BY KATHY VAN MULLEKOM
DAILY PRESS (NEWPORT NEWS, VA.)
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Messick Point in Poquoson, Va., is as picturesque as any waterfront post-card can be. Watermen with small boats haul in crates of croaker while seagulls hang around the piers, looking for discards.
Saltwater grasses growing on nearby islets sway in the Back River breezes. The air is cool and salty, refreshing in its own way.
It’s a little slice of heaven near the Chesapeake Bay in southeastern Virginia.
It’s also a perfect place to fish from the quietness of a kayak.
Just ask Ruth and Mac McCormick who kayak fish there as often as life allows.
“Accessibility and sheltered waters make Back River a wonderful place for kayakers to fish,” says Ruth.
“The river is a breeding ground for many fish and blue crab. Factory Point is a nice beach to get out and stretch your legs. And there’s the air show in the evenings when the planes return to Langley and then hearing the colors played at five o’clock.”
For years, the McCormicks owned power boats that guzzled gas and always required maintenance. Listening to Saturday morning fishing shows on radio, Mac began to hear about people talk about “yak fishing” in the Virginia Beach area. Soon, he and Ruth were hooked, ditching their 19-foot center console for kayaks outfitted with rod holders, anchoring systems, sonar units and GPS. He has three different sized kayaks, she has two.
“The same boat used chumming for cobia in the Chesapeake Bay can be used with a box of crickets on a farm pond,” says Mac.
“With the power boat on a slow day, I would start the engine and run from place to place many times burning fuel with no positive outcome. A kayak lacks range, it forces you to slow down and fish your chosen area more thoroughly.”
Kayak fishing is becoming so popular that many dealers are back ordering equipment.
Many consider kayak fishing environmentally responsible because there’s no gas, no fumes, and no noise. Others like the sport because it’s relatively inexpensive once you get the craft and gear.
“As soon as the fishing kayaks come in, they are sold,” says Chase Simmons, who works in the boat-ing department at Bass Pro in Hampton, Va., and kayak fishes himself.
At Appomattox River Company in Yorktown, Va., the increase in kayak fishing has prompted the store to sponsor how-to and safety clinics this fall.
“File a float plan with someone who can be trusted, wear a properly fitted PDF (personal floatation device) for the type of kayak, get a light for paddling at night and a sound-producing device like a whis-tle,” says Vic Sorensen, who works at the store.
For the McCormicks, kayak fishing was most affordable when gas hit $5 a gallon and they were get-ting 1½ miles to the gallon.
“You would be surprised how far you can go on a Snickers bar and a Pepsi,” says Ruth of the energy needed to paddle a kayak.
Once gas prices came down, they found they still prefer the ease of kayak fishing.
Basically, if you can walk to the water, you can launch. Back River, however, offers five launch spots — three in Poquoson and two in Hampton. You can fish sod banks, oyster beds, pier pilings, grass beds and paddle to Grand View beach for a day of beach fishing, says Mac. You can catch spot, croaker, puppy drum, rockfish, flounder, speckled trout and mother-in-law fish, a.k.a. oyster toads.
When the McCormicks don’t have time to haul their kayaks to their favorite spots in the York or Chickahominy rivers, they fish the James River after work, launching from the end of Deep Creek Road and paddle toward Mulberry Island at Fort Eustis, Va.
“It’s close to home and we can stay until the sun goes down,” says Mac. “
Ruth’s favorite time of the day is on the water about 20 minute before sunset.
“It’s a little bit better than wonderful,” she says
“It’s like being one with God.”
While it’s easy to always remember good times on the water, there have been some scary moments for the McCormicks and their kayaks. Like the time Mac was at the James River Bridge on a night when he says he should have gone back home. High wind and a fast current pinned him against a bridge piling.
“I realized later that I was very fortunate not to have ‘turtled,’ that is the yak term for capsizing,” he says. “I found a good safety instructor after that and learned self-rescue techniques.”
• Get your saltwater and/or freshwater fishing license plus your national saltwater angler regis-try card and learn what fish are legal, what size limits are and how many you can keep.
• Know how to tie basic knots; www.netknots.com.
• Check marine forecasts before leaving home and have a cell phone or marine radio with you.
(c) 2010, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.).
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