Owner and operator at Deep Blue Kayak Fishing, pro guide Eric McDonald has landed over 250 billfish for himself and clients. But it only took one sailfish to spear his kayak and nearly take him down. McDonald underestimated the energy and tenacity of a green marlin and learned a valuable lesson. You only get lucky once.
I was fishing with Mike Scianna, a long-time client who has been in search of his first sailfish lap dance for three years. Mike has hooked plenty of sailfish but never landed one.
Anglers are Shocked as Sailfish Spears Kayak
We set out from the beach for the reef where I baited Mike’s hook with a live goggle eye. After less than 15 minutes slow trolling, Mike’s drag started screaming. Then, we saw a sailfish tail walking.
Most fights with a sailfish last about 45 minutes. My longest was over two hours. Typically, after their amazing acrobatic performance, the fish take a long deep run. Eventually, they circle the kayak and I’m able to grab the bill, remove the hook and take a picture.
Mike had his sailfish dancing around his kayak only a few minutes after hookup. I assumed the fish was exhausted and moved in to grab it for a quick picture and release.
When I approached the sailfish, it made a little charge at me. I joked to Mike, “You’re on your own with this one.”
The fish made another short run before Mike worked it back to the kayak. Five minutes later, the fish was swimming five feet from my kayak. I told Mike to keep tension on the line so I could grab the fish.
Sailfish Reaches Ramming Speed
When I moved in, I swear the fish made eye contact with me before bursting forward and ramming its bill into my kayak. I heard a loud pop as the force of the blow almost knocked me over. I looked to see the fish swimming away with a broken bill.
“The sailfish just pierced a hole in my kayak!” I shouted at Mike. We didn’t have time to investigate, Mike was still fighting the fish.
“After we landed, I flipped my kayak over and found the sailfish bill jammed through the hull. If the sailfish bill didn’t stick, my kayak would’ve sunk in 150 feet of water.”
I did my best to coach Mike, but the pissed off sailfish tangled in his rudder, broke the line and swam away.
I continued the five-hour charter and didn’t notice any water in my kayak.
After we landed, I flipped my kayak over and found the sailfish bill jammed through the hull. If the sailfish bill didn’t stick, my kayak would’ve sunk in 150 feet of water.
Culprit Makes Repeat Appearance
My local paddle shop, Nautical Ventures, patched the hole—and the guys made a necklace out of the bill. The craziest thing: a few trips later, I caught a sailfish with a broken bill. I think it was the same fish.
This article was first published in Kayak Angler Issue 46. Subscribe to Kayak Angler and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos.
A few days after losing a sword fight, McDonald’s client caught this sail with a broken bill. | Feature photo: Eric McDonald