I recently opted into a kayak fishing competition. So what? Well, to me this is a competition with a difference, the format of which I have not come across to date and one which should make for a very interesting and entertaining summer and autumn. After a wet day spent in Bunratty, Co. Clare on behalf of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group observing the uncharacteristic arrival of a small pod of bottlenose dolphins into the Ratty River, presumably to feed, I returned home soaked and in need of a shower and some ‘time out’. With my studies progressing I have not been able to get to do anywhere near as much fishing as I would have liked and as a result I have, for the most part, been trying to avoid angling forums, websites and the likes. Looking at lots of pictures of recent catches and their accompanying reports when you are stuck inside is a slow, cruel form of self-inflicted torture. But for some reason I decided to have a browse of the Irish Kayak Angling forum on this particular Saturday evening where my attention was drawn to the aforementioned competition. I followed the link to the official competition site and spent some time having a look through the various rules and trying to figure out the event’s format. I was greatly impressed with the organisation and the concept.
Running from early February until mid December each year, this is truly a global angling competition with anglers registered from North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, The Caribbean and Canada, to name but a few. Each area is assigned an overseer and they put together a list of eligible species that the anglers can target, relative to their respective areas. Points are gained for the capture of any of the species featured on the list and, obviously, the more points you can accumulate the higher up the leader board you will progress. The way the points system works is straightforward enough – each species on the list is designated a minimum size limit and any capture over this limit is awarded ten points. A second limit has been determined for what would be deemed as ‘trophy’ sized catches and the capture of one of these fish is awarded a bonus forty points to be added to the original ten. A maximum of twenty catches of any one species can be submitted each month. Sound complicated? Let me break it down….
Let’s take pollack as an example for the European participants. The minimum size limit assigned to this species is thirty centimetres and the trophy size is fifty five. For every pollack you submit over the thirty centimetre mark you earn ten points, every pollack submitted over fifty five centimetres earns you fifty points. No more than twenty pollack can be submitted in a calendar month and fish below the thirty centimetre limit are not counted. Different species, both marine and freshwater, are assigned various lengths and each are submitted to the same criteria as the pollack that I have just mentioned.
How do you submit catches? I think that this is the really clever part to the competition. The event is run on a catch, photograph and return basis (trout competition men take note). The fish is photographed on a measuring board and the picture has to show some sort of background evidence that the fish has been caught from a kayak. When taking the photograph the angler has to ensure that the date and time is correctly set on their camera. The photographs are then uploaded to the Kayakwars website and the moderators assign the relevant points to the captor. Ensuring that the time and date stamps are correct, the submissions will be accepted for a limited time after the picture has been taken. Every digital camera stores certain bits of information imprinted onto every photograph it takes. This includes the time and date. Altering digital photographs can destroy this data so any doctored photographs will not be accepted for the purpose of the competition. The system is probably not perfect and perhaps there is a way around it but the completion is in the name of angling fun and those that feel it necessary to cheat in angling events, well, all I can say is that you are only cheating yourself and your actions speak volumes about your character. I don’t feel angry towards anglers that take such actions. I pity the fact that they have to. To pity somebody is far worse than to be angry at them, in my opinion. Their actions shout of a pathetic desperation for acceptance or acknowledgement.
Let Them Go
The whole idea of photographing the catch on a measuring board and subsequently releasing it will appeal to the majority of participants, me included. Don’t get me wrong, I have stated before that I am not in favour of total catch and release rules applied right across the board. I think that if rational, selective culling of a limited amount of your catch for table or for bait is practiced then there should be no issue with the odd fish being taken. Take note – rational and selective should be the keywords here though. Stop fishing for mackerel when you have enough bait for the day, don’t be greedy and fill up a bin liner to let most of them spoil at a later date. Why kill a box full of pollack when you are only going to eat one? Never mind the neighbours, if they want one badly enough they can go and catch or buy one. I eat fish and occasionally I like to take a trout, bass or pollack home for tea. By eating what I catch I know there is no wastage and I am not contributing to the shambles that is discards by buying commercially sourced fish to eat. That said, I cannot abide by the killing of every fish that is caught in some competitions when far more sustainable methods can be employed. It is what turned me off the idea of ‘weigh in’ competition fishing a long time ago.
The measuring device is simplicity itself. I made my own from a section of half-round guttering with an end cap at one end. I used a marine sealant to add a measuring tape to the bottom. It was that simple! The fish is placed onto the board with its nose touching the closed end and the measuring tape and be clearly seen wherever the fish’s tail ends. All that the competition rules require is that the whole fish is visible in your picture and the measuring tape can be clearly read. With the pricing and quality of today’s digital cameras this should be no problem to anybody that spends a bit of time on the water.
The competition has been accepting submissions from anglers and there are individual and team standings. Team standings will be compiled from combined individual points. European representation is relatively small but growing with four other Irish anglers participating. In the interests of fairness it has been decided that any European team will have a maximum of three members but technically up to five are allowed on a team. Some of the teams will no doubt specialise in freshwater, some in the salt and for the multitaskers amongst us, a crossover of both is also acceptable. I plan to target both aquatic environments so should anybody come across a kayak after tench on the royal canal this summer, all I am trying to do is amass points! Admittedly, I will have my work cut out for me. I won’t be able to really get going on the competition until June and already a few of the Dutch anglers are forging ahead in the European stakes. I really am looking forward to the international rivalry and banter though and I am even more hopeful that a couple of my planned kayak trips for the summer produce the good results that I anticipate.
Most of the other rules that are set out are common sense really. Although they do say that the thing about common sense is that it is not really that common! These include details such as; fish to be caught with rod and line only. Fish to be caught from a kayak only, no wading or bank fishing permitted. Kayaks that feature motorised propulsion will not be accepted into the competition – yes, they do exist and no, I don’t own one! Perhaps in the future and I definitely do see the benefits of having one but a student budget certainly does not allow for such luxuries. And besides, I couldn’t use it for the competition anyway! The rules are easy to follow and probably circum-navigable for the truly unscrupulous kayak anglers out there but I think I have already made my feelings clear on those that submit false claims, be they in the Kayakwars event, the Irish Specimen Fish List or even, heaven forbid, the Irish Record Fish List. If you can’t make an honest submission don’t make one at all.
Kayak fishing is still very much in its infancy in Ireland but the sport is starting to grow rapidly. Now into my fifth year of using the method, I have noticed that there seems to be a lot more interest in it over the last two years in this country and there is no doubt that it is growing rapidly worldwide. The fact that over thirty thousand kayak anglers from around the globe have opted to enter the Kayakwars competition bears testament to this. Backing up this fact is the number and quality of sponsors that the event has attracted. Some of the prizes are very enticing indeed, certainly one of the best being the chance to represent Team Hobie (a kayak manufacturer) at the World Kayak Fishing Championships in Australia. A fine prize indeed!
So how do I think I’ll get on? When the exams are finished and I can finally get onto the water with the intent of some purposeful expeditions, who knows? I have some plans for some trips that I outlined last month and some of them involved a kayak. Others didn’t but it would be handy enough to incorporate and kayak and measuring board into them. I honestly think that if I manage to replicate some of the catches that I made last year then I have a decent chance of doing well on the European leader board but I guess time alone will tell. Granted, my window for fishing is a lot smaller than a lot of the other anglers that are taking part (summer and autumn) but judging by the leader boards that are being updated daily; the vast majority of entrants are taking things slowly. One thing that is doubly sure, I look forward to the opportunity to get out fishing for the summer and if I can win a prize along the way then where is the harm in that?
If anybody has any comments or queries the please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org