I know how to kayak, and I know how to fish. But as my alarm blares on the morning of my first kayak fishing trip, I dream of being pulled out to sea by a giant grouper.
“Can’t I stay in bed?” I ask. But my husband cajoles me into the drive to Port St. Joe where I’ve chartered a trip with Happy Ours Kayak & Canoe Outpost.
On St. Joseph Bay, guide Dan VanVleet puts me in a sit-on-top kayak. The paddles are loosely tethered to our boats. Behind the seats rest five-pound anchors and minnow buckets. We’ll drop both into the water once we’re positioned. The rod ’n reels are well-secured in holders between our knees.
Dan has rigged our lines for trout and redfish using his invented lure tipped with a wiggly, live minnow. The technique is to cast ahead, allow the minnow to sink and then reel it in slowly with alternating jerks to create a splashing sound that attracts the fish.
We paddle out and anchor about 30 feet apart. It’s a relief to be alone in a craft. The last time my husband and I fished in a boat together we got our lines so tangled, I wanted to toss him overboard.
Twenty minutes later, my float briefly disappears. I jerk my rod, trying to hook the fish, though I later learn I should have done the opposite. (Unlike bass, trout have softer mouths.)
The fish escapes. Nevertheless, I’m proud that I almost caught one. I cast repeatedly across a fluid mirror and watch orange starfish cling to the swaying green turtle grass beside my kayak. A light breeze feels cool against my skin. Soon, catching a fish no longer seems that important. It’s the easy exercise, the serenity that makes me fall in love with the sport.