have a motor and the fumes from the engines that go along with motors. Another thing which I liked was that the hull design on the bottom has a small but pronounced keel down the center. This keel helps with tracking when paddling and limits the effects of wind, which will spin you around in circles otherwise. It would be sweet to have a rudder but most tandem sit on tops do not come outfitted with a rudder. At 34″ wide I was not expecting a fast moving boat but I was surprised that it didn’t take too much energy to get it moving on the water but the Abaco doesn’t exactly turn on a dime. You make trade-offs with kayak hull design/choice and those are two with this boat. Another feature about the Abaco which I liked was that the side handles are molded into the hull and large enough to grab with ease, making them quite comfortable. There are also handles at the bow and stern of the Abaco as with most kayaks.

For storage the kayak will leave some people with a lot to be desired. There is a small area at the stern of the kayak which you can load a small cooler under some bungee. At the bow there is another area which you can probably put a few small items under bungee. There is a small center hatch which allows access under the hull. The seating arrangement allows for positioning of seats in three areas. One at the bow, one in the middle of the boat or one closer to the stern. I suppose you could put three seats in but the kayak would probably be too crowded for most people when using it as a fishing platform.

The Abaco has a deep hull and the gunwales of the kayak are significantly higher than the bottom of the footing and seating areas. This almost makes you feel like you are in a canoe. Even though the Abaco has eight scupper holes, I wonder if it would be ideal for using as a day to day boat through rough surf launches. The reason I say this is because this deep hull would take some time to drain after taking on big waves. If I was to make a recommendation for use of this kayak it would be for lakes on days when it is mostly mild weather conditions or in very calm class I to II- streams/rivers and relatively mild ocean conditions with swells under 3 feet and over 9 seconds. The front of the hull has a slight rocker shape which does help with wind chop to some degree and might help in a surf launch or in ocean swells. The Abaco supposedly weighs in at 74lbs but I didn’t think it was that heavy when loading it onto the rack of my truck. The weight of the Abaco is fairly reasonable when considering the length and width as well as it being is a roto-molded polyethylene tandem kayak.

Stability is all there in the Abaco. I was able to stand up momentarily and deal with netting a fish while my daughter was in the front seat controlling the fish with the rod. The entry and exit from this kayak are very friendly and you can nearly hop right in without much consequence or concern for flipping the boat over.

The West Marine Abaco gets 5 stars for value and performance. The fact is, there isn’t one kayak which does everything you want and at this price the Abaco really is a steal.

West Marine Abaco 13.5
West Marine Abaco 13.5
West Marine Abaco 13.5
West Marine Abaco 13.5
West Marine Abaco 13.5
West Marine Abaco 13.5

Potholes Reservoir Kayak Fishing

My friend and I went out to Potholes Reservoir for an overnight kayak fishing trip. We took some walleye, bass and rainbow trout using a variety of lures/baits.

I caught the trout using a pink Shasta Tackle Wiggle Hoochie with one color of lead core down up near the dunes. The smallmouth bass was caught using a Rapala X-Rap Minnow with the Clown pattern in about 20 feet of water and I had two colors of lead core down very close to the O’Sullivan Dam. I got the walleye using two different setups and in two different lakes. One setup was with a Rapala Jointed Shad in Perch with one color of lead core down and the other was using a bottom bouncer and an inline spinner with a worm on the hook in about twenty feet of water.

Kayak fishing bass Potholes Reservoir
Kayak fishing bass Potholes Reservoir
Kayak fishing rainbow trout Potholes Reservoir
Kayak fishing rainbow trout Potholes Reservoir
Kayak Fishing Walleye Potholes Reservoir
Kayak Fishing Walleye Potholes Reservoir

Kayak Fishing Soda Lake Washington from rayborbon on Vimeo.

Cutthroat with a fly rod on the kayak at Lake Washington

Ali catches some cutthroat trout on Lake Washington using his fly rod and kayak.

Lake Washington Cutthroat Fishing with Eagles from rayborbon on Vimeo.

Nisqually River Chumbucket Kayak Fishing

We fished the Nisqually River from kayaks yesterday and found some moldy chum, tired coho and a few cutthroat trout.

Nisqually River Chum Salmon
Nisqually River Chum Salmon

Nisqually River Chum Salmon

Kayak Fishing Snoqualmie River

Saturday my friend Todd and I did some kayak fishing on the Snoqualmie River from Plum access near Tokul Creek to about a mile and a half below Fall City. We were looking to hook up to some steelhead on this trip. The conditions were a little bit muddy water in some places and a light flow on the river. There were many sections of shallow areas and a Hobie Mirage drive would not be a choice. With two or three sections of rougher water in what Todd described as class 2 minus it made it a good first river float for me. I used my Ocean Kayak Trident and it did well but when the water gets rougher I could see myself wanting a sit-in kayak.

We hit many eddies and pools along the way and about halfway to Fall City I hooked into the first fish which was a Coho buck of about 5-6 lbs. We drifted down below the bridge near Fall City passing many bank fishermen and a few drift boats. I picked up a small cutthroat trout which I released and the fishing was mostly uneventful for us after that. The lure of the day was the Mad River steelhead worm with 1/4 oz jig head. During this trip I used my St Croix Bass Mojo 6’9″ rod paired with a Pflueger Supreme 2500 reel and spooled with 10lb monofilament. This setup allows for casting in tight conditions where tree branches and bushes get into the way of the rod at times.

Kayak Fishing Snoqualmie River from rayborbon on Vimeo.

Kayak Fishing Lake Sammamish Cutthroat Trout

Some more video of kayak fishing Lake Sammamish trout.

Cutthroat Trout Lake Sammamish Kayak Fishing Nov 2013 from rayborbon on Vimeo.

Kayak Fishing Tips – Trolling for Trout

Here are some basic tips for those new to kayak fishing and who are trolling for trout. I’ll be a little specific on lures that work in my region so you’ll have to take that into consideration and figure out what works in your area. I am normally targeting cutthroat trout in the Seattle area at Lake Washington or Lake Sammamish.

Most cutthroat trout around here seem to prefer a lure in the 2-3″ size. If you know a specific bait the trout are feeding on, try to find something that mimics the size, color and action. It’s fairly well known that in the two lakes mentioned we have stickleback, longfin smelt and salmon smolts as some of the baitfish. Sometimes I tip a hook with bits of worm or smear a natural attractant such as Pro Cure Sardine gel onto the lure for a scent trace.

Recommendations on trout lures (some of the recommendations are provided by word of mouth/friends)

  • Luhr Jensen Needlefish in fire tiger, brass and white colors including brass bikini and rainbow trout
  • Rapala X-Rap Countdown size 5 – 7 in Glass Ghost or Olive Green
  • Luhr Jensen Krocodile spoons (same colors as Needlefish)
  • Inline spinners in brass and silver colors 1/8 oz. or 1/4 oz.
  • Cut plug herring bought locally and self cut. Check YouTube for examples..
  • Apex Trout Killers

The rod and reel setup can really vary based upon a fisherman’s preference, experience and average size of the local trout populations. When fishing trout from the kayak I prefer something 8’6″ long so that the fishing line stays far enough away from the paddle stroke as I troll. Most trout could be caught on light setups but if you get a large fish on, you may want a medium or medium-heavy setup. I use a medium-heavy salmon rod called the Ugly Stik Lite by Shakespeare that is 8’6″. Although this rod might be overkill for most trout it will be adequate for the larger specimens and also doubles as a walleye, bass and salmon rod. At the price point it’s a decent deal and it’s a strong pole that is hard to break. The longer length also allows the rod to do some of the work when it comes to fighting the fish. The reel which I prefer most is an Okuma Cold Water 20 DLX linecounter with leadcore line. Sometimes I also use an Abu Garcia 5500 C3 with braided line in 20-30lb test to which I attach a 1-2 oz lead banana sinker in front of a 6 foot leader of 10lb fluorocarbon. I recommend a reel that can put out at least 12lbs of drag and which has a loud clicker so that when it is windy you can hear the fish taking line. The Okuma levelwind I use holds 100 yards of Sufix leadcore in 12lb test backed with braid of about 30lb test. Using the leadcore setup I usually fish with 60-120 feet of line out to get the lures down in the water column. With the leadcore setup I also like to use a topshot of anywhere between 15 and 25 feet of fluorocarbon in 10lb test. I attach the leadcore to the fluorocarbon by way of a small 40lb test swivel with improved clinch knots in order to reduce the line twist. The swivel will brush against the eyes of the rod and pass through the levelwind without issue. If you get a large fish on just don’t set the drag too tight or the fish could be broken off with these setups.

Try not to underestimate the usefulness of a net when landing fish. Using a net will reduce stress on the fish and allow easier release when you decide not to keep one. Simply put, trout and most fish are slippery and the bigger the fish is, the harder it will be to handle. Using a net also reduces the chances of a fish getting away right at the side of the kayak. I’ve lost a number of fish right next to the kayak before and it was because I didn’t have a net with me. Just this year I brought in a decent sized king salmon and had a very difficult time dealing with unhooking it and release because I didn’t have a net with me. Forgetting the net that day was a mistake on my part. This incident resulted in the hook stabbing me several times and even puncturing my dry suit. I have a medium sized Ego S2 Slider net which is quite expensive but it floats, the handle extends out allowing for greater reach and it has a net without knots that is easy on the fish. I would recommend a net which has a hoop which is similar in size to the Ego S2 Slider. The medium Ego S2 Slider has a 17″x19″ hoop, a bag depth of 15″ and also has rubber or pvc coated netting.

A fishfinder/sonar is also a useful tool for locating fish, their prey, identifying structure that fish are attracted to and determining your trolling speed. I recommend a fish finder which has a GPS system that can tell you the speed at which you are traveling and which can help you navigate back to shore in case of extremely foggy conditions. Right now I have a Humminbird 386ci and it is all I need for salt and fresh water adventures.

Now that I have covered some basic recommendations on gear let’s get to the fishing… I usually like to fish in the fall, winter and spring within 20-30 feet of the surface. You may have to do some checking around to obtain local knowledge or pay attention to your sonar in order to determine a good target depth for trolling. Trout will move around the water column based upon the water temperature and the location of food sources. Trolling speed will depend on the lure being used but the general range of speeds which I find to be most successful are between 1.5 and 2.5 miles per hour. When I troll something like a Rapala X-Rap I found that moving between 2.3 and 2.5 miles per hour imparts the best action on the lure and gets the fish to strike. However when I use a spoon or an inline spinner I tend to troll between 1.5 and 2.2 miles per hour. If you happen to have a fishing rod which has a sensitive tip and use inline spinners or crank baits you can often tell when your lure is running true. Knowing when your lure is running true can help you notice when you have inadvertently picked up debris such as grass, twigs, etc. When fishing with leadcore line I have to point the rod behind me with one hand or some other method and paddle in order to get the line to leave the reel. Leadcore is also somewhat finicky during retrieve in that you should avoid reeling it in fast because the line can bunch up on the spool resulting in a mess. When I troll for trout I like to have the rod with the clicker on placed into a rod holder in front of me so that I can see when a fish is taking the lure. Another thing which I do is set the drag setting fairly low so that the fish can take the lure and the clicker activates. I usually set it so low that when the fish hits I can barely make progress on the fish when reeling it in. At the time the fish takes the bait I can paddle harder to help set the hook or retrieve my fishing pole and set the hook if necessary. Once you have hooked a fish you’ll want to increase the drag so that you can bring the fish in but be careful not to set it so tight your line breaks. Once you bring the trout in you should be able to figure out how to net the fish on your own.

Best of luck on the water!

Lake Sammamish Cutthroat Trout Kayak Fishing

We had more cutthroat trout kayak fishing action in Lake Sammamish yesterday. The lake seemed to be most active around 10am until noon. My new white Rapala X-Rap caught all four of my cutthroat trout. I used lead core line to get down about 15-20 feet. After the recent wind activity the day before the fish seemed to spread out a bit. That Ego S2 Slider net is a treat too. I just picked that up.

Lake Sammamish Cutthroat Trout Kayak Fishing from rayborbon on Vimeo.

The bait:

Rapala X-Rap Minnow size 7 Glass Ghost
Rapala X-Rap Minnow size 7 Glass Ghost

Kayak Fishing Cutthroat Trout Action Near Seattle

I’ve been out kayak fishing in Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington the past few weeks for fall cutthroat trout among friends. These lakes are very close to Seattle. For lures during this time I have been trying the usual Needlefish in 2-2.5 inches using Fire Tiger with notable success. I’ve also been mixing things up with a Rapala X-Rap Countdown in size 7. Another lure which landed the biggest fish to date out of Lake Washington for me was the Luhr Jensen Krocodile Spoon in the rainbow trout pattern.

Taking the advice of my friends Todd and Brad I have also spooled up 100 yards of 12 lb. lead core line onto my reel (backed with 20lb braid) in order to get the baits down deep where the fish are holding. This is much more user friendly on a kayak than a jet diver or downrigger. In fact I don’t think I have any interest putting a downrigger on my kayak. The only real advantage to the downrigger over lead core line is that you can keep the lure/bait right underneath the kayak and track it on the depth finder. Simplicity rules in my world and the lead core line is very successful. No excessive drag on the kayak, it’s easier to see when the lure is running true or tangled and it’s much easier for me to manage. Getting the lead core line off the spool of the real usually requires that I point the pole behind me as I paddle forward. It doesn’t just leave the spool easily like monofilament or braid. Another thing which you have to watch out for is reeling in the line at rocket speed. I recommend that you pay attention to how fast you are bringing in the line because sometimes the lead core line will bunch up and create a mess on the spool. If you exercise a little patience things work out just fine. I have been using fluorocarbon leader in 10 lb. test exclusively this fall on the cutthroat trout. Sometimes these fish can be leader shy and I like a top shot of about 8-16 feet. This setup has been very successful for me.

Another piece of equipment which I have been using just for this type of trolling is the Okuma Cold Water 203 DLX reel. This is the left hand model with the line counter. It’s just perfect for these trout and has not failed me yet. I like the large handle and loud clicker for those days when water and wind are a factor. My 8 foot 6 inch Ugly Stik Lite Salmon Rod is my main rod for fresh water action. I now have two of these because they are so reliable and inexpensive. They double as downrigger rods in the salt water too.

It’s been a good year for learning new techniques on the kayak for fishing. Here’s a short video on Lake Sammamish below and a photo of my largest cutthroat trout from Lake Washington to date.

Lake Washington Cutthroat Trout
Lake Washington Cutthroat Trout


Trout Fishing Lake Sammamish Kayak Todd and Ray from rayborbon on Vimeo.