Sailfish Skies Inches from Kayak
Quick-thinking South African angler Jasper Pons uses his hat to land the wild fish
By Paul Lebowitz
South African kayak angler Jasper Pons experienced a unique view of a sailfish recently: nearly straight up, right at the belly of the big fish, close enough to count the scales.
Pons, 44, was fishing with a friend offshore of Westbrook, about 20 kilometers north of Durban. He was out for a snoek (queen mackerel) for the freezer, but the day had an angling dream in store: a double hook-up on sailfish, the second slurping a live 'mozzie' right at the side of Pons' Stealth fishing ski.
The two sails headed in opposite directions. The unattended line tangled in Pons' rudder. He handed the second rod to his friend and went back to work on the first. He must have pulled hard. Before long the fish was next to his kayak.
Video of Pons’ sky-high sailfish. Skip forward to the 2:30 mark to go straight to the crazy.
Taking his hat from his head, Pons reached out to grab the sailfish spike, but the fish was still hot. It thrashed its bill wildly inches from Pons' Stealth fishing ski. Pons pulled his dangling left foot onboard and safely out of the way. That's when the sail took its prodigious leap high into the air.
A short time later, Pons had the fish back at the ski. This time, his hat, a Christmas gift from mom, came in handy. He wrapped it around the rough bill, popped the hooks, then hoisted the fish onto his lap for a victory photo. Within moments, he had the fish back in the water. Still full of life, it swam vigorously away.
"I don't actually target sailfish because I know I can never bring myself to take one home for the pot," Pons says. He tangled with his first in 2010, during a tournament in Mozambique.
"My old Penn reel was screaming in agony. It was a clever sailfish. Pulling hard into the wind, I would battle my kayak round until I was facing upwind, and it would suddenly scream off downwind," Pons remembers. Lacking a camera and far away from the other competitors, he broke off a tiny piece of that first sail's bill as proof of the encounter, and then released it.
Since that first spike, Pons has upgraded his tackle. These days he uses a Shimano Talavera matched to a Shimano TLD 20/40 with upgraded drags. He baited these sails on 60-pound Maxima UltraGreen leader.
"We have been having trouble getting our tuna past the sharks quick enough. Sailfish are not fussy eaters. They will take just about anything. I wish my kids would take some eating lessons from them," Pons says.
Pons first paddled out to fish in 2002, on a "wobbly, leaky double racing kayak surfski." It was an eye opener, the first of many. "I didn't really understand the need for a drag never having caught a fish big enough to take any line. Pretty soon my rod was nearly ripped out my lap by a fish fighting like crazy," he says.
A computer programmer by trade, Pons captures many of his kayak fishing experiences on video.