“Just bring a wide-brimmed hat, a small ice chest, and your saltwater fishing license, I’ll handle the rest.”
The simplicity of his request had me immediately captivated with the sport. Welcoming me with ample sunblock, a modestly-rigged angler kayak and better fishing gear than I could ever select, Danny Adkins made sure my first time casting from a kayak was an experience I would never forget. I suppose God figured if I was going to learn to kayak fish, teaming me with the president of the Mobile Bay Kayak Fishing Association was the best way to go. God is good.
When I pulled up to Aloe Bay in Dauphin Island on a breezy June Saturday morning, Danny had his lip poked out. One glance at the whitecaps on what was supposed to be a glassy bay made me immediately aware of the reason for his disappointment. After seeing the look of unwavering anticipation on my face though, he speedily weighed the options for a backup plan that suited the shifty wind.
After relocating to a much calmer side of the bay, Danny and I excitedly unloaded the kayaks as he schooled me in Kayak Fishing 101. I could paddle. I could fish. I was about to see how well I could combine these hallowed disciplines.
I was so excited when I caught my first fish I was shaking. Trying not to flip the kayak or lose the fish, I reeled it in slowly, beaming as it awkwardly flopped around in my borrowed boat. That hardhead catfish made my day. And every croaker thereafter.
Danny effectively and energetically utilized every teachable moment during our adventure. A paddle under the bay bridge was a lesson in how to work with instead of against the water. Pelicans passing overhead prompted a lively dialogue on the wonders of wildlife viewing while fishing and stories about alligator encounters, seeing dolphins and manatees with his daughter, and going for a “Gulf Coast Sleigh Ride” (when a kayak fisherman hooks a fish bigger and faster than the kayak).
The constant smile on my face was enough to reassure him I was cherishing every minute. Learning to kayak fish from someone who is well connected to entire fishing experience was surreal. While the fishing itself was phenomenal, understanding more about the world in which those fish were a part was even more fascinating. While kayak fisherman may just look like pelicans floating on the water in their little plastic boats, Danny is living proof that these fishermen are actually an enlightened breed of sportsmen who value conservation above catching fish. And it’s easy to see why.
When boats much larger than his are speeding across the water, creating waves and burning fuel, Danny waits patiently, at the mercy of the wind and the water, diligently studying the habits of the fish he seeks. Because his kayak limits his ability to cover great distances, he hones his skill in a smaller area, choosing instead to research and respect his surroundings. His humility and dedication set him apart from the remainder of the angling world, giving him a distinct position in a culture sometimes dominated by competition and quantity.
Danny is an elite member of the kayak fishing community--a family of concerned citizens who not only enjoy being a part of the aquatic world, they choose to understand, appreciate and conserve it.
If you’re looking to add some true depth to your fishing forays this summer, try your hand at kayak fishing. You’ll probably find Danny somewhere along the coast, more than happy to share his passion with those who want to connect. Take him up on his offer--you’ll never fish the same way again.
For more information, check out the Mobile Bay Kayak Fishing Association at www.mbkfa.com.