Marlin Fishing by Kayak


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PL: So how many beers deep were you when you decided it was time to go fishing for an animal that weighs more than the fisherman and is longer than the kayak?

Jim Sammons: I don’t drink… yeah right.

The first Marlin I caught from a kayak in 1998, was the first Marlin ever caught from a kayak and is still the only one caught in California’s waters. That fish picked me to catch it that day, I didn’t pick it as a prey. I was fishing for yellowtail in La Jolla during a El Nino year and the big fish came in close to shore, which is very unusual around here. It ate my live bait, and took me on a 2 1/2 hour ride eight miles out to sea. After that first one, I became obsessed with doing it again but didn’t get that chance for six more years. Since then, I have been involved in the catching of eighteen Billfish, Marlin and Sailfish. There is no other fish like them for their beauty, speed, power and jumping ability, catching them truly is an addiction for me.

PL: I’m picturing a scene out of Jaws here, but Marlin can swim as fast as 50-miles per hour so when it decides to run directly away from the kayak, how fast are you going?

Jim Sammons :When you get moving, sometimes you’re going faster than a kayaker can paddle. We call it the Baja sleigh ride. The speed is pretty amazing, but what is more impressive is the power. We once had a Marlin pulling four kayakers plus a in-the-water camera man and it was like we weren’t even there. On our last trip we had a Blue Marlin pull the kayaks over 15 miles for 5 1/2 hours and even at the end it never slowed down or lost strength. Eventually, it broke the line. Now that is power

PL: What are the dangers out there and what do you do to mitigate them?

Jim Sammons : The biggest danger is getting hit by the bill of the fish while it is jumping or thrashing next to the kayak. Honestly, there is not a lot you can do about that other than do your best to fight the fish away from the kayak. You never want to bring a hot fish in close until it is worn down enough to safely handle, but sometimes that is easier said then done. Of course your basic safety equipment is a must, a PFD, and cut away tools. If you’re fishing without support, be ready for a long fight, have plenty of water and a way to contact someone for help such as a VHF radio, a cell phone and signal flares. The most important thing is to have someone with you that has experience handling these big fish.

PL: Tell me about the kayaks. Are they stable? Is it just a modified sea kayak?

Jim Sammons : We use the Ocean Kayak brand of sit on top kayaks, I use the new Trident 15. It is nice stable platform to fish from but is also a great paddling kayak. We often cover many miles while trolling for these fish and a boat that paddles well is very important, but it must also be able to carry all my gear including bait tank and electronics, and the Trident is a perfect fit for that. It really is a “fishing boat”.

PL: It looks like some of these photos were shot from a bigger boat. And, if so, would you recommend that anybody attempt to catch Marlin from a kayak without boat support?

Jim Sammons: On my trips in Baja I always have a support boat with me for the safety of my clients. You can certainly go out and catch these fish without the support boat, and I have, but things can go wrong in a hurry and the boat can mean the difference between life and death in the event you’re hit by that three-foot spear. Plus, once you get towed 15 miles from your starting point it is nice to have a ride home.

PL: Where do you put this fish, or any fish, once its caught?

Jim Sammons: I am a big advocate of Catch and Release of these great fish and will do everything I can to release a Billfish healthy. That is another reason for the support boat. We toss a line to the boat and have it tow us while we revive the fish. For the fish I do like to keep like Tuna and Dorado, I have an insulated game bag inside my kayak where I can put my fish on ice for the great Sashimi once we get back in.

PL: Now, onto your upcoming video Kayak Fishing: Game On. Aren’t you a former whitewater guy? It seems like you’ve gone from chasing rives and waves around the world to chasing fish. Do you get a similar rush hooking a monster trout or marlin as dropping a waterfall, or are does your latest addiction provide you with something entirely new?

Ken Whiting: Whitewater kayaking has pretty much guided my life since I was 14-years old. My addiction stems from a combination of factors beyond the adrenalin factor. Equally important are the great friends that I’ve made, getting to spend time in the outdoors, and the challenge of learning and improving in such a dynamic environment. My love for kayaking and being on the water, in combination with these factors, made kayak fishing appealing to me. I honestly wasn’t prepared for how much I would enjoy it. It’s hard to say what I enjoy most, but I can tell you that after being an elite whitewater kayaker for many years, it feels amazing to learn something new, but that offers so many of the same benefits.

PL: Could you just give us a quick preview of what we can expect from your latest film?

Ken Whiting: ExOfficio presents Kayak Fishing: Game On is the result of my long-time obsession for whitewater kayaking action flicks. I’ll never forget sitting in front of the TV with a bunch of my paddling buddies and watching such kayaking flicks as Good to the Last Drop, Fallin’ Down, and Dashboard Burrito—over and over again. As I got more into kayak fishing, I realized that I had the opportunity to have that same type of impact with kayak angler, and so Kayak Fishing: Game On was born. The idea behind the movie is fairly simple; it follows world renowned big game kayak angler Jim Sammons on the kayak fishing adventure of a lifetime. The film includes the first ever kayak fishing attempt for tarpon in Florida’s shark infested Boca Grande Pass, a 5-hour battle with a 300 pound marlin in Baja, halibut caught by the hundreds during a fly-in trip to Alaska, a painful experience for a kayak angler who inadvertently hooks himself to an angry and thrashing muskie, and of course, we couldn’t resist introducing Jim Sammons to a totally new type of kayak fishing—whitewater kayak fishing on the Ottawa River. To see trailers and other sample segments, check out

Staff Post
Staff Post
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.


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