Sunday, July 5, 2015

Creatures in the Sea

This week the fishing was a bit slow.  My goal was a Mendocino Kayak Fishing Trifecta - abalone, dungeness crabs, and rock cod.  The bite was really slow and I didn't catch any fish this week.  I was successful in getting 3 abalone (on Tuesday before the season closed for the month of July) and getting dungeness crabs.  But this week's catch wasn't so much about the food as it was the beauty and wonder of the sea.

On Friday, my friend and I were fishing in our kayaks along the coast on the outside of a large rocky reef.  The mulitlayered sky was breathtakingly beautiful and the early morning water was like glass.  We jigged in awe and wonder as the glassy swells rolled beneath our boats and the sunshine streamed through the layers of clouds.  Several large flocks of brown pelicans skimmed by us.  The bite was slow, but we contently fished and immersed ourselves in the beauty around us.

The fog began to roll in and then there was a large but gentle whooooosh . . . about 40 feet from us a cloud of water vapor spouted up from the water followed by a dark arching back.  As gracefully as it appeared, it slipped beneath the water again.  Moments later, whooosh it it spouted and appeared again right in front of us and then again as it made its way along the rocks heading north.  It made our morning seem even more divine.

Then our morning got more interesting.  The bite continued to be slow and my friend landed a nice lingcod but my stringer was empty.  We decided to call it a day and pull the crab pots and head in.  One the crab pots held a surprise.

We had some dungeness crabs but also the gnarliest looking crab we had ever seen.
Pudget Sound King Crab?
So far my research indicates that it is a type of box crab known as a Puget Sound King Crab.  They are not common and extremely uncommon to get in a crab pot.  What a treat to get to see.  We took some photos and returned it to the sea.
Gail poses with our interesting catch.
What a cool day to be out on the sea - Maybe not the best for feeding the body but definitely lots of food for the soul.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


My least favorite activity of being a kayak instructor and guide is schlepping kayaks.  This time of the year, I am schlepping boats most days.  When I have time to play, the last thing that I want to do is shlepp around a heavy kayak.  Sometimes it is fun to simplify and step away from the boat and just go have fun in the ocean - Coasteering!

Wetsuit, boots, gloves and off we go to play in the ocean.  We hike to a spot on the headlands and jump in.  We swim to off shore rocks or to the next headland, seal land ourselves, and repeat.  It is sh!ts n giggles fun!

Sometimes our route has us swimming through arches and into caves.  

Our last 2 adventures have actually been missions.  One mission was planting a Geochache for the Bay Area Sea Kayaker's 30th Anniversary Challenge.  Yes, Jeff and I coasteered into the location and would challenge other BASK'ers to do it too. 

Our other mission was a trash collection mission.  We are so thankful to be able to fish and gather food from the ocean.  We strive to tread lightly and have minimum impact on the environment but unfortunately have those moments where we snag and lose our line and tackle.  We have added lightweight packs to our coasteering missions for packing out trash - specifically fishing line that is snagged on the rocks that we are traversing.  Bringing a small pack allows me to pack my abalone gear and bring home dinner too.  

Swimming and playing in the ocean's rock gardens feels quite natural to me.I have to admit that jumping is a bit challenging for me.  I am working on my courage and technique.  Yes, I still hold my nose when I jump.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Grocery Shopping in the Sea

Last year, I got my first taste of kayak fishing and have to admit that I am hooked (hopefully not literally).
My first black cod caught on a handline.
Now is the season for almost everything - dungeness crabs, abalone, salmon, rock fish, and sea vegetables.  Slowly but surely, I am acquiring the necessary tackle and skills for getting dinner at sea.  Every day this week, I have caught or gathered food from the ocean.  
My first lingcod - 28 inches.
7 years ago, I got my first abalone.  Jeff came home from work and was treated to pan friend abalone.  Since then, he has become quite the abalone diver, and we have expanded our repertoire of cooking methods and recipes.  I haven't dove the past several years because we both don't need to and Jeff is all about the "hot lap" (timed trip from the house to the ocean and back with abs).  I am all about !@#$'s n giggles diving.  I like to take my time and swim around and sight see.

An advantage of spending so much time kayaking in the rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast is that I have lots of opportunity to scope out my fishing, diving, and harvesting spots.  Over the past month, I have been seeing a ton of abalone and did my first solo abalone hunt this week.  It has been fun to fish and dive with friends, but I enjoyed the independence of my solo mission.  Jeff was pretty stoked when I came home with 3 nice sized abalone and a couple of dungeness crabs.
Kayaking to a favorite abalone spot.
On our plate this week has been fish.  We have caught greenling, black cod, and ling cod.  I understand how people become enthralled with fishing.  Fish are fascinating.  I love how they move in the water and am learning to identify the different types and what each type eats.  Fishing is definitely a challenge - figuring out the right place to be but also what type of bait or lures to use and how to effectively use the lures/bait.  A homemade handline has been my primary fishing tool.  I like the simplicity of it both for use and for transport.
Using a handline to fish for bottom fish.
I get so exited when I feel the tug on my line (have to admit I was a bit nervous when I hooked my first lingcod - it was a large fiesty fish with big teeth).  Reeling it in is like opening a present.  Even though you might have an idea of what is on the line, you don't know until you pull it in.  This week, Jeff caught a black cod and as he pulled it in a ling cod grabbed on to it and he landed both.  Yesterday, I pulled in 2 black cod on the same cast.
Jeff with a fish-on!
Pulling crab pots can be exciting too.  Not just in the excitement of seeing what is in the pot but the excitement of pulling up a heavy pot from a kayak in choppy ocean conditions.  Of course one could go crabbing on calm days or in calm bays or estuaries, but Jeff likes to simulate the television show deadliest catch.  This week we were surprised with an abalone in our crab pot (of course neither one of us had our abalone card and tags with us).
You never know what you might find in your crab pot.
With lots of fish in the fridge and freezer, today's mission was to get some sea vegetables.  One of my favorite gathering spots can also be a good surf spot.  I have been enjoying my Jackson Kayak Karma RG for fishing and rock gardening, but it was really nice to be in my super light, responsive surf kayak.  A session of tasty waves was followed by gathering some salty green goodness.
Gathering kelp in my hp surf kayak.

I also have to admit that we will be having beef for dinner tonight but will have some tasty sea cheetos and abalone ceviche as orderbs.  
Abalone Ceviche!!!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Fort Bragg, California

Outside Magazine has listed Fort Bragg, California on its best towns list for 2015.  They have listed their top 64 and are giving folks an opportunity to go online and vote to narrow down the list.  Their voting system is similar to that of the NCAA's March Madness brackets.  Here's a link to check it out - of course I would encourage you to vote for Fort Bragg, CA.

In March, Jeff and I received a phone call from Outside Magazine.  They told us that they were considering Fort Bragg and asked us questions about our town.  My first comment was that it is a place that feels good to come home to.

I love living in Fort Bragg and have made it my home for many different reasons.  The top 2 reasons being the outdoors and the community.

Obviously the outdoors is what got Outside Magazine's attention and if you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that kayaking in Fort Bragg is AWESOME.  Kayaking is only one of many ways to enjoy the outdoors in Fort Bragg.  Hiking, biking, walking, running, photography, horseback riding, birding, paddling, surfing, diving, fishing, and mushroom hunting are a few of the most common outdoor pursuits here.  Here's a video that Jeff and I made in 2009 about outdoor adventure in Fort Bragg, California.

Possibly one reason that I enjoy Fort Bragg's Community is that many of the residents are fellow outdoor enthusiasts.  However, I feel deeper community roots than the common bond over the outdoors.  Fort Bragg is a small town community where people care about others.  One can't go to the grocery store without running into people that you know.  When in a hurry, a quick wave and hello is acceptable, but on more leisurely days we value the opportunity for a quick catch up.

I have seen folks express their opinions on facebook that we don't want to be recognized as a "best town" for a variety of reasons including that people will want to visit or move here.  I think this is a good thing.  Our community is very much dependent upon tourism and outdoor recreation (which support our household).

Regardless, I am super happy to live in Fort Bragg and am sharing this blog post as my way of encouraging folks to give Fort Bragg a look - whether for visiting or living.  Click here to vote for Fort Bragg, CA.