Call it good karma or good fishing, either way kayak angler Rory O’Connor had a hella good hali trip out of Neah Bay recently.
The Bellingham resident caught a 75-pounder on his first drift Thursday, May 10 and a 51-pounder on his third drift two days later — only the second and third flatfish he’s ever caught out of his kayak.
“I am very concerned that I used up my lifetime allotment of kayak-landed halibut in one trip!” he jokes.
We suspect he’s got a few more to catch, though: You may recall the ardent Girl Scout cookie buyer’s name in the news earlier this year — O’Connor rescued a dog that swam out to his kayak as he fished a half mile off the Florida coast in January. The Vizsla fled into the sea after its owner was hit and killed by a driver.
Eager to catch a halibut during last week’s two-day opener for Marine Area 4, the freelance Web developer headed over the day before to get an early start on Thursday.
“As luck would have it, I ended up catching the last ferry to Port Townsend — the later runs were cancelled due to high winds. I would not have been able to fish Thursday if I wasn’t on that ferry!” O’Connor says.
The next morning found him huffing it hard against the current out to a GPS spot in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
“Got a huge takedown on my first drift! The fight was about a half an hour, and the dispatching/securing about another half hour. Hog-tying that big of a fish from a kayak turned out to be a bit challenging. By that time the forecasted wind started to blow pretty hard. I literally caught this fish in the only window of time I could have,” he says.
O’Connor posted a 5-minute video of the fight, including the bite, to YouTube.
Wanting an official weight on his fish, he swung by Big Salmon Resort where it rang up 71 pounds on the scale.
And then he and his catch rang it up big with local fishermen.
“The Makah flipped their lids when they heard it was caught from a kayak. They were calling their friends over. A 143-pounder came in right after me and they couldn’t give a crap about that fish,” he says.
The tribe at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula is perhaps best known for whaling in their open cedar canoes, reputedly as far as 100 miles out back in the day.
For Saturday’s fishing O’Connor joined up with other members of Northwest Kayak Anglers, a Web forum that includes Northwest Sportsman kayak kolumnists Bryce “Zee” Molenkamp and Mark “Spot” Veary whom you may also recall as the two who last summer went after albacore 50 miles out of Newport in their Tupperware boats.
“Great weather, but wicked, wicked current. Not great for kayak fishing,” says O’Connor of the conditions. “We were busting hard to get out to another spot we had marked in the Strait.”
Still, it was his weekend: Another halibut just happened to “get in the way” of his hook.
While the smaller of his two, the flattie took twice as long to get kayakside, he says.
“Spicy lad. As with the first, I played him super light because I was using 50-pound-test line. Kayakers can’t/shouldn’t use heavier than that when bottomfishing because we’ll get pulled off our kayaks trying to break off when hung up. I took no chances, didn’t try to rush it. That has the added benefit of less thrash when he’s gaffed, because he’s so spent,” O’Connor says.
Both halibut bit a two-dropper-loop rig with a herring on one hook and B2 glo squid on the other.
The push back wasn’t easy either. The fast current had taken him 3 miles from the launch and required two hours to get back, O’Connor says.
On dry land the next day, the Makahs were still buzzing about him.
“On my way out of town at the end of the weekend I went to the grocery store and a kid came up to me and said, ‘Are you that guy who caught the 70-pound halibut from a kayak? You’re famous around here!’”
Famous now on both coasts.