Pushing all limits: Elias’s 2014 Jamaica Bay Kayak Fishing Perspective.
By Elias V
If you asked me how I felt in 2014, I’d summarize it with one word: “tired.” Now that I am off the water, I look back with glee. I set out to give it my all one more time. I accomplished many goals: two summer flounder over ten pounds, my first fifty pound striped bass, winning another grand slam at the Jamaica Bay Kayak Classic, and some amazing bottom fish catches that I would have thought to be impossible on a kayak years ago. I’ve fished as hard as I could in 2012, but Sandy brought a truly bittersweet end to my season as it did much worse to others. I took it a bit easier in 2013, but in 2014 I had both a flexible schedule and the ambition to hit the water as much as possible. I think I truly accomplished all one could as an angler in Jamaica Bay. The fishing here is just downright phenomenal, spanning the shores of Brooklyn and Queens. I just can’t describe what we experience from May through November as just “exceptional”. There were several days of amazing catches, but I just want to go through a few that just stood out above the rest. For anyone reading this who’s looking to catch more, my advice is to not chase reports. Learn your surrounding water by logging hours. For any impressive catch I’ve put together, I didn’t chase any reports. It was all my own legwork.
Before I get into the actual fishing, I need to thank everyone who has given me intel both on and off the water, guys that coached me on the water, photographed, and of course fished with me. KFA-NY is an amazing kayak club with some really dedicated anglers, who I believe love this sport just as much as I do. We have formed a tight knit community of fisherman, with some amazing information exchange that I have never seen before. I fished 3-4 days a week on average this season, weather permitting. I would rate this season an overall 10. Don’t think I could have had a better season in the New York Bight honestly. I’ve met some amazing people in Holland as well, and look forward to bringing lots of people over to Brooklyn to show them how we do it.
We started the season early; Gene and I with a few others trekked over to Raritan Bay early on trolling and jigging pretty big bass in April. We fished Raritan Bay until the bite developed by JFK in May. It was a late start due to a cold winter but the bite got rolling eventually and in mid-May fishing was solid. There was a lack of giant stripers as I didn’t see any fish over 30lbs caught, but the fishing was still good.
During the Jamaica Bay tournament we had one day that was a total blow out. Heavy rains totally wrecked the fishing in the back bay screwing up salinity and water clarity. I totally skunked out that Saturday of the tournament not submitting a single picture. Sunday morning was more of a pipe dream to try and catch three species to qualify for a decent slam to end up on the board. I more or less winged it and fished with a bunch of guys in Mill Basin. I had my reel blow up on me next to Taurus fighting my only striped bass of the weekend, but I got a 33.5” fish into the boat to put me in the game. Looked over and bunker were getting worked hard. I squeezed right into the fleet of boats and yaks and dropped a fresh livie right into the mayhem. I worked a 36.5” bluefish into the yak and it was only 8am, I was in serious contention at that point. Packed it up and headed west towards the Marine Parkway Bridge. Made one drop at the RC buoy for a 21” fluke on a bucktail, but refused to settle. I found lots of shorts towards the bridge, but hit one other area that is normally good to me, and I managed a 22.5” fluke to easily seal the deal. Honestly, I never thought I had a shot, and I got back on land and told myself I am the luckiest person on earth. I never expected it all to come together like that.
The later part of May and into early June saw a huge uptick in the striper action. Daimon and I would hit the airport almost every morning and had a blast. We sharpened our skills a bunch this season and caught a ton of fish for sure. Great amount of fish ranging from 36”-40”. Some days averaging 6-8 fish even. The bite started to wind down by early June and I switched to my other favorite: fluke. One of my first trips put a 28.5” fluke into the boat, and a 41” striper the same morning. I knew it was going to be a solid fluke season. A lot of guys were fluking this summer in the club and the amount of fish ranging from 5-8lbs was insane. It must have been like being in Montauk. Every morning we were catching fish over 25”! Not only one or two, I had mornings with three fish over 26”! Rick had a 10 pound fish and a 12.5 pound fish in June. For kayak anglers this is some serious fluking. The bite held steady by the inlet into the end of July and slowed by early August. Daimon and I started scoping out the ocean side fishing the reef with good results but I popped back into the bay in August.
August gave me some big surprises, two mornings, identical conditions. Both were shoulder shruggers with no expectations of fish, but I drifted the yak straight down the bridge like a total newbie where I hooked up. One flounder August 10, one on August 1 both were jaw droppers. One at 11.4 pounds and the other at 12 pounds. My two biggest fluke ever; both of these fish were huge accomplishments to me personally. Many guys chase double digit flounder their whole lives with just one or two. I had two in the span of a month. A testament of how great of a fishery Jamaica Bay is.
That more or less was the end of our fluking season with a little flurry in late August, with Gary getting himself another doormat towards the end of the run. I spent the majority of time out on the ocean side with the kayak chasing sea bass, fluke, triggerfish, big blues, and anything else. There were some exceptional sea bass catches for the kayak with one fish pushing 6 pounds. Certainly was a miscellaneous month with some nice striper jigging in Staten Island early August as well. James, myself, and Daimon all cashed in at one point. To me, it seemed like a random body of fish were migrating through the Verrazano Narrows at that time. I wrapped up the summer visiting Staten Island for some great weakfish jigging before packing up my fishing gear to head over to Holland for Hobie Worlds. I finished in 19thout of 47 in the tournament. It was an amazing experience and I am looking forward to another shot at it soon.
I came back from Europe and started off togging, which is one of my favorite fish to catch. The challenge, the fight, what’s not to love? It started off a bit on the slow side in mid-October with a scattering of keepers, but nothing impressive. The bass fishing was also poor for October’s standards. I was settling in for a disappointing fall like the last two years at that point. Until one glassy morning I worked my way into the back bay with Gene the last few days of October. First school of bunker I pulled up on I had a screaming run on my spinning reel, and after what seemed like an eternity I had her boat side. She measured out 49” and was held up for pictures then released to swim. That fish kicked off a very memorable fall. Never did I think I may see such a fish like that. The bass fishing the rest of the month was incredible, I was motivated and on my A game at that point. Every morning I managed to sail I had 5-8 nice fish in the boat and the last day in some pea soup fog I ended it with another fish in the mid 30 pound range hitting the deck. They were crashing bunker like on the ocean side every single morning. James and I caught plenty of nice tautog in early November on the weekends also. The weather was cooperating nicely in early November until we had our first real cold blast. By mid-November every day was the same story. 20-30 knot winds became the norm more or less to end the season.
I logged approximately 80 keeper striped bass this season. About 55 of them were over 36” and about 8 over 40”. Also I logged 24 summer flounder over 23” with 15 over 25”, and about 40 weakfish. My bottom fish numbers looked good to me for the time I spent targeting them. Looking back those are amazing numbers, but I am highly concerned about striped bass in particular. Although I fished more in 2014, the numbers are too close to my 2012 and 2013 catches. The fall of 2014 was the saving grace. Could be the cold winter in 2013, could be a lot of reasons. That’s fishing, there aren’t many certainties. Patterns exist, but there are no absolutes. That is what I love about it so much. I am always facing the unknown. From the conditions the ocean will throw at me, to what will end up on my line. It’s always so different, whenever I beach that kayak I am so often humbled. I often think I knew it all or enough, and I catch something totally unexpected. You just can’t duplicate this feeling on land, and sharing it with a great group of guys makes it that special.