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After battling surf, kayaks provide peaceful fishing of coastal waters

1/31/2007
Dennis Spike checks a bent rod tip kayak fishing near Malibu's Broad Beach off the Southern California coast. Bill Becher

Surf's up, dudes. But that's a bad thing if you're a kayak angler.

Jason Morton is going kayak fishing at Leo Carrillo State Beach near Malibu, Calif.

Beyond the surf line are the kelp beds — home to green bass, halibut, sanddabs, lingcod
and lots of other fish. But first Morton needs to get through the waves
crashing on the beach.

Timing is everything. As any surfing gremmie knows, waves build in sets like
a symphonic crescendo — then there's a lull. That's the window of
opportunity to get outside before the next big wave knocks you over and
pounds you into the sand.

Southern California saltwater anglers are finding kayaking is a quiet,
inexpensive, and fun way to fish coastal water.

There's always a chance of hooking a fish that will tow your kayak.

Morton once spent three and a half hours being pulled several miles by a
235-pound thresher shark before he landed it.

Morton, who lives in West Hills, is a professional bass guitar blues and jazz musician when he's not
being dragged by sharks. He paddles a sit-on-top kayak, the type favored by
most kayak anglers.

When the time seems right, Morton pushes off and paddles over the breaking
waves to the calm water outside the surf line.

Once committed to a launch — keep paddling say experts. Don't get stuck in
no man's land — the place between the soup of the spent waves and the calm
beyond the breaking waves.

Kayakers point one blade of the paddle forward in the "ninja stroke" when a
wave breaks over their kayaks. This prevents the water from forcing the
paddle back and dislocating a shoulder. In this position you're also ready
to start paddling as soon as the wave breaks.

After you're through the surf line everything calms down. The only problem
is you eventually have to get back through the surf.

It you don't want the surf launch adventure, you can start from a sheltered
spot, like those at King Harbor, Channel Islands Harbor, and other places
along the Southern California coast.

Morton has outfitted his "yak" — as kayakers call their craft — with rod
holders and a fish finder. That's standard these days. Some kayak fishers
have even installed battery operated live-bait tanks on their yaks.

Customizing is one of the joys of kayak fishing, says Morton, whose web site
kayaksportfishing.com, includes equipment tips and fishing journals.

Morton is fishing two shrimp-like surf-fishing flies tipped with a piece of
squid. He's also had good results with six to seven inch plastic swim baits.

Morton likes a long enough rod — at least seven feet — to be able to
maneuver the rod tip around the bow of his kayak.

Today Morton lands a mixed bag: an undersized lingcod, a couple of
sanddabs, several olive rockfish and some calico bass. All go back in the
water to get bigger.

"What makes people so addicted to kayak fishing is being part of the
environment," says Morton "Kayak fishing doesn't have to be extreme and
it's not just about saving money. You go slow enough to pick up on your
surroundings."

When it's time to head back to the beach Morton lashes down his gear in case
of spill in the surf.

He suggests placing rods inside the kayak's hatches to
avoid the chance of getting snagged on fishing line or hooks if you get
dumped. He picks a landing spot away from swimmers and surfers.

Watching the waves, Morton keeps the kayak at a right angle to the waves
while back paddling until he finds a lull. Then he paddles hard behind a
wave.

Morton times his landing perfectly, hops off his kayak and hauls it up the
beach.

Sweet ride, dude!

Bill Becher covers the outdoors for the Daily News. He can be reached
at billbecher@yahoo.com