OUTDOORS: Winter kayaking just may put you on fish
By: JOHN FLORES
Just enough sunlight peered through the overcast allowing Corey Coghlan to see what looked to be a redfish’s arrow-like wake chasing baitfish in the shallow water along the edge of a bayou bank.
“I think I saw its tail fin,” Coghlan said to me, mesmerized by the fish’s activity. “I’m going to see if I can catch it.”
I took care paddling my kayak parallel, but far enough away from Coghlan so not to disturb the fish hunt. Cane roseaus, like a wall along the bank, blocked most of the cold breeze and paddling kept my body temperature on this December morning from being chilled. Only my knuckles and fingers were cold, where water running off the blade of the paddle made its way along the handle onto my exposed skin.
Watching the drama unfold, instinctively I blew warm air into my fist — first the left and then the right. It helped.
The cold shallow water was more than the red could take. It returned to slightly deeper and warmer water for a momentary reprieve. Coghlan worked his way down the bank, being careful not to make even a ripple with his craft, while watching the fish in the clear water sluggishly pushing the baitfish just ahead of him. The fish’s behavior was normal for this time of year, when water temperatures drop significantly with each passing cold front.
Stripping line from his fly rod, Coghlan made several casts ahead of the fish with a spoon-fly, when suddenly, the water exploded.
“There he is,” Coghlan exclaimed, while setting the hook and lifting his rod high to let it do the work in tiring out the fish, “That’s what we’re looking for.”
The fish might have fought longer had it been summer, but the winter pattern where mornings often start out in the high 30s with water in the marshes pushed out from northerly winds causes fish to be slower and less active.
Coghlan, 25, who is the chief operating officer and part owner of KC Kayaks, a company that’s only been in business for about a year and half, said, “At this time of year they’ve got about one little run in them and that’s about it. They don’t fight very much. In the winter, redfish are sluggish and not as aggressive at taking the bait. I stopped and started casting. Sure enough, I threw it out and I was stripping the fly back to me and he was following it. So, I stopped it and he looked at it and I moved it again and he nailed it.”
Coghlan, originally from Shreveport, resides in Baton Rouge where he attended LSU, graduating in 2009. During college the young entrepreneur couldn’t afford a bay boat but wanted to fish, so he decided to get into kayaking.
The little bay we fished in the Port of Fourchon within sight of Irvin P. Melancon Jr. Recreational Boat Launch happened to be where Coghlan made his first catch kayaking for redfish.
“It’s close by and a place where you can’t get lost,” Coghlan said, emphasizing the easy access to the area. “It has little mangrove islands you can fish in and out of with plenty of shell reefs. It also has some deeper channels, points, and run outs. Plus, there’s plenty of fish, so it’s a good place to fish out of a kayak.”
Following college he and several of his friends began designing a kayak with features they wanted for fishing redfish, such as one that sits higher in the water and could be stood up in, where they could sight fish. Stability, comfort, and more deck space were also considerations. When thinking about deck space they felt if someone wanted to fly fish they had to have places where line could be stacked up and not get tangled up in gadgets.
Though limited to one size and one color, KC Kayaks seems to have taken off in 2011.
Coghlan said, “This is our first year and we did pretty good with just having one model and one color and trying to establish a brand name, where not everybody knows who you are. But, we still did pretty well in sales. We moved about a hundred units in our first year. So, that’s pretty good. We designed it with features we wanted to see. It sits high out of the water, where some people think that’s a drawback in the wind. But, it allows you to get that higher seating, so it’s a little more comfortable. Our idea was to be really comfortable and we had sight fishing in mind too.”
Coghlan’s crafts sit approximately 12-inches out of the water and weigh only 65 pounds, making them easy to load and offload. They also can be stacked for transport — fitting like a set of canisters on top of one another.
The kayak is 34-inches wide, offering a stable platform that you can comfortably stand up in under the right conditions and not be concerned with it being tipsy. But, comfortable is a feature you’ll notice immediately.
Winter is a great time to use these craft and something that could be combined with a duck hunt in the marsh. Cold fronts have water pushed out of the marshes at this time of year, leaving bays and bayous so shallow bay boats quite often can’t maneuver effectively without running aground trying to get to the better fishing locations. Kayaks allow you to get to those places, where fish are often stacked up.
For those interested in more information on KC Kayaks, go to www.kckayaks.com or call Coghlan at 318-458-4383.
If you wish to make a comment or have an anecdote, recipe, or story you wish to share, you can reach John K. Flores by calling 395-5586 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.