Keeping up with the kayaks

Eric Sharp/Detroit Free Press/MCT
Ocean Kayaks displayed their fishing kayaks during the Ultimate Fishing...
Story by Eric Sharp
Detroit Free Press
January 20, 2011
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Last week, when I was setting up my kayak at a launch site in Florida, I drew an audience of anglers who wanted to know where I got my specialized kayak fishing gear — an anchor system and mounts for electronics and rod-holders.

Not only was I able to tell them about things that worked, I could reel off a lot of things that didn’t when I learned about kayak fishing the hard way, by trial and error. Today, you can buy books about kayak fishing that cover the subject pretty well.

If you’ve thought about buying a kayak for angling, you couldn’t find a better place to learn about the boats and other gear than at the Ultimate Fishing Show at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich., last week.

The two companies that build the most popular and best fishing kayaks, Wilderness Systems and Ocean Kayaks, have their booths set up a few feet apart, displaying fully rigged boats that have been used by anglers to catch everything from bluegills to marlin.

The Wilderness System Tarpon series and the Ocean Kayaks Trident boats are the standards against which most people measure fishing kayaks. Several other companies also make excellent fishing Yaks, including Hobie and Heritage, but Ocean and Wilderness jumped in early on and dominate the market on the East and West Coasts, respectively.

I’ve fished from several Wilderness kayaks and was within days of buying a Tarpon 16 two years ago when I learned about the Ocean Trident Angler 15, a similar-size boat that had been designed for fishing from the keel up.

I bought the Trident 15 because I liked the big storage pod. But then Wilderness Systems came out with a new version of the Tarpon that had some advances over the Trident, which was followed by an improved Trident from Ocean.

I’ve figured out that buying one of these kayaks is like buying a digital camera — there are going to be improvements every year, but all of the top models are excellent and the answer is to buy one and use it until you figure it has become obsolete.

If you already own a kayak that you want to use for fishing, the boats at the Wilderness Systems and Ocean booths are tricked out with all sorts of gimmicks that can make your own boat more efficient and enjoyable.

And the paddling anglers who man the booths can save you from making the kind of expensive mistakes I’ve made by buying the wrong stuff and then spending more money to set things right.

Questions about these little boats are among the most common I get from readers. But the outdoors show is also the place to answer another question I get from three to a dozen times a month — where can I go for a wilderness experience that doesn’t cost $4,000 a week like the Alaska lodges charge?

The answer is to cross the border at Sault Ste. Marie into Ontario, where there are dozens of fly-in, boat-in or drive-in lodges that offer excellent fishing packages starting at about $500 a week.

The Algoma Country travel promotion group takes outdoors tourism seriously, and this year there’s an entire section of the Ultimate Fishing Show called Canada’s Great Outdoors.

It includes a number of individual lodges, but what intrigued me most was the booth run by Mike Morrow from the Algoma Central Railway, which runs north out of the Soo through the Agawa Canyon and Hawk Junction to Hearst.

A lot of Michigan residents have taken the one-day trip to the canyon and back to see the spectacular fall colors. Now the railroad is working with local lodges to offer a deal in which anglers can fish three places in a week.

“You ride up on the train and get off at a specified point,” Morrow said. “Then you get in a bush plane, a truck or they pick you up by boat and take you in to fish for a couple of days. The lodge takes you back to the rail line where the train picks you up and takes you to the next destination.”

The cost of the trip will vary depending on the lodges the angler chooses, but it should interest a lot of Michigan fishermen because the start and end point is only a day’s drive from home, and the whole trip can be done in a week.

(c) 2011, Detroit Free Press.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Eric Sharp

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