In addition to freedom and independence, kayaks offer an opportunity to discover. I like to discover rarely fished places. I constantly test my limits and abilities. But I really get excited when I discover fishing gear.

My grandfather and a friend paddled rivers in almost every state. The lifelong friends established a “finders-keepers” rule. Grandpa was always positioned at the back of their tandem vessel, so his take of bobbers, sinkers and lures was usually a smaller pile. He loved telling the story of the day he beat his companion to a prize on the shoreline by yelling, “I see a pair of long-nosed pliers and they are mine!”

The treasure has a story to tell

Unfortunately, during many of my kayak fishing trips, I fill a small bag with litter such as pop bottles and cans, especially around heavily trafficked launch areas. But other items, such as bobbers, are fun to collect, and often there is a bonus of line and split shot weight still attached. These treasures go into the “reuse someday” bucket in my garage. Finding a lost lure is a eureka moment.

When I find a lure someone lost, I look at it like an artifact from a past fishing expedition. The treasure has a story to tell. Like a crime scene investigator, I closely examine the evidence for clues. From the rust on the hooks, I can establish an approximate timeline. The lure’s final resting place often reveals the perpetrator’s intentions. If you dig deeper, you may be able to uncover the previous owner’s history.

By mentally reconstructing the fishing scene, I can deduce the angle the cast was fired. This offers clues to the fisherman’s state of mind. The cast was from a larger boat, possibly fiberglass, or maybe just newly purchased because the owner was unwilling to risk scratches from these shallow rocks.

The log he snagged is sticking out of the water; I assume he was targeting potential fish structure rather than making a random fan cast. The monofilament line broke above the meticulously tied improved clinch knot so he had forgotten to check for weak spots in the line.

I notice exposed structure in deeper water and deduce the angler was growing reckless. He was desperate to cast into the heart of the deadfall. The lure is the color of a newly-molted crayfish leaving little doubt the angler was targeting smallmouth bass.

When the water drops below the boat ramp, kayaks can get to the best hunting grounds

Part of finding lures is knowing where to look and what to look for. Start by checking all sides of an obvious casting target. Pay attention to potential snags within casting range from shore. Bright lures are easy to spot. It takes a seasoned seeker to recognize the algae-covered remains of a frog pattern jitterbug clinging to the base of a cattail clump. The presence of an abandoned floating bobber indicates possible amateurs were fishing in the area. Other snags in the area are worth close examination.

Take advantage of water level fluctuations. When the water drops below the boat ramp, kayaks can get to the best hunting grounds. Low water will expose treasures hidden in the deep. In addition to lures, I’ve scavenged lost anchors and fishing rods. A buddy found the watery grave of an expensive drone.

Don’t forget to look up. Lures grow on trees. In early spring, fancy fishing flies infest tree limbs hanging over stocked trout streams. In early summer, bright bobbers grow like berries on willow trees lining the banks of small urban lakes. In fall, leaves will drop revealing even more bounty to be harvested. By Christmas, steelhead anglers leave gifts of small spoons hanging in hemlock trees.

Even if I can’t find cooperative fish, discovering a lost lure can take the sting out of getting skunked. And who knows, after I replace the hooks, maybe I’ll leave it for another angler to discover.

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