A Different High – Jack Dekort and Kayak Fishing
Jack Dekort is a longtime contributor to Swellnet - so long that his contributions even predate the Editor's tenure. Jack was an enthusiastic teenage surf photographer back then, and today he's well on his way to being a wizened old man of the sea.
A lot happened during those in-between years, some of it marked by Jack's social media trail. What once was a steady stream of backlit barrels and tight action shots, morphed into a picture book version of man-in-the-wild that would make Ernest Hemmingway proud.
Jack chatted to Gra Murdoch about what happens beyond - sometimes well beyond - the lineup.
Jack Dekort, 31, Kayak Fishing for three years
I got into kayak fishing as a way to fill the void. We go through some big flat spells up here on the Sunny Coast and I was getting bored out of my mind. I started following a group called the Noosa Yakkers on Facebook – they’re a bunch of older crew who are all fishing from kayaks. I followed them for about a year. They took me under their wing, and once I felt confident enough to get out there, I really started getting into it. I’ve been doing it for three years now.
We prefer to go out in groups for safety because, things can go south pretty quickly. I go out solo a bit, but we try to organise groups because we’ve had some incidents recently where guys have had sharks hit their kayak and had their boats sink. So we definitely take the safety aspect seriously. You have to be super mindful and tuned in with conditions and the forecast.
Fibreglass kayaks are the go, they’re so much better to get out through the surf. We generally use ‘Stealth Kayaks’ – they’re about three and a half grand. And then with sounders and all the gear, it definitely adds up quickly. From scratch, I reckon you might be looking at around five to six grand all up.
Obviously that’s not cheap, but after that outlay, there’s minimal overheads. It's not like you’re constantly forking out dollars on a boat. There's no fuel, and we can still get into some really good fish.
We have a few favourite spots that we’re all pretty tight-lipped about that. They’re about four kilometres offshore, some are closer in, but depending on the spots, you can rack up twenty-plus kilometres of paddling on some days.
I think I’ve got a pretty addictive personality as it is, and kayak fishing actually feels really similar to surfing in what I get from it: the anticipation of a good day; never knowing what's going to happen; the connection with the elements. It's a pretty similar reward for getting a good day of surf.
My best fish so far was a couple of months ago, a 30-kilo Spanish Mackeral. 159 centimetres. I fought it for about 45 minutes and it was pretty spent by the time I got it up. When I was landing it, I had the gaff in its head and I was sliding it into the hatch of my kayak. It all went off balance – it went shooting over the other side of the kayak and I went over with it with the gaff in its head, and the kayak tipped. So I was in the water holding onto this 30-kilo Spanish with a gaff through its head. None of my rods were tethered, so I lost two rods and a GoPro. I managed to upturn the kayak and get it back in.
That incident was kind of a lesson I needed to be taught again. After while, it’s kind of easy to become blasé about safety protocols, basic things like having all your gear tethered, but things can turn to chaos in a split second.
One of my mates caught a 37-kilo Spanish, and could barely shut the hatch of the kayak and he had to swim the kayak in as it was so heavy, so there’s a limit to what you can catch and bring in with a kayak. Though I understand Marlin and Sailfish have been caught from kayaks.
I’ll eat fish at least two or three times a week, vac-seal and freeze some of it, and give a lot to friends and family. It definitely gets spread around. Good old fish tacos is my favorite, plain and simple. The boys like to call it ‘crumb and cremate.’
We’re coming into Snapper season, so we'll chase Snapper and Kingfish, but we're predominantly chasing Spanish Mackerel and Longtail Tuna. The Spanish Mackerel’s our major target in the summertime.
On the weekend it can be pretty busy. There can be up to fifteen guys heading out in certain spots, but I usually like to go through the week where might be just one or two of us. You don’t always score, of course. I had a record of six consecutive outings without a sniff this season!
We have certain little hotspots on the reefs that we fish that we'll check out. We don’t use the sounder too much – a lot of the time we're just trolling lures and baits out the back. But the sounder can be helpful when you find a school of fish and you'll just work that area.
There’s definitely a big advantage to how unobtrusive and quiet a kayak is, with no engine noise. Especially targeting Mackerel, it’s like kayaks are custom made for that. Though they’re really not that stable when you're trying to land a big fish. It takes some getting used to. I'll put my legs over the side to counterbalance. Fallen in a few times. But after you do it long enough, it just becomes muscle memory. The whole thing’s pretty physical! You’ve got to keep enough in the tank for the paddle home. I’ve done a fair bit of other types of fishing, upriver chasing Mangrove Jack, casting off the rocks for not much reward, and when I’m on a mate’s boat either I’m cursed or overwhelmed by too many options.
I’m using three Shimano Saragosa 6000’s reels and I prefer to use cheaper rods because they get pretty banged up after a while. In summer, targeting Pelagics, I’ll mainly troll with dead bait like garfish and slimey mackerel. We all have our own methods of rigs we make up, and most are pretty tight-lipped about the details, as this can be the major factor between success and the walk of shame to the car park.
I’m not sure how many groups there are up and down the coast. I know there’s a tight-knit group of guys in Coffs Harbour, and there's the Palm Beach crew on the Goldy.
If you’re interested in giving it a crack, I would definitely recommend, following one of the groups like Noosa Yakkers, or the Palm Beach crew on Facebook, and just listen to the older guys – just to get info on safety and how to handle yourself, how to set up your kayak, because you can get yourself into a pretty tricky situation out there if you don't know what you're doing. There's plenty of YouTube videos of guys with loads of experience. I was just a sponge when I started – “shut up and listen” was my motto. I’d recommend hitting up 'Australian Kayak Specialists' they can help you find the right kayak to suit.
I love everything about kayak fishing. I’ll do it as long as my body will hold out I reckon!
// JACK DEKORT (as told to GRA MURDOCH)
Awesome article! As a sunny coast local as well I feel the flat spell pain all to well. I took a different path and took up spearfishing, boy the diving can be good here once you dialed in - I probably prefer it to surfing now though!
I hold a fair bit of respect for the kayak fishermen out there. They’re hard up against the elements which lends itself to a much more intimate experience than boat fishermen, particularly larger boat fishermen. Every catch is earned through pure physical effort and exposure to some pretty harrowing shit. Not just the sharks but also the threat of currents and weather changes.
To be honest it’s a somewhat tempered respect similar to that held for kneelo riders. I appreciate the proximity to the power and the ability to achieve subtle returns for effort which elude stand up surfers and boat fishermen, whilst at the same time I’m fluxxomed as to why you’d bother when the conventional alternative can provide much greater rewards. Maybe the point lies in the fact that it is unconventional!
The silence of the kayak isn’t to be understated. Bit of a shame the ‘yak fishos have to share the same water with their noisy and obtrusive power boating brethren who often don’t seem to even realise they’re scaring the very same fish they claim to be so determined to catch.
Yeah, hats off to the kayak crew. There’s a few hardy souls around here who pursue it pretty hard. I’ll see them out there and around and they never fail to astound me with their catches. I’ll think I’m doing OK in my little tinny right up until I see the ‘yak crew out in the middle of the fricken ocean chasing fish which can weigh more than their entire set up.
Good luck with the fishing, Jack. Nice Spaniard BTW. Cheers for the story Gra.
Pretty sure I’ve put this photo up here before, anyway here’s an old cobber who I ran into on my travels. He was posing for a photo with this horse cobia which I was admiring. His missus said “ Oh, that’s nothing. You should have seen the fish he caught last week. What type was it again love?” She asked her husband.
Old mate looked a bit exasperated when he replied “ It was a marlin, dear”.
This fella was in his seventies so you’ve got a few years to slay them yet, Jack.
I blacked out his face cause it’s not my business to put strangers on the internet without their permission.
good story alright.......big mackeral ... can always tell by the boof head they get and blowin your mates got a nice cobia,caught one like that in a tinny off broken head and the fucker towed us for ages ,couldn't imagine what it would be like in a kayak........
Can be good fun. I like just being able to grab it a go - no maintenance and a sense of adventure.
I had an interesting 20 minutes once when a strong westerly front hit hours too early with such power that I could not make traction and make any headway against it back to shore. Even though I was not that far off the coast New Zealand was my next stop.
Fortunately, the initial blow was not the main front and things went almost dead still for half an hour and cruised back to safety. An hour later it really kicked in and massive trees were bending right over.
Fibreglass is light but weak. An exploratory bite from something could sink you pretty fast. Spotting a big noah 4 km out to sea smelling a fishy kayak would be nerve wracking. My clunky polyethylene kayak feels super solid.
Things to think about.
already thought about it.
used to be a little crew here that fished the close reefs.
not one still goes out.
just too many whites.
still a handful up in the Bay fishing the mackerel boulder.
also, not as many easy launch spots compared to sunny coast and MNC.
fuck that......going to need a bigger boat.......also looks like his rods are gone........
I think his sphincter joined his rods too.
Jack must be thrilled with the appearance of all these killer shark vids appearing in the thread.
"he's chasing me.....hey Dave come here please!"
@ 8 min 40 ...He used to use Protection....but its just not worth it ..
The shark was in the mood for Pug
That was a really good article. Definitely a great way to get out amongst it.
The below vid is a pretty good indication of what kayak fishing offshore is all about. Watch till the end for the bonus.
Nice one Jack.
It's been great watching your metamorphosis via IG, from gentle curiousity about kayak fishing to confident hunter, the language shifting into slang that I, a non-fisho, don't understand, while the catches got bigger and bigger.
Anyhoo, my experience of offshore, non-boat fishing:
I've written about this before, but years ago I thought surfboard fishing would be a good idea. I spotted a school of mullet offshore from Shark Island and paddled a longboard with a backpack and a rigged up pole stuffed down there somehow.
Timed my run toward the moving school perfectly, so when we intersected I sat up and cast the line.
Got a bite pretty quickly but hadn't thought about what I'd do if I caught one. I had a net in my backpack, which was still on my back, so I wound the line right in bringing the fish out of the water where it danced around and I struggled to stay balanced while holding the weighted pole upright.
Getting the backpack off meant letting go of the rod with one hand for a second, and when I did the weight of the fish made the rod dip, the fish fell back in the drink and instantly began to power away. I struggled with the rod, juggled it, and then dropped it in the drink too.
The rod was last seen dissappearing across the surface of Bate Bay at high speed.
Surfboard fishing... I'd be lying if I said I hadn't pondered it in an absent minded way, but you actually did it, you mad bastard!?
I tip my cap to you.
Got a few mates who fish 4km offshore on jetskis. But in a kayak? Absolutely mad stuff. Full props to ya Jack.
BTW my 7 year old son is a big fan.. loves your videos.
Got a mate who's a boat builder and makes mini remote control versions and rigs them up and fishes with them. Takes them around the Broadwater.
Gets a few too.
Hat's off to the blokes who take the ocean on . I have one but I mostly use in it estuaries . Although I do occasionally chase squid in the very 'near shore waters' in the old Pacific in the thing. In fact I've recently crafted a makeshift sled to tow a lobby trap around out of 2 boogy boards and some pvc tubing. Patent pending.
Not a fishing guy myself, but love the passion
An old GW and kayak story but a "good" one.
Warning, contains disturbing content:
"I completely lost control of my bodily functions. Bladder and bowels let go at that point, and I began vomiting."
Posted coz there is just a significant possibility of exciting something big with a burley trail and when landing struggling fish. It pays to be aware that it will not always be a serene place to be and maybe you need some sort of plan. Tossing the burley bag did not work.
Switch on a shark shield?
Jeezus holy shit
its not a matter of if ... its a matter of when
a Powerhead is a must have !
yep 44 magnum ......small ,easy to use on a short pole......some one adept with a metal working lathe can knock one up.......use hollow head bullets........make my day whitey....said no one
Can see a future market for 25ft x 5ft kayaks with bow mounted harpoons...
What's next? A fishing line tied to your ankle while swimming at Ballina?