Denis Peirce: New adventures — Kayak fishing at mouth of Albion River
Special to The Union
IF YOU GO
Albion River Campground and Marina is located immediately above the Hwy 1 bridge over the river. It is located on a large flat area that once had a lumber mill. There are water and power at the sites as well as clean bathrooms with showers. There are two docks in the river. One for commercial fishing boats and the other for recreational boaters. There is a sheltered sand beach for swimming. Rental canoes are available for paddling up the Albion River.
The campground will be closed in 2016. The Hwy. 1 Albion Bridge is going to be replaced next year. I did not realize that there were still wooden bridges in the California highway system. The current Albion Bridge is wood and it is an interesting structure to see before it goes. The state has purchased the campground as a construction site and when the project is completed the state will be doing something recreational with the location. This year is the end of an era. I am glad I had the opportunity to go. I recommend you go while you have the chance.
During the dog days of summer, there are two main options to beat the heat. The most common one for Foothills residents is to go up the hill to the Sierra.
The second is to head for the coast, a bit longer of a journey but worth the effort once you get there.
This past weekend, I went to a kayak fishing derby held at the mouth of the Albion River, a half hour south of Fort Bragg.
I had not delved into kayak fishing before but I was aware that it was a growing segment of sport fishing.
The derby was an event of the Nor Cal Kayak Anglers that drew close to 150 anglers.
They booked the entire Albion River Campground for the weekend and in effect created a fishing village with a very congenial atmosphere.
I arrived Saturday afternoon at the weigh in and enjoyed the evening festivities and camped for the evening.
I had been offered a place to camp and the use of a spare kayak by Adam Koons, a member of the group.
Sunday morning, I joined a group of a dozen anglers heading out on kayaks to fish. The Albion River Campground is situated on the bank of the Albion River. You can launch large boats as well as kayaks into the river and head downstream to the cove and then out on to the Pacific Ocean.
The river flows with the tide and at this time of year it is saltwater for at least a mile above the mouth.
Sunday morning, the tide was coming in with a strong upstream current carrying bits of kelp. Kayaks travel so well through the water that going against the current was easy.
I was not sure what to expect once we left the shelter of the cove and rounded the headlands on to the open ocean.
The campfire talk the previous evening included comments on the strength of the wind and the height of the waves that afternoon.
These kayak anglers will go as far as four miles out if that is where the bite is. They carry radios to comment on the fishing and to listen to boat anglers banter about their success or lack thereof.
There is a rivalry between boaters and the kayak anglers. Some of the boat commentary concerned how many points were to be scored by running over a kayak, with the conclusion that that there were more points to be had running over a camouflage model because they were harder to see. It was all just good-natured talk.
Early in the day, the wind and waves were calm. There was a low overcast typical of summer on the California coast.
What surprised me was the current sweeping us south down the coast. I had to continuously paddle to maintain position.
The fishing was centered on underwater structure. If you have driven the coast on Highway 1, you have seen the rock formations with the surf surging around them.
There are many of these that are totally submerged rising out of the sea floor. Kayak anglers have fish finders to locate these rock formations and fish vertically around them with heavy 4-ounce jigs.
Typical of the area north of Albion Cove are water depths of 100 feet with pinnacles reaching up to 40 feet below the surface a mile off shore.
These hold the ling cod and other “rock fish” that were the main catch on Sunday.
The other option is to target fish suspended in the upper water column. Here you can find “blues” and “blacks” which are very similar in scale to good-sized freshwater bass.
The other possibility is salmon. There was only one caught during the derby.
I was set up to troll with flies and I fished the top 60 feet. With a banana sinker and a streamer fly setup, I fished 10 feet down when paddling at a moderate pace. If I drifted to a stop, my line went almost vertical. I hooked 6 and landed 5, which satisfied me.
I had wondered about the fishing pressure from the tournament making it tough on Sunday.
Many of the anglers had arrived Wednesday and this was their fourth day fishing.
Despite the number of angler days immediately prior, the catching was good. Adam Koons, and the other experienced kayak anglers fishing structure, caught a dozen or more for their day on the water.
On my way back in, I spent some time in Albion Cove. I was looking to see what the possibilities might be for taking my boat there into the future.
The cove has rock formations, kelp beds as well as sand bottom areas that look promising. Boating on the north Pacific is a weather dependent proposition.
The cove is somewhat sheltered from the heavy swells but would provide quick shelter if I was fishing just beyond the headlands.
For anyone interested, I recommend giving kayak fishing a try.
I would not go out on the Pacific without being in a group. There are lots of things that can go wrong out there.
Fresh water is the place to start. There are rental kayaks at Scott’s Flat that will give you an taste of the possibilities.
Thank you to Adam Koons and the others who I joined for a great day of fishing.
The website for more information is: http://www.albionrivercampground.com.
Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 p.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com.
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