Friday, March 2, 2012

Knowing your limits......

The recent warming trends here in Virginia has sent many of us kayak anglers, including myself, into a fishing frenzy with the desire to get out on the water.  Sometimes this line of thinking can get in the way of being smart.

Such was the case last night.  I had been longing to get out on the water the last couple of weeks, but family commitments and timing have not been in my favor.  This time of year is a big saltwater focus window for me, since many of the species targeted during the prime months are now out of season but are still plentiful and willing to bite.

Yesterday's rising temperatures got the juices flowing, and the preliminary research indicated a forecast of winds out of the SSE around 10 with an incoming tide only running at .2 for my particular target area.  The prime window for targeting fish would be around the 10:00pm time frame.  I also saw that a storm front would be moving in late on Friday and into Saturday, so my thought was that Thursday evening would be the last chance to get on fish for this weekend with a planned outing of 2-3 hours in total, otherwise I would have to wait another week.

As I made my way towards the water, I felt the winds blowing stronger than had been forecast even pushing my van side to side on the highway.  No worries I thought, since I was going to be targeting a sheltered cove in the inlet.  I arrived at the launch to be greeted by winds blowing not out of the SSE, rather they were blowing out of the NNE and were stiff at easily 20mph not the forecast of 10-12.

Not to be dismayed, I knew that the launch was exposed to mother nature and was not always indicative of the true conditions on the water.  I also knew that the recent warming trend was not indicative of the true temperature of the water, so I still dressed for cold-water immersion and took the appropriate safety precautions and secured all my gear.

I launched my Hobie Revolution 13 into the teeth of the wind and the incoming tide and quickly realized that the plan for the evening would be short-lived if I fished the area I had originally planned.  I pedaled out cautiously and began to realize that the planned outing would not be a success.  I found my spot and saw some fish, but my attempts to target them by sight casting were quickly nullified when each cast resulted in my lure getting snagged on the endless floating seaweed and other natural debris in the water.

During one of the retrieves, the wave sets started getting more intense in frequency and amplitude.  The area I was fishing is know for the shoaling that occurs, so any increased wave action combined with heavy winds results in some nasty water conditions both in clarity and intensity.  So, I stowed the rod, and I used my rudder to track backwards with the waves rather than risk making a turn and getting broadsided by a 4-5' swell unexpectedly.

When I noticed a break in the intervals between wave sets, I turned the rudder left and pedaled a little further out to get past the shoals to see if the rest of the area was as bad.  The wave action turned into more turbulent waters with a washing machine effect combined with the larger waves and stronger than expected winds.  I decided at that point that all the desire in the world to catch some fish is not worth the risk of one's own life.  I waited until a longer shallower set came in, and I turned the rudder and pointed the Hobie back to the launch.

I later learned that the actual winds were gusting to 30, well above the forecast of 10-12.  The moral of the story is simple - know your limits, and don't ever sacrifice your personal safety for the sake of fishing.  You can always come back another day.

Tight lines, be safe out there, dress appropriately and take a kid or service member fishing.

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