Some big catches at Monterey Bay Kayaks Derby

Some big catches at Monterey Bay Kayaks Derby
Sonny Nguyenused a live sardine to hook this derby-winning halibut on Saturday at the 2022 Monterey Bay Kayaks fishing Derby.

by Allen Bushnell

Ocean kayak fishing has been around forever, but really started to get popular in our area about 20 years ago. Since then, interest in the sport has exploded with dozens of ‘yaks on the nearshore waters of Monterey Bay on a daily basis. And, where there are anglers, there will be fishing derbies. Monterey Bay Kayaks is one of the original organizers of annual kayak fishing derbies on Monterey Bay and this year was no exception. Working in concert with the Nor Cal Kayak Anglers fishing club ( MBK General Manager Adam Helm pulled out all the stops for this year’s contest. Over 70 kayak anglers were poised and ready on DelMonte Beach for a “gran-Prix” launch at 7 am on Saturday.
A newcomer to the sport, Ivan O’Sullivan attended this year’s event and shared his thoughtful first impressions. O’Sullivan said, “Kayak fishing generally appears as a very solitary form of sport fishing.  On a six-pack you have five buddies, on a party boat, dozens. Yesterday I felt that camaraderie for the first time while kayak fishing.  And although it was a competition, so many people helped me as a newbie both on land and on the salt. I was not the first to the parking lot at 5:30 a.m. but it took me so long to get ready in the pitch black that I was just about the last to the beach.  When I got to the water’s edge I could not believe how many ‘yaks were lined up next to the still water with the backdrop of a ghostly gray fog, which for me is Monterey Bay at its finest.  I’ve never seen more than five fishing kayaks on the water at the same time so to see more than 50 was amazing. I was worried about the beach launch and return, having only every launched from a harbor before. I didn’t want to have a “yard-sale” event on the way in or out. The folks at Monterey Bay Kayaks gave me a quick lesson and tips for the way out. And it was a breeze. I will definitely be back next year, and not just because I won a trip for two from J&M Sport Fishing in the raffle! I didn’t catch the biggest fish, or anywhere close. But the bite was hot. I caught a full limit of rock fish, two ling cod and an ocean whitefish, which is more than on my previous three trips combined. I had a blast!”
Veteran Sonny Nguyen from NCKA took home the trophy this year with his tried and true strategy: local knowledge combined with live bait. Sonny, AKA “Sailfish,” made quick work of the day and had the winning fish aboard before 8 a.m. Nguyen reported, “We launched at 7 a.m. into thick fog but calm water. Caught two sardines on my way out to deeper water. Sent one down for scouting and caught a short lingcod. Got to around 50 feet of water straight out from MBK and sent the second sardine down to look for halibut. Within five minutes, got a takedown and it was Fish On! Brought it in sight and holy cow! I meant Holy But! It saw my net and went  back down twice. On the third try,  I was able to get it onto my big net but it made a big splash and jumped out of the net and went back down again. By this time I know it's hooked solid so I took my time to slowly bring it up and used the gaff this time. Bled the fish and decided to head in since I don't want to drag it around until noon. It weighed in close to 28 pounds and taped out at 41 inches. What a lucky day!”
Other winners from the MBK Kayak Fishing Derby this year included Josh Quinton at second with a 16-pound, 14-ounce halibut, and Chris Sato, again with a halibut that weighed in at 14 pounds, two ounces. Monterey Bay Kayaks always donates all proceed from their yearly derbies to an ocean-related non-profit. This year’s recipient is the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust.

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