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Sunday, March 22, 2015

To Simplify, or Not to Simplify? A Yak Question.

I've been kayaking sporadically since I earned my first beads for a wet exit at Kamp Kanakuk in 7th grade. But, in January, we snagged a good deal on a 2014 Wilderness Ride 135, and that's when things got serious.

Me in my Ride 135

Tony drove all the way to Lafayette, Louisiana to pick up my baby and to add a Tarpon 140 to our fleet. I don't call them our "babies" lightly. When you've got four yaks carefully stowed in your garage and two vehicles parked in the driveway exposed to the elements, it's a huge statement about your priorities. Judge us if you want.
The new babies from Louisiana

The amazing thing about kayaks is that they provide a sort of simplicity to the angling sport. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
1) Boats are freaking expensive!
The cost of maintaining a boat is out of the question for most people. I believe that we'd have to take out a second mortgage on the house to pay for said boat. We'd spend all of our extra cash paying for gas just to take the boat out. Then you've got to worry about insurance and maintenance on top of that. My dad (a boat owner) often reminds me that there are two most exciting days for a boat owner: the day you buy your boat and the day you get rid of it. At this point, we've had zero finance fees, zero fuel costs, and zero maintenance issues with any of our four yaks.
2) Kayaks are extremely portable.
Unlike boats, no special trailers are necessary when you are ready to drop everything and get out on the water. I've even witnessed my 100 lb. friend whip out her tandem yak and scoot it right on top of her Pontiac Grand Am, and strap it to her roof with ease. We were loaded up and on the water within minutes.

Easily loaded and ready to go

3) Yaks provide an added health benefit.
I can tell you from experience that with proper paddling techniques, you will get a full body workout from a day on the yak. It's not just an upper body thing. Your core is constantly working to keep you balanced and aiding in a stronger and more efficient paddle while your legs are helping to brace your position and boost your speed. I don't remember having a single sore muscle on the days I was out on the boat.
4) Yaks are Eco-friendly.
That's right. No environmentally-damaging emissions given off from these babies. No worries about fuel spills in our bays that will harm the aquatic life.
5) Yaks provide the ability to navigate areas that you can't get to by boat or foot.
Man, oh man- have we been able to creep into some confined spaces with these babies. I've seen some things in an up-close and personal way that I never would have been able to experience from a boat simply because boats are much bigger.

Can your boat go here?
or here?
what about here?


All that being said--- there are plenty of yak options that will enable you to bring out your inner-techie.
1) Maybe you don't want a full-body workout or have physical limitations.
Some people choose to get a yak with system that allows them to propel the craft by foot.  Others even add-on a trolling motor.
In a world where we are always "plugged-in", it's quite a change to get out on a yak with no electronics. If that bothers you, most yaks are built with that in mind. You can easily have a fish finder  installed or purchase mounting systems  for your action camera and smart phone.
Tony- battling a red fish and his go-pro

3) Gear Storage
Holy options, Batman! I can't even begin to list the numerous choices you've got for storing your gear on a yak. Rod holders, and Black Paks , and Trax systems - Oh My! We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. I'll be the first to admit that juggling a paddle and a rod at the same time would even frustrate Ghandi.

4) Seats
After a day on the water, it's normal to get what I call "bleacher butt". This is a condition categorized by numbness and discomfort even in the most naturally padded hind-ends. This is one of the many reasons we are loyal to Wilderness Systems. They've got the best yak seats on the market. Most of their yaks come standard with a low riding seat that will easily slide forward or backward for proper positioning. You can adjust the straps for better back support which aides in the paddling process. Or--- you can upgrade to their high-seat if you want to get a better view for sight-casting. If that's not enough for you, their new ATAK yak  has what I call the "Autobot" seat option. It's actually called the AirPro Max 3D seat. This bad boy can do everything. In true Transformer- fashion, this sucker can fold all the way down when not in use, it can slide forward or backward across the length of almost the entire deck, it can lift and lower, or it can be adjusted into a standing perch for sight-casting and bleacher-butt avoidance. (Yes, please!)
air pro max.jpg
airpro 3d.jpg

5) Colors
In the kayaking world, it's always an added safety benefit to have a yak that is bright in color, so you become more visible to boaters on the water. Although, many hunters opt for something more neutral in order to camouflage the yak from their prey. If you're looking for a good deal, you take whatever color you can get then pimp out the yak with colored Trax systems, bungee , or ConSeal Kits.

It all boils down to the person in the yak. While the simplicity of yak fishing is certainly alluring, there are many add-ons that offer convenience and ease.  Gear does matter. I started fishing with a Shakespeare rod and reel combo and it sort-of got the job done. After I upgraded to a Hook Spit  Hot Stix rod with an Okuma Trio spinning reel, I quickly realized that Shakespeare don't know shit about fishing. Yet--- Hamlet's centuries-old questioning still remains. To simplify or not to simplify?

That, my friends, is a balance you choose for yourself.

Monday, March 2, 2015

40th Annual Houston Fishing Show

Today marks the end of the 40th Annual Houston Fishing Show at George R. Brown Convention Center.  Tony and I were both able to attend; unfortunately, due to our schedules, we had to attend separately.  We also had different approaches:
Tony = work
Crystal = play


This was Tony’s view of the show, as he arrived the day before in order to help set-up the Hook Spit booth.   There wasn’t much booth shopping for him in his two days at the show.  As a matter of fact, he didn’t even get to see everything since he was busy assembling shelves and such.  This is how Tony is.  He would rather move an entire house full of furniture than sit still.  Because of this, most of his time off work (when he isn’t fishing) is spent helping somebody else.  Don’t worry- he managed to make it home with a few packages of lures from Michael Bosse at Down South Lures.
He was also able to grab the much-talked-about Line Cutterz Ring .  He won’t have to bite off the line with his teeth anymore, so I view that as a plus.  I, too, planned on getting a Line Cutterz Ring, but I will be waiting until they release the colored rings.  I believe they have talked about releasing the product in bright green, blaze orange, cobalt blue, steel gray, and pink.
IMG_9420.PNG  IMG_9419.PNG

I was jealous that he got to check out the show before it even opened, so I texted him from work and asked him to bring me something fancy.  That, he did!  Later that evening, I spent a good 10 minutes practicing my casting skills while lying in bed with my brand new Hook Spit  Hot Stix Rod.  I can’t wait to put this rod to work on the water.  Again, Tony didn’t walk away empty handed, as he was finally able to get Hook Spit's TNT rod that he has been eyeballing for over a year.

I finally was able to get to the show on Saturday afternoon with our friends Josh and Jenai.  Jenai is responsible for the amazingness that occurs at
My goal was to snag some lures and jigheads while checking out the new Wilderness Systems ATAK . No such luck on sneaking a peek at the ATAK.  I guess I will have to live vicariously through the short video clips and pictures on the Wilderness Kayak Fishing Facebook page.  I was also hoping to be able to get some Hook 1 accessories for my yak - specifically wanted to check out the Conseal Kits and bungee cording, but Hook 1 didn't have a booth at the show this year. No worries since I can order online.

Plugging away, MommaShark introduced me to Reel 'em In Lures, and I promptly grabbed four bags when I found out they were made in TEXAS! The owner and creator, Clint, of Reel 'em In Lures assured me that I couldn’t go wrong with anything remotely close to chartreuse.   

I made my way to Down South Lures to meet Michael and stock up on more lures (just in case Tony isn’t in the mood to share).  Michael was a super nice guy - he even returned the utility knife Tony had left in his booth earlier in the week, so it’s really good to know that there is no thievery going on over at Down South Lures.


On to the next stop- I had to meet Vance and the rest of the Line Cutterz crew.  Even though they didn’t have the colored rings yet, we couldn’t leave without doing the signature Line Cutterz pose.  They had some great decals that will look great on the yaks, marine-grade and everything!  We also learned that this little-line-cutting phenom has sparked more than a local interest.  Apparently, even people in Japan have heard about and are interested in getting this sucker in their hands. (I promised myself I would not insert a cliched Beyonce ring comment here- you’re welcome.) These guys were awesome, and I can’t wait to see how this product explodes (globally, not literally).


There were so many booths, I was overwhelmed; however, it was clear who was the star of the show.  The Hook Spit booth was so packed, you could barely reach for a shirt without bumping somebody else.  I was extra-appreciative that everyone there seemed to be wearing deodorant.  Here, I took advantage of the sale on hats and performance wear.  I even salivated over a few rods (sorry about that).  Wade, the owner of Hook Spit, even took the time to pose with us for cheesy pics and answered some of our questions about the Deep Sea Divas fishing tournament this summer.  I’m really glad they did so well at the show and can’t wait to visit their store in League City next week to get a new reel for my Hot Stix rod.


Who knows? Maybe you’ll see a Coastie Culture booth at the show in the next year or so.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What kayak fishing means to me...

In the past few months, I've decided to step up my game on the road to professional fishing.  It seems that fishing for a living has evolved with the rest of the world in regards to technology.  A seemingly simplistic sport no longer has nature at its core; rather, it has shifted into a "he who has the most toys wins" mentality.  Not only do I need top-of-the-line poles, reels, and tackle, but I also need to be social media savvy with knowledge of photo and video editing programs.  I need a computer that has a strong enough operating system to power all of said programs, and no longer will my trusty iPhone 4 suffice for snagging pics of my catches due to something about megapixels (or lack thereof).

I now have realized how invaluable my 20 year background in sales and marketing for the restaurant industry will prove to be.  In signing with a company as field staff or becoming selected by a sponsor, I'm certain to spend multiple hours a day seamlessly displaying a brand.

It seems a bit ironic that amid all of the roles and responsibilities manuals, Google Docs, and Instagram filters, I've finally been asked by a company, "What does kayak fishing mean to you?"
Now--- I'm a self-starter, and I have no problem acquiring endless amounts of high-tech gadgets.  I have zero issue implementing my experience in marketing into the fishing field.  I don't mind sitting hours at a computer learning all these new programs.  But... I am just now realizing how far off track these goals had taken me from the heart of my passion.  I am humbled to so quickly (and with just one simple question) be reminded of why I do what I do.  A seemingly simplistic question for a seemingly simplistic sport that puts everything back into perspective: what does kayak fishing mean to me?

It means balance.

That is all it means, yet balance means everything--- such an all-encompassing idea that requires careful and extensive juxtapositions.

There are genres of classic literature that rely almost solely upon the restorative powers of nature. Books flying off shelves for all eternity and studied in classrooms around the world simply because mankind desires a balance with nature.  This concept is not one that I need a professor or Spark Notes to explain to me.  Every fishing excursion provides an escape from the chaos of every day life, a few hours to forget about the 21st century's never ending to-do list.  It is that fishing is an ideal classroom in which I can teach my kids about life: conservation and curiosity, patience and persistence.  Just as it is in life, in fishing, you must learn when to keep the line tight and when to adjust the drag, when to battle a beast and when to let him tire himself out.  Each new species reeled in is a reminder of the endless possibilities of exploration and discovery.   This sport rewards risk-taking and demands safety.  It fosters a balance between the thrill of the hunt and a respect for nature.  Kayak fishing breeds spontaneity and requires thoughtful planning at the same time.  It teaches that skill and luck are both pivotal.  The challenge is symbolic that what comes easy is not always what's best--- the constant pursuit, a reminder that things handed to you are never as cherished as those for which you have tirelessly worked to gain.  There will be days you win big countered with days you get skunked--- and either way, you are left wanting more.  Regardless of  trophies won from competitions and tournaments, the intrinsic rewards outweigh the tangible. Because of kayak fishing, my kids will know that the best dinner doesn't always come from a fancy restaurant or aisle 7 in the grocery store.  Instead, the most fulfilling meal is the one you scooped out of the water and prepared together as a team.

It is said that mastery in any area can never truly be attained; rather, you will spend your whole life bettering yourself to reach the highest level of skill and knowledge through practice.  While this is certainly the case for fishing, it holds true for self-discovery as well.  I know no other sport that offers this "Great Perhaps"; I know no other sport that is so richly ingrained in balance.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My first yak fish!!!!!!

It's not the biggest not the baddest, but after a struggling long winter, I finally reeled in a fish... 

Left the house around 7:30 am on Monday, March 25th. It was cloudy and the wind was Karate Kid part 4 early on. We headed to Seabrook Flats and looked around then drove to the Pine Gully Pier and I showed it to my buddy, Cody, who had never seen or heard of it. We chatted it up and moved around, decided to launch near the Kemah bridge and launched next to Outriggers. At this point the wind had died down, and we were off. We went left at the bridge and were fishing next to the Kemah Boardwalk. I decided to resort to some old habits and was using dead shrimp on one setup and throwing a Paul Brown Pink corky with the other.  I posted up in one spot for a good 30 -45 minutes while Cody was mobbing all around.  I sure miss shrimp! Majority of the time- I always feel bites, crabs, something with shrimp . After about 15 minutes, I got a hard hit and was pumped.  Nothing was there.  Grrrrrr.  Few minutes later - FISH ON!  I yelled to Cody, but he could not hear me.    After about 45 seconds, I had my first kayak fish.  A WHOPPING (wait for it.......) piggy perch!!!  And, to top it off, it was foul hooked in the stomach!!!! Oh well. Skunk over regardless.  We headed back toward Clear Lake. Cody was consistent in wanting to fish some marsh, so we decided to change location. We paddled back to Outriggers, tied up to the dock and ran in for some lunch.  Good food and enjoyed my first trip to a restaurant via kayak.  When we were done, we headed to Galveston and fished some marsh off 45. ( Exit 7 ish) Once again, on shrimp, I caught a black drum!!! 16" of fish, and I was pumped!! About thirty minutes later, I managed to pull up a feisty blue crab. The wind started to pick up, and we called it a day after a couple of hours. I'll continue to throw lures and hope for a more fish-filled blog in the very near future. Had a blast !!!!



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wintertime blues

           To some, the winter fishing brings out a chance to catch a monster, wall-mount trout, to others a shivering day with nothing to catch but a cheeseburger on the way home.
            I myself have not done well at all fishing in the crisp air of winter, but it's definitely growing on me.  When dressed with just the right amount of layers to protect you from being too cold, it can feel great out on the water. The water, gin-clear, air so crisp, on a calm day with no wind and no one around... it almost has the feel of a remote chilly paradise. Watching a pelican glide effortlessly, for miles just one inch above the water, from the kayak I paddle along into the quietness listening for clues of nearby fish. Waiting for a mullet to jump,  to show some signs of life underneath the clear water. Birds diving into the water off in a distance, liar birds just bombing the water looking for life as I am,  or are they giving clues as to bait in the area with bigger fish possibly lurking near by causing the chain event from the depth underneath? 
             Most bait is gone, no more plankton, shrimp are scarce, mullet few and far between. The winter hunter knows patience and will find them. Presentation is extremely important during this cold time.  Fish move more slowly during the winter, so your lure must move to the pace of their liking . Water is much clearer, so (in my opinion) you need a natural looking bait as the fish can more easily sense that something is off with your multi-colored, laser-shooting lure. Keep it simple, natural, and work it slow. Some, on a real bad day, will use dead shrimp as the drum both red and black will have a bite if they cross paths with it . Trout like deeper pockets with mud bottoms near shell and typically won't go for cut bait. They prefer them alive or a good lure will fool them into a strike.  Flounder can still be caught often in the winter as well.They rest on the sandy bottoms and love mullet, live or dead. Working these baits slowly by a hidden flounder in the sand can cause for a tricky strike in which one has to know when to set the hook to capture a delicious flounder.  I'm pretty much referring to the bays, and marshes . Winter fishing on the surf can be fun and rewarding too. Ever caught a Jack Crevalle? No, me neither . But many have, and they are as tough as nails and will fight the whole entire time they are hooked on your line. Thrashing and pulling, working the waters forcing you to be on your A- game and have appropriate tackle. Bull reds and monster black drum will cruise the winter surf looking for bait and if they come across yours, buckle up and hold on. Strength and a large size make these beauties a super fun catch . I recently asked fellow TKF's ( Texas Kayak Fisherman) what they thought of when it comes to winter fishing. Theses are a few of their replies .

Kosmo10 " I think of our skunk streak,and how I kept it alive this morning  in Kemah lol. But I didn't get a ticket time do the glass is half full!" 

He is one of my fishing buddies, and he was referring to the not too good luck we've had this winter.

Yakrazy  " First thing I think of is gin clear water......beautiful, but an annoying sight"

Slayer21  " Corkies and big trout! My favorite time to fish!"

 Lurejunkee   " Nice long cold wades, scanning the water looking and listening" 

Some don't even fish during the cold months; for others, it's prime time. For me, as I'm still new to kayaking and winter fishing, it is a pleasurable challenge. Even when I'm not reeling them in, I always enjoy casting the coast anytime of the year!

Those of you following my blog, I appreciate it and you will learn my journey one splash at a time! 

Shout out to my Kayak Wars team !!!
Cody, Justin, Raul, and James! 
See ya soon
I'll be going Monday, and I plan on fishing till I catch my first fish on a kayak !

Winter blues ......


Thursday, February 6, 2014

An Open Letter to the "Fishing Widows" from a Coastie Wife

I’m just going to say it--- if I see one more picture of a skinny, bikini-clad blonde holding up a bull red and smiling on a fancy fishing boat, I am going to puke.  That is NOT what most fishermen’s wives look like.  These cute little blondes have a rich daddy who was nice enough to send his little princess to Cancun for Spring Break, and she just so happened to try to go out on a fishing excursion to show the boys how cool she was, and she accidentally caught some big ol’ Mahi-Tuna-Swordfish crossbreed (which I’m sure she did not know the name of until she was told --- 4 times).  This is the story in my head, and I’m sticking to it.
It more than upsets me to see these pictures for a few reasons:
1)      Hell yes, I am jealous that she looks so damn good in that cut off tank top that I could NEVER pull off.
2)      Hell yes, I am jealous that she is on a fancy boat off the coast of Cancun without a care in the world, and her daddy paid for it.
3)      Hell yes, I am jealous that she caught a Mahi-Tuna-Swordfish crossbreed.
4)      But mostly---- these photos make the bile rise in my throat because REAL Fishermen’s wives do far more than giggle while looking cute in a paradise photo op.
Let me paint a real picture for you--- the real wife of an angler rarely shows up in photos because she is either at home with the kids, or she is the one taking the photo.  However, IF a fisherman’s wife did show up in a photo--- here is what you would see.  You would see her making sure that each kid had his/her line in the water before she even baits her own hook.  You’d see her rubbing 70 SPF sunscreen on her husband because GOD FORBID he have the instrinsic motivation to prevent his own skin cancer.  You’d see her running in the background toward her son’s catch because she knows it’s a hard-head from 20 feet away, and she doesn’t want him to get barbed.  You might see a picture of her cutting the bait into smaller pieces to make it last longer for her daughter.  You most definitely would see a picture of her trying to get fish guts out of her hair.  And if she is really lucky, you might catch her in a moment of relaxation trying to wipe dead-shrimp juice off the top of the can of beer (because somebody got the bait & beer coolers mixed up) while she sits down to catch her breath for two seconds.
Of course there will be a few occasions which she actually catches her own little whiting or black drum, and her hubby will be proud enough to drop his own line long enough to take a picture.  In that photo, she damn sure won’t be wearing a freaking string bikini with cut-offs and a face full of make-up (WHO are these girls?).   Instead--- she will probably have on the same grungy, baggy pants she has on in the last photo because those are her comfy, fish-gut-wiping pants, and they have enough room in the pockets to hold pliers, rags, and a flask. A real fishing wife will be wearing one of her husband’s XL Coastie Culture (or other fishing related brand) shirt.  She won’t have any make-up on because she knows that if her sunscreen runs into her eyes, it will sting and her mascara will run.  She will also be wearing a hat in order to avoid her hair getting entangled with fish guts or getting blown in her freaking eyes every freaking 5 freaking seconds.
             Ladies and Gentlemen--- THIS is what a real fishing wife FREAKING looks like.

                                At a Super Bowl party last week, my husband and I were blessed to meet Richard.  Richard is the first person I’ve met in a while who appreciates what we ladies sometimes deal with.  After introductions were made and my husband swayed the conversation over to fishing, I thought I was only secretly rolling my eyes and sighing at an all too familiar scene.  Apparently, Richard caught on.  He leaned over, and through a smile, he asked, “Are you a fishing widow?”  With one small question, he had validated every bit of what I have felt since I figuratively lost my husband to the ocean 3 years ago. 
                If he isn’t at the pier, in a kayak, or surfcasting--- then he is at Fishing Tackle Unlimited or his eyes are glued to TKF forum.  We have even sacrificed date nights due to off shore fishing trips or to meet up with fishing buddies.
 I know you other fishing widows are feeling what I’m saying right now.  I know you are putting your hand in the air and screaming out, “Preach it, Sister!” But, before you start letting that bitter streak show--- let me share with you something with which I am coming to terms---- While the ocean is pretty big competition, it ain’t a skinny, bikini-clad blonde.  Fishing is where my husband goes to refill his soul just like I do when my nose is buried in a book (or a glass of wine).  Through the years, I have seen too many of my friends lose their love to gambling, bar-hopping, cheating, or just plain indifference.  I have to tell you, sisters, I don’t see fishing being the root of any of that.  I see my husband passionate about learning, I see him reading, I see him making memories with our kids, I see him trying to spark the same zeal within me, I see him bringing home dinner like a BOSS!
I’m not so sure I’m a widow.  This isn’t a man who is indifferent or dead to his wife.  Quite conversely, it’s a man who is most definitely alive.  Can’t complain about that.
This blog’s shout out goes to all of the fishing wives I see in the background of those photos!  Go give your fisherman a big fat kiss on the mouth, and tell him thanks for choosing fishing as a habit instead of all of the other things he could have been addicted to.  Remind yourself that he has to go to sleep sometime, so unless there is a tournament going on at the pier, he will be home in time to lay his head on the pillow next to yours.  On the days when you feel like you have slipped too far into the background, I hope you find it in your heart to step into the sunlight, stand next to your man, represent the rest of us in your fish-gut covered jeans, and cast that line out into the ocean. 

(Side Note to the Anglers--- please go hug, kiss, and thank your significant others.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kayak Wars

Kayak Wars was created by Eric Ozolins in 2006 as a friendly kayak fishing tournament between two Texas teams for bragging rights... the upper coast and lower coast. Since then it has grown to be one of the largest, year-long kayak fishing tournaments in the world. An event completely free of charge to enter and enjoy. Kayak Wars delivers a unique point system for over 100 species of prized fish in the United States.  


             I came across Kayak Wars on TKF, and I wanted to partake instantly . Even though I'm new to kayaking, I recruited a team and look forward to a year of great fishing and stories to share with you. Now, let's meet the team!
    First angler up, Justin Kostelnik.  Paddling a brand new 2014 MEAN GREEN WILDERNESS RIDE 115x --with all the fixings. Justin is new to kayaking and fishing, but he is ready to rip some lips. Educated Aggie, served our country in the Army, and has three beautiful daughters. A big thanks to his wife, Krista, for letting him fish! 
Krista, Victoria, Katya, Giana, Justin

Next up in the bay is Captain Cool, Raul Sarmiento. Enrolled at UHCL studying Environmental Science in Biology. At only 23 years of age, he has been fishing Galveston bay and the Clear Lake area for several years. When he is not using a fish grip, you might find him jamming the guitar (which he does quite well).
Captain Cool

 Chillin in the no wake zone is Cody Ryden! Received his education from Sam Houston and is currently a manager for Mattress Firm Warehouse. Cody is a die hard fisherman and duck hunter. Whether it's from a kayak , power boat, surf, or pier, he is always eager to reel in the big boys !!
  Hobie Outback cruising, bull red hunting, James Jurica is on the scene next. He loves catching sharks and reds and more sharks and reds. James has a 16 month -old baby boy and is happily married. When not with family or fishing, he is working with low, med, & high voltage electrical equipment. This summer he wants to catch some king fish from the yak!

Last up, ME! I love my wife, kids, and life on the water!!
Me, Crystal, Rachel
Tyler, Jez

Team Coastie Culture 

Wish us luck!

Thanks Eric Ozolins for keeping Kayak Wars Crazy fun!