Well, my first Boondoggle has come and gone. I will be completely honest with you, I am actually really sad that I have to wait until February to attend the next one. This event shed an entirely different light on how I perceived the kayak fishing community. I had always known that kayak anglers shared a bond and helped each other out, but little did I know that they were some of the most welcoming people I have ever had the pleasure to know.
As Andrew and myself pulled into Perdido Key, Florida late Friday afternoon, we proceeded to the entrance of Big Lagoon State Park to check in and scope out the lay of the land. As we drove closer to the camp grounds, droves of kayaks kept passing by strapped to the roofs of cars, truck beds, and trailers. It was a miniature caravan of plastic awesomeness. We pulled onto the road that lead to our camp site and got to behold a spectacle that I will have a hard time erasing from my memory bank. Every single campsite was packed full of kayaks as far as the eye could see and were chalk full of the latest and greatest kayak fishing accessories you could find. Every type, brand and color of kayak you could ever imagine was present and accounted for. Even some that had been discontinued for nearly 10 years. As we got to our site and started to unpack, we heard the first Boondoggle chant, and little did we know that it would be echoing through the camp grounds all weekend as each excited kayak angler wanted every one to know just how elated they were to be at the event. A single person would scream out, “BOOOOOONDOGGLE!”, and everyone followed suit shortly thereafter. We had not even set our tents up and we had already hollered our response nearly a half dozen different times. Never once did we feel silly. If anything, we felt as if it were a right of passage. With camp completely set up, we got the kayaks loaded on top of our car and made a b-line for the beach since the offshore conditions were supposed to be about as perfect as you could imagine for some offshore kayak fishing.
When we got the kayaks unloaded and down on the sand, we really had to sit back and soak in what we were seeing. Being from Texas, it is a rare event that I see water so blue that it resembles a clear summer sky nor white powder sand that rivals cake flour in texture. To sum up what we thought in one word as to how to describe the sight….”heaven”. We launched our kayaks and quickly paddled out to about 30 feet of water to try and sabiki up some live bait so that we could start trolling. I managed to bring up a few cigar minnows and we quickly put them on our lines and began to paddle around in search of our quarry, the speedy king mackerel. The conditions were so beautiful that we easily found ourselves lost in just the sheer serenity of the open calm ocean. We also forgot to take into consideration how fast the sun was setting, so once we snapped out of our trance we decided to paddle back towards the shore. We got within 3/4 of a mile from the beach when my bait got slammed. I got the rod out of the holder, engaged the drag, and reeled down to the fish. The fight was short due to a pulled hook.
Andrew sat and watched the event unfold since this was his first true offshore kayak fishing experience. Out of no where, his reel starts screaming shortly after mine. He goes through the same process and locks down on a solid king. I got my rod stowed away and proceeded over to assist him with the catch. He was grinning from ear to ear, but you could tell it was all business with him. He wrestled the fish boat side when I leaned in for the tail grab. With his first ever kayak caught king mackerel in hand, he could now show his excitement. “I can’t believe how fast my line was disappearing off my reel,” he would proclaim several times on our paddle in. I have been doing offshore kayak fishing for nearly 10 years and it never gets old watching someone get a rush from their first big fish caught from a kayak. We got back to the sand, took the customary photos, loaded the kayaks back onto the car, and headed back to the camp grounds so as to make it to the meet and greet that night.
As we arrived at the pavilion, we were amazed by the tremendous number of people that we starting to pour in. As we began to meet everyone, it was amazing to hear just how far some people drove to be at this event. If my memory serves me correct, I could have swore that I met someone who said they had made the trip all the way down from Alaska! Now THAT is some dedication. As the meet and greet ended, we made our way back to the camp site to cook dinner over an open fire and crack open a few adult beverages. While sitting in our chairs and soaking in our surroundings, people began to stop by our camp and hang out with us. We’d chit chat for a while, exchange some fishing stories, and then it typically ended with our new friends inviting us over to their camp sites for some good food or an invite was extended to fish the next morning as a group. After a while, we heard some people chatting a few sites down from us and little did we know that our friend Thomas from Diablo Paddlesports had made the journey down to Florida from Texas as well. We hung out for a few hours and exhaustion hit us like a ton of bricks. A short stroll back to our tents and then it was lights out for the night.
We woke up the next morning later than planned and took a walk to scope out the area where we were going to set up our booth. After locating our spot, we gathered our materials and set up shop right next to the kind folks who run www.yangler.com. People started to pour into the vendor area and we were off to meeting new people all over again. Twelve o’clock rolled around and it was time for our seminar, which was titled Offshore Kayak Fishing 101. Roughly 30 eager kayak fishermen found their way into the pavilion to listen to us speak on topics such as ideal kayaks for offshore fishing, basic gear, safety equipment, and fish targeting techniques. Once the seminar was over, we made our way back down to the booth to finish out the day. That night, Andrew and I decided to take the kayaks out for a little night fishing. There was little tide movement making for a tough bite. We managed one measly trout for our efforts and headed back to camp. The next morning we would try our luck offshore again.
The fishing the next morning ended up tough as well with Andrew landing another solid king and me losing another one. There seems to be a pattern here, wouldn’t you say? When we got back to our booth after our brisk 12 miles paddle, we got a chance to catch up with some of the guys who put on the Boondoggle. Mark Watanabe of YakAngler.com sat down and gave us the back story of how the Boondoggle came to be and just how much it has grown in size, attendance-wise, since it’s inception 3 years ago. We also got to shoot the breeze with Chip Gibson, the owner of www.kayakfishingradio.com, who invited us over to his camp site that night for a pot luck dinner. We were lured in by the promises of fresh venison and shrimp called ruby reds, which I found out were caught in about 800 feet of water! The night was spent just hanging out with our fellow kayak fishermen and swapping fishing stories from the previous 2 days with all who showed up. Nothing like good food and amazing company to make for an entertaining and awesome evening. As we walked back to our camp, we would make several pit stops into various campers sites, just to say our goodbyes and exchange handshakes. Sleep came easy that night on a full stomach.
As we woke up the next morning to break camp, we were greeted by the same chants as the first night being yelled across the camp grounds. I guess the term Boondoggle can be taken several ways at this event. Not just as the name of the event, it potentially could be used as a greeting, as a way of describing a particular feeling, and as a parting phrase to your fellow kayak fishing brethren. I am beyond excited I got to attend this event, and have already made plans for the next one that is coming up in February. If I could ever recommend a family style event for kayak anglers of ALL experience levels, the Boondoggle is the one I would encourage you to attend. Until next time, “BOOOOOOOOONDOGGLE!”