This adventure started back in 2015 sitting at a campfire, relaxing after a long day of kayak fishing in the Oregon Rockfish Classic, a kayak fishing tournament hosted in Depoe Bay. All of which could have been squashed from the get go had my wife fully understood what was about to happen when John casually mentioned he had been thinking about fishing from a jet ski.
Several weeks had passed since the evening at the campfire reminiscing on previous fishing trips, plotting future trips, discussing techniques, and of course enjoying some well earned post tournament beer...more on that later. During those weeks it would seem every time I sat at a computer, I would find myself back in the same place - looking at pictures of Jet Ski's rigged for fishing. Until one day sitting in the lunch room at work talking about fishing, I confessed I had been day dreaming about fishing from a Jet Ski. My co-worker and tuna fishing partner agreed that would be fun, and that there was a group of guys in Oregon that even go out after tuna, 30-40 miles offshore to fish from their personal watercraft (PWC).
This information quickly changed my google search from pictures of PWC's rigged for fishing, to what would be the best jet ski for fishing, and I started to run comparisons of the three major manufactures - Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Sea-Doo. Ultimately I decided on the Kawasaki Ultra LX, and started to look for dealerships that had one in stock. Once I located one I arranged a test ride, and gave my wife fair warning that once I ride this thing, odds of me not getting one would be next to zero.
It was now time to put the heat on John. I sent him a text the morning of the test ride to just casually let him know what I was up to...a 2 hour drive, 1 hour test ride, and another hour negotiating at the dealership later, he got the update text that I had a Jet Ski following my truck home. John didn't waste anytime, and got out to test ride each of the manufacturers big, normally aspirated PWCs, before driving home with a Yamaha FXHO Waverunner.
Now we were both sitting there with new PWC's, somewhat of an empty canvas of fishing modifications. For both of us, the minimalist approach was simple at first from our time kayak fishing. And we each found ourselves stripping parts from the kayaks within in the 1st week getting the jet ski's rigged to fish from. For me, I just removed the fishfinder and portable battery from the kayak, rigged them to a milk crate that was strapped down to the tow hooks of the jet ski, and tied my catch bag to the mirror of the ski. For pole holders, I just zip tied PVC tube to the milk crate, and just like that, I had a fishing machine!
...also a Neptune Donation apparatus, as the milk crate and pvc tube that worked so well on the kayak at 4mph, didn't do so well at 45+ for some reason. A box of salmon lures, fish trough, cutting board, and net later. I decided I should pony up and copy John's design of the cooler with real rod holders bolted to it. This proved to be a very solid solution to gear and catch storage all built into one, a configuration that we would finish up the remainder of the 2015 season with. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
If you recall, I was going to go into more detail on the comment of tournament beer...Any competition is deserving of an award, and any group of people that fish together on a regular basis, will eventually turn that into a competition...so naturally, a 1st fish from a Jet Ski bet didn't take long. Winner gets a 6 pack of their choice. So with my Neptune Donation Apparatus strapped down securely (So i thought),
I was off to fish the famous buoy 10 fall salmon fishery, while John was busy carefully assembling his cooler and rod holders to his Waverunner.
My haste to get fishing from the jet ski paid off, and I soon found myself on the other end of the line from a nice 30lb fall chinook right infront of two fully packed guide boats. There was certainly a lot riding on this fish...not only did I have an ice cold 6 pack of amber ale on the line here, but i had the full attention of a dozen people that were even more perplexed than me that someone could actually catch a salmon from a jet ski. A coupe nerve racking runs later, an acrobatic arm stretch with the net (also a reminder to cut my leader a bit shorter next time), I found myself holding a bright fall Chinook in the net in front of a cheering crowd.
Still drifting with the current, staying even with the guide boats, I quickly gilled the fish and pulled it out over my head for the on lookers to have a good view. One of the guides shouted out to me "Now what are you going to do?" Hrm, good question, I looked at the fish, looked to my catch bag, back to the fish...and yelled back, "I don't know, but i guess that's a good problem to have."
We exchanged thumbs up, and I proceeded to do my best to fit this fish into the catch bag, that was obviously going to be too small.
After the report of the catch, John quickly got his Waverunner set-up to fish, and we started to fish buoy 10 and the ocean off the Columbia regularly in search of salmon. With each trip we would analyze how the ski's performed, how the gear we modified to work on them did, and assess any changes we needed to make to improve reliability or functionality of the equipment for the purpose of fishing.
With these trips we ran several comparisons of fuel consumption to figure out best cruising speeds, and determine the comfortable range for fishing. Then the report came in that tuna were possibly off the mouth of the columbia within range of our PWCs. We geared up to fish that weekend for salmon, and coincidentally each took tuna gear...just in case. It didn't take long salmon fishing for John to fill his limit, and I still needed one more fish for mine. The salmon fishing was good enough, and we both had plenty of fuel left, we decided to point the ski's west in search of blue water.
We got about 25 miles off the tips of the Columbia river, fighting the rough washing machine conditions the Astoria canyon is infamous for when we stopped to discuss fuel usage. It was clear that we weren't going to find blue tuna water without extra fuel on board, so we dropped a few jigs just to say we tried, then headed back to find my last salmon at the mouth of the river. The run back proved to be more gentle than the run out, and we were fishing salmon within view of the jetties in no time.
It didn't take but maybe 10 minutes, and my salmon rod doubles over. I killed the ski, grabbed the rod from the holder and could tell i had a nice fish on. As it made it's first hard run, it pulled the tip of the rod hard around the handle of my net which was sitting upright in the holder on the cooler. I extended my arm and pointed the rod toward the fish to let it makes it's first run. It gave one hard pull, and just like that I was watching my salmon rod with brand new reel splash into the water and begin to be pulled away. Unfortunately, John also witnessed this, and there would be no living down yet another donation.
The 2015 fall season proved to be enough to completely hook us on jet ski fishing. We spent the next year refining our PWC's into completely customized fishing machines and hope you enjoy reading more about what we've done with them, and are able to do in the big pond off the Oregon Coast.