Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Maritime Wrecking Ball

Ask any saltwater fisherman which fish they -never- green gaff and the answer will always be:

Cobia Dolphin Mahi-Mahi Dolphin?

Yes, that Dolphin.

OK OK, so the answer isn't's actually Cobia. After all, a green gaffed Cobia has been known to break coolers, bilges, rods, rod holders, tackle boxes, unfortunate limbs, and all around do its best to sink the boat. But after a recent trip offshore, there's a new species that comes in close second: Dolphin.

I was lucky enough to get invited to go offshore in my brother's boat this past weekend. Prior to this, I hadn't been offshore since I was a junior in highschool (I'm now a super-senior in college). I was stoked and was really hoping to get into some king/cobia/black snapper/whatever else is legal to keep with Florida's ridiculous seasons. After casting to a few schools of spanish out in the pass, we motored out to an area of live bottom to start bottom fishing. We drifted over the area and proceeded to feed the snapper. I managed to pull up two enormous ruby red lips that I used for bait, and that was it. My brother's king rig went off but the hooks pulled and my dad managed to land a little red snapper.

Soon, we spotted something floating in the water. After driving close to it, we saw that it was a sea turtle. A HUGE sea turtle...the biggest I've ever seen. I quickly cast a dead cig to the turtle in hopes that a cobia was following it. A few seconds later, something took the bait and the fight was on. It almost immediately jumped and at the angle I was at, it looked like a little tarpon.

Upon close wasn't.

A Dolphin! Only a few miles offshore and my first one -ever-! After a short malfunction with the gaff, we got the fish in the boat and took a quick photo.

My First Dolphin
Then all hell broke loose. The Dolphin managed to wiggle its way off the gaff and flop onto the deck with treble hooks still shaking about. The scaly ball of death then proceeded to flop its way over to the only two rods laying on the deck and began to thrash them. All during this, the fish tried its best to imitate The Shining and sling blood onto anything within a 15ft radius. Standard protocol for such events is to move around the deck like someone dropped a live grenade, wave your hands wildly, and shout as many obscenities as you can before the fish dies.

We tried to grab the rods, but the fish managed to tangle itself in them and started to bash them. Finally, my dad gaffed it a second time and we all breathed a sigh of relief once the fish was under control.

So that it could get a second wind....

Off the gaff it came again and made another B line for the rods. We all were forced to complete the standard protocol again before the fish was gaffed a -third- time and quickly put into the cooler before more damage could be done.

Total damage done:

Two broken guides on the rod I caught my Tarpon on

A broken bail on an antique reel. (sorry, no picture)

And enough blood splatter to keep us busy cleaning. I'm just glad it wasn't any bigger. The damage could have been -alot- worse.

After that fiasco, we saw numerous chicken dolphin,  but were unable to keep any on the line and land the whole school. Luckily it was a gorgeous day out and the water slicked off and became glassy around 11:00. We ended the day with one Dolphin and a little spanish. Overall, I had a blast. I certainly never expected to pull a Dolphin out from under a turtle that close to shore. Gotta give a big thanks to my brother for the trip and my first Dolphin.

Till next time,

Fish on.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A day of shooting

A few weeks back I realized that I hadn't practiced shooting in a very long time. I feel as though practicing shooting is a necessity, especially if one plans to hunt during the fall season. It doesn't take much for that rifle scope to get all outta whack and I'd hate myself forever if I missed a big buck because I didn't make sure my scope was sighted in.

I knew that the shooting range in my county was closed on odd-ball days, so I called ahead to verify that they were open. After the phone rang for a good minute, someone finally picked up and said that the range has been closed permanently. This was certainly news to me. Unfortunately the nearest public range aside from that one is 40 minutes away in Alabama. So it looked like I was in for a drive...

I took my girlfriend Chelsea as well as her friend Brittney and her boyfriend Jarrod with me. My girlfriend had never fired my 30-06 or my SKS so I took both in order to sight them in and let her shoot them.

Hard to top shooting guns with a beautiful girl
My 30-06 was just a hair off. Ended up being about an inch to the right at 100 yards. They had a 200 yard range there, but we didn't have time for me to play around with it. Everyone got a chance to shoot the 30-06 and even though it kicks relatively bad, there were no bruises on anyone.
Checking my shot placement

Me calling out shot placement for Jarrod

The look on Brittney's face says it all

When I initially loaded the SKS for my girlfriend, I told her that it didn't have much kick because of the gas blowback. I fired one round down range to make sure things were working and was shocked at how hard it kicked.

I don't remember it kicking -that- bad, I thought to myself as I handed it over to Chelsea. Oh well...

She pulled the trigger...and nothing happened. I took the gun back, and discovered that the rifle had not ejected the old brass. I cocked the gun again, and handed it off. The gun fired, and of course, kicked pretty hard. I knew something wasn't right as I noticed this time that the round had not been ejected again. After fiddling with the gun for a moment, I noticed that a little lever was out of place toward the front of the barrel. I moved it into a different position and effectively turned the gas blowback -back- on. After that, everyone had a hoot shooting it.
Chelsea laying waste with the SKS
I was thoroughly pleased with how well my SKS shot. I hadn't shot it for over a year and with iron sights at 100 yards I actually managed to shoot the bulls eye out and had a very good grouping. Sadly, I didn't bring my camera with me and just forgot to take my own pictures with Chelsea's camera.

I also brought a .22 pump rifle (from the early 1900's...1912 sticks out for some reason) that has been passed down through my family. Even though everyone else enjoyed shooting the 30-06 and SKS, I enjoy shooting the .22 more. It's just fun to shoot.

I do wish that I had easier access to a place to shoot. Having to pay a bunch of money and drive 40+ minutes just to shoot for a few hours almost isn't worth it. Even though the 30-06 ammo was reloaded, ammo in general isn't exactly cheap. I suppose though, at the end of the day, it's all worth it when you shoot that buck, or hog, or whatever, and aren't kicking yourself for not sighting in the gun. So get out there and practice. The season is just around the corner...and don't forget about those bows!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gear Review: Plano Guide Series Waterproof Boxes

 As an avid kayak fisherman, I’ve noticed that there are a few things that are always constant. Things such as: the wind’s tendency to -always- blow in your face, or the fact that the kayak seems to put on 30 lbs after a long day’s paddle. Another constant is the fact that most everything carried on the kayak will get wet at some point. Sure some things might not always get wet, but give it enough time and it will eventually get soaked. This is why I was extremely excited to try out Plano’s Guide Series waterproof boxes.

The boxes come in several different sizes, each with their own color. I was able to try out both the smallest (1449) and largest (1470) of the Guide Series waterproof boxes. Upon receiving the boxes, my first thought was: “What on earth am I going to put in these?”. The small box (1449) is absolutely tiny. I mean -really- small. So small, in fact, that I can just barely fit my wallet into it with no room to spare. Compared to other guys, my wallet isn’t even that big. Yes, it’s been known to throw my back out if I sit on it for too long, and no, it’s not thick from money (no way). I’d say it resembles that of a small brick, rather than the cinder block that I see other guys carry. Regardless, I need at least my fishing license with me and I don’t want to search through my wallet to take it out every time I fish. Without the wallet, the box is just the right size to fit my phone or keys; both of which need to stay dry. It wasn’t until my girlfriend purchased an iphone that I realized what this box was designed for…

Perfect fit. Go figure. Seems I’m behind the technology curve.

I had the opposite problem with the larger box. I honestly wondered what in the world I needed to keep dry that was -that- big. After some thought, I figured that a very elaborate first aid kit would be perfect. A survival kit would be nice too. However, those thing would need to wait until hunting season comes along. I was, after all, testing the boxes out on the kayak. I finally decided that a fresh change of clothes would be something to put in the box. Yes, I know there’s no point to take a change of clothes out on the kayak with you. I can always leave it in the truck and change when I get back. But I really needed something to fill it that needed to stay dry.

The next question I thought of was “Where am I going to store this on the kayak?”. I immediately remembered the hatch located just in front of the seat. To my dismay, the small box didn’t fit.

Instead, I put it in a zipper pocket on the back of the seat.

The large box fit perfectly inside one of the hatches in the kayak. I felt this was a good place because my kayak has a nasty habit of letting water in. What better place to test it out?

Now I came to the part I -really- cared about. Are the boxes actually waterproof? I was pleased (and relieved) to find that they are. I took both of them out on the kayak with me in the Gulf and found their contents to still be dry after a full day of paddling and having waves over the bow. To add, I tested see if they floated. I did this by (*gulp*) throwing the box with my wallet inside into the Gulf. To my relief, not only did it stay dry, but it floated. I think that the only way for the boxes to sink is if one put a block of lead inside….or maybe really heavy keys.

The only other thing I really cared about with the boxes was their durability. The boxes are made of plastic so at first, I was rather skeptical. I was pleased to find, however, that the boxes were quite durable. The smallest one is so small that it is VERY strong. It would take quite a lot to break it. It was the larger one that I worried about. I worried that with the increased lid and frame size the durability would decrease.

I’m very rough on my gear and durability is often a deciding factor for me. I was therefore shocked to discover that after a full day of dragging the boxes around with me, I hadn’t even dropped them. That’s right. No dropping, running over, or even stepping on. I realized that in order to really give it a fair review, something needed to be done.

So I dropped the largest box. On purpose. On concrete. On the corner of a step. And…

It lived. It was still water tight and would keep its contents dry. I feel that it is important to note that these boxes aren’t made to be submerged very deep. But for keeping things dry on a kayak, in the rain, or whatever it is you’re doing, they do their job quite well.

The boxes are made from very sturdy plastic and come with a plastic latch with a metal hinge (the 1470 has two latches). One side of the box has a place to attach a lanyard. On the inside of the boxes are rubber mats to keep things that like to slide in place. Also, the underside of each box has four rubber pads so that the box itself doesn’t slide around. Finally, each box comes with two rubber stoppers that fit into two padlock holes. I’m unsure as to why there’s a need for a padlock. It seems as though if someone wanted inside the box, they could get in. 

The boxes do what they’re supposed to do which is keep things dry. They also protect items with their sturdiness and even float assuming you aren’t putting an anchor in one.

-          Very sturdy
-          Keep things dry
-          Rubber parts keep items from sliding around
-          Clear plastic to see inside and ensure to leaks
-          The 1449 is almost too small to serve a purpose
-          Difficult to find a proper place on the kayak

The Amazing Five Star Rating System: 

***** = Five Stars (The be all-end all greatest thing that I cannot go without. Best thing next to sliced bread and pockets on jeans. I simply must have it with me)

****   = Four Stars (An absolutely great product. Something that does its job and serves its purpose in my arsenal of gear. Almost always carry it with me)

***     = Three Stars (An average product. Something that I can function in life without. It has its usefulness at times, but is often unneeded or is of relatively poor design)

**       = Two Stars (A poor product. Something that either makes my life more difficult, gets in my way, or succeeds in giving me ulcers. Likes to break and finds itself gathering dust on my shelf)

*         = One Star (A terrible product. Something that serves no purpose and doesn't even do what it's supposed to do. Often too large to be flushed down the toilet and renders itself a waste of time, space, and money)

Plano Guide Series Waterproof Boxes: ***** - Five Stars

I gave Plano’s Guide Series Waterproof Boxes five stars because they do what they’re supposed to do: keep things dry and protect them. The only negative thing I really have to say about the boxes is that the 1449 is too small for my liking. I can only fit one item inside of it and I can’t think of many situations where one –only- needs their wallet, or their keys, or their phone. Usually, one needs to keep multiple items dry. I would therefore suggest the medium sized box (1460 or 1450). There was also the issue of the 1449 not fitting inside my kayak hatch, but that’s something out of the manufacturer’s control. After all, it may fit inside a different kayak’s hatch. Overall, the Guide Series Waterproof Boxes are a great item if you’re looking to keep things dry and protect them.

The Plano Guide Series Waterproof Boxes featured in this gear review were given to me at no cost through the efforts of the Outdoor Blogger Network in exchange for an honest product review. All ideas expressed within this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions of the product and I received no compensation for the review. Any reviews featured on The Flying Kayak are my honest and unbiased opinions. If one has any questions or concerns regarding the review or product at hand, please feel free to contact me through the 'contact' page at the top of the website.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

False Starts

How many times has it happened to any outdoorsman?

You plan ahead, check the weather, moon phase, tides, you pack up, load the gear, make sure everything is in proper order and all around prepare for a fishing/hunting trip. The actual day finally comes for you to go on your adventure so you wake up at some ungodly time of the morning (which coincidentally is my bed time while away at college) and head out...
Work truck stuck in a pond

Only to find you should have stayed in bed.

Something, somewhere, amidst your all planning and scheming has gone awry.
-You looked at the wrong tide table.
-The engine on the boat won't start.
-Someone stole your tree stand.
-12ft seas are a bit much for your 18ft boat.
-Kayaks need paddles?
-That wasn't a two piece rod when you left home.
-You forgot to put the plug in.
-The truck doesn't start.
-You left your bow release in the truck.
-Dinner the night before was chili, but for some reason there's frozen chili in the cooler and the chum is missing.
-Hell, fire, and damnation is raining down from above and getting struck by lightning again doesn't sound appealing.
-Your stomach feels like you've eaten a bomb and you blame the weird tasting chili from the night before. -When on 'vibrate' mode, your cell phone alarm tries and fails to wake you up with its quiet buzzing.
-The 30-06 shockingly won't accept 3 inch shotgun slugs.
-The weather man said 'calm' conditions so the category four hurricane isn't a big surprise. And the list goes on....
Funnel cloud on a 'calm' day

Every outdoorsman (or woman) has their fair share of false starts. It's something that just happens. It's part of the hobby. This year, I've only had four notable false starts. The first one was my trip to the Everglades in February. Even though we did catch fish and I did have a great time, the weather tried its best to be terrible. For MONTHS prior to us taking the trip, the weather in south Florida was warm and humid and the fish were assuredly almost jumping in the boat. The -day- we decided to leave, a cold front came through and began setting record low temperatures for that time of the year and proceeded to turn the fish bite completely off. One week sooner or later and it would have been gold. The next came when a buddy and I got the truck stuck in some sand for about 4 hours (that'll be its own write up).

The other two false starts have been over the summer. Obviously, the day a few weeks ago when I flipped the yak. I also had another one this morning. After a hot, tiring day of working outside yesterday, I helped load everything into the truck, tie up leaders, and get ready to kayak fish in the gulf this morning. I didn't get to sleep until 12:15 and then got up four hours later to go fish. On the drive out, the sky was a constant flash from a storm located right offshore from where we wanted to launch. By the time we arrived, however, the storm had moved off so the threat of rain/lightning was gone. Unfortunately, the wind had kicked up -very- strong out of the west and even though the water was relatively flat, small rollers were coming to shore sideways. Launching would have been a nightmare and I -really- didn't want to flip again. Rather than risk it, we headed home without unloading anything with plans to try it again tomorrow. Essentially, I got to do all of the fun exciting things that go along with fishing without -actually- getting to fish. The only way to have made it better is if someone bloodied up my kayak and threw a bunch of fish in my cooler to clean.
Bottomless cooler of fish (not to complain really)

Sometimes that's just how it goes. Anyways, I hope to limit the amount of false starts I have the rest of the year and get some quality fishing/hunting in. It's always important to remember that without terrible hunting/fishing trips, you'd never know when you had a good one.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My First King Mackerel From The Kayak

Well...I did it. I'd been trying since early May and I was finally successful this morning at landing a King Mackerel from the kayak.

Got out to the beach at 0530 this morning and launched. It was a little choppy right off the bat, but wasn't too bad. The wind began to pick up once the sun got a little higher and blew right out of the north which pushed the yak further and further offshore. After wrestling with my sabiki rig for close to a decade, I managed to catch one live cigar minnow. The rig was promptly lost on a Spanish with the next cast.

Unfortunately my live Cig was eaten by a remora after only a few minutes. With it gone, I switched to frozen cigs and slow trolled for about an hour. I proceeded to catch nothing on the dead cig so I switched to a red and white diving lure. Over the course of my fishing career, I'd only caught one King with a lure, and that was my very first one that I mentioned in a previous post.

I dragged the lure straight back to shore about 1/2 mile until I reached the second sand bar. I paddled just about as hard as I could so that the lure could dive properly. Just a few seconds before I gave up trolling, I heard the sound I'd been waiting all summer to hear; The drag screaming off my King rod. I quickly hit 'play' on the camera, and recorded my (very short) fight.

And that was it. The rod I was using was a bit overkill so there wasn't much of a fight. After all, it was the same rod that I pulled a 100lbs Tarpon in with in under 20 minutes. It also didn't help that the fish came straight to the boat. Next time I may switch it up to my usual light tackle. I also noticed that I'm in need of a bigger gaff. I just about got bit on the hand and in the knee while pulling that fish in the boat.

Since I had nothing to put the King in, I paddled back to shore to load him in the cooler in the truck. Unfortunately, the swells had picked up and there were 3-4ft breaking waves right on the beach so re-launching was out of the question. We called it a day and loaded the yaks back up around 0830. The fish weighed in right at 15lbs and fried up fantastically for dinner this evening.

 Landing a King in the yak with me was a pretty big goal of mine and it felt great to finally do it. Now I get to sit back and scheme for my next challenge. I'm thinking Cobia from the yak?