On Friday afternoon, July 15th, ICAST 2016 in Orlando came to a close. I slipped into my Honda Ridgeline and headed up to St. Augustine, Florida for some kayak fishing with friend, Bart Swab of Action Kayak Adventures. John Hipsher and Nick Kellog from YakAttack rounded out the crew for the day. I was psyched to paddle with the Burkeville, VA boys. Appomattox River Company and YakAttack are located about 25 minutes from each other, but with everyone so busy, we don't always have the chance to get on the water together.
I met Bart at the Oct. Boondoggle in Louisiana and we fished together down there. Bart is super easy to get along with and I knew I wanted to visit his operation in St Augustine. This ICAST trip provided the perfect opportunity. Bart is a Jackson Kayak, YakAttack and Werner Paddle Pro, and he supplies everything you need for a great day on the water. From a full stable of JK boats, Werner paddles, Manley Fishing Rods and bait, Bart has the bases covered.
We met up at 6am and all four of us paddled out into the waters around St. Augustine, the "Old City." I love paddling out into new areas, especially with someone so intimately familiar with their home waters, like Bart. He quickly hooked up with a little redfish, and it became clear that a school of reds and black drum were cruising around the flats we were paddling over.
For the first time in my life, I could hear them. As I sat, mesmerized by the scene of birds chirping, and alligators swimming by, I heard the bass of the black drum reverberating through the 2 foot of water around us. Bart hooked into one and broke off. I saw a huge disturbance of water and cast my Gulp tipped jig into the drum dance party. I felt something pick-up my bait, and set the hook. It felt like I had'em, but then my line went a little limp, so I yarded on my rod again. Hook set! The fight was on!
I was fighting the black drum with my 2500 Shimano Sahara on a Med. Finesse Falcon Rod, a combo I usually deploy to drop-shot for bass in the timber rich lake back home. Game on!
I netted the fish, after a short 10 min. fight, with my new Leverage Landing net from YakAttack. Another species knocked off the list!
I definitely scored big fish for the day, but Nick was hitting his stride catching the most fish. Every time I turned around he was pulling something up. He caught a pile of trout and some reds.
John scored his first redfish as well. I'm a sucker for that spotted tail.
Bart seemed to steal the show with a solid speckled trout, but he wasn't done yet.
He clocked another redfish from the mouth of this little cut.
But what I didn't get a picture of, was the 50lb-ish tarpon that Bart jumped in some super skinny water! I heard him hook up, looked and watched this magnificent silver beauty take flight right between us, and splash down not 10-15 feet off the bow of our kayaks, in like 2-3 foot of water! And then it was gone, off the hook. I'm still kicking myself for not having my camera in hand.
I scored a little redfish and later a little speckled trout to finish my day.
All together it was a spectacular introduction to kayak fishing in St. Augustine, Florida. The weather was rather mild, about 90*, and we paddled a lot of miles thorough some breathtakingly beautiful areas.
Bart's business, Action Kayak Adventures, focuses on Kayak Fishing Charters and Eco Tours. He's a certified Master Naturalist and certainly knows his local flora and fauna. He pointed out many cool sights and gave us great history on the region. One of my favorite moments came midday as we paddled in for lunch. Bart pointed to some birds and asked, "Have you ever seen a Roseate Spoonbill? I'll let you go first if you haven't, because they're over there feeding."
I paddled up and started snapping photos. Such cool birds!
We all had a fantastic day visiting St. Augustine. It was great to follow the indoor mayhem of ICAST with some outdoor fun with good people. I was grateful for the opportunity to paddle and fish with the home town crew from YakAttack. I was also very grateful to once again share some water with Bart. As the sun set on the day, I turned to Bart, at the take out, to shake his hand and thank him.
"Consider me a friend," Bart responded.
Kayak Fishing does that. For me, Kayak fishing is as much about the friendships and the fantastic environments kayaking takes us, as it is about the fishing. St. Augustine supplied a healthy dose of all three. If you're ever in the area, give Bart a call and hook up with Action Kayak Adventures. It's hard to have a bad time, when you're getting a tour from such a good dude. I can't wait to visit the "Old City" again and settle into the camaraderie of good friendship and good fishing.