Board game: there's a minimalist trend in fishing. What's next? Swimming pool noodles?
When the first surfer paddled into the Pacific Ocean, I'm betting that within a few days some diehard, previously shorebound angler had strapped a rod to the barebones board to battle the beasts beyond the breakers.
Perhaps an extension of the kayak phenomenon, standup paddleboard (SUP) fishing is emerging in Florida following several years of popularity in Hawaii and the Pacific Coast.
A recent thread (http://outdoorsbest. zeroforum.com/zerothread?id=880657) on the Florida Sportsman Web site provides evidence of the growing interest in SUP fishing. Chesnee Cogswell paddled back to Cocoa Beach with a cobia--the day after a 100-pound tarpon dragged him two miles offshore.
"I was actually out looking for another tarpon when the manta rays came by," explained Chesnee, who took up paddleboard fishing six months ago. "I've been surfing since before I could walk, and I've been fishing since I was a little kid. I just put two and two together."
Cogswell's workplace is the perfect venue from which to practice the sport. Oceansports World (www.oceansports world.com) backs up to the Indian River Lagoon, with the Atlantic surf breaking out the front door. His boss, Roy Scafidi, actually made the board Cogswell fishes from.
"Generally, fishermen are looking for the biggest, most stable board they can find," Scafidi told me. "Chesnee uses an 11-foot, 6-inch board that I built for him. But if a real big guy comes in, we can custom-build a solid epoxy, made-in-the-USA board up to about 14 feet long and 34 inches wide for approximately $100 per foot."
Paddleboard fishermen need to understand there are safety limitations inherent in this sport.
"I don't go out if the break is more than waist-high," Cogswell said. "I time the sets and paddle out between them. And you have to be careful if you have an offshore wind. Your body acts like a sail, and before you realize it you've been blown a mile offshore. That's a long way to paddle back into the wind."
Cogswell begins a typical fishing trip with half a dozen mullet netted in the Indian River Lagoon behind the office. He bungees a 5-gallon bucket--not more than half full, of it raises the center of gravity--and a tackle caddy with rod holders to the back of the board.
Getting through the surf is the first challenge. The next comes with the hookup.
"I usually sit down to fight a fish, dangling my legs in the water for stability, especially if the fish is fighting in circles around the board. But if a tarpon heads straight offshore," Cogswell said, "you can stand up and almost surf behind it."
Choose Your Weapon
Your local kayak/surf shop might offer several paddleboard options to match local conditions. Here are three fishing platforms from companies that kayakers and suffers are already familiar with:
Constructed from rotomolded polyethylene--the same material and process utilized in sit-on-top kayaks--the 11-foot, 10-inch YOLO Yak is an SUP/kayak hybrid with the durability of a kayak. A recessed deck lowers the center of gravity to enhance stability--although with a 33-inch beam, stability shouldn't be a problem. Visit www.yoloboard.com.
The 12-foot-long, 30-inch-wide Native Watercraft Osceola also features a snag-free, recessed deck--ideal for keeping fly line in the boat. Also in the works: the hybrid Versa Board, featuring a high-back seat for kayak-style paddling. Visit www.nativewatercraft.com.
More of a traditional surfboard--a big board--the Hobie 12-foot ATR comes with eight pre-drilled insert points for attaching a bungee system to tie down egg crate tackle storage or fish bags. Visit www.hobie.com.
By Jerry McBride, Associate Editor