Sea bass surprise

Kayak fishermen John Rich, above left, and son Alex hoist some of the nice sea bass they collected off Depoe Bay on Wednesday. The boats, left, are propelled by pedal power, allowing anglers to fish and steer at the same time. Safety gear includes a two-way radio, right. (Photo by Rick Beasley)

Pedal-powered kayaks sneak in on blue seabass

DEPOE BAY — Rockfish, when not eating other fish whole, are very sensitive sorts.

“You never know what puts them off the bite — the weather, the water temperature, the noise from passing boats,” said John Rich, a Corvallis criminal defense lawyer and enthusiastic kayak fisherman. “We like to sneak up on them.”

Deep-sea kayak fishing is a fast-growing activity in the world’s smallest harbor, where all that separates the $2 boat ramp from the open sea is a 150-foot channel. A flourishing late-summer fishing derby draws scores of kayaks that jam the harbor for a couple of days each year.

“It’s amazing, you’re just 200 yards from the ocean,” said Rich, who copped a lucky break when court was let out early. “You go out, catch a bunch of fish and have time to hit The Horn for clam chowder. I’ll tell you, this ocean fishing ruins you for anything else.”

Fishing with pink hoochies about a mile offshore near “the can,” the trio of kayakers including Rich’s college-student son, Alex, and Jimmy Smith of Tidewater, hovered around the buoy for black and blue rockfish. Aboard Hobie-brand Pro-Anger and Outback kayaks, the paddle-less approach was stealthy — propulsion is by pedals and fins, allowing anglers to fish and steer at the same time.

“Flank speed is about three knots,” said Rich, who aid calm days typically yield limits of rockfish and ling cod.

The kayaks coast about the same as skydiving gear or a good hunting kit, about $3,000. Lifesaving extras include lightweight tackle, wetsuit, flotation vest and a Cobra ship-to-shore handheld radio with recall option, in case the operator misses a message.

“It’s quite a bit of exercise,” remarked Rich. “You’re legs get tired, and if you’re catching fish, your arms get tired, too.”


Video News