Interview with Paul Lebowitz, Outdoor Writer and Advocate for Kayak Fishing Access. E-mail
Monday, 19 October 2009 16:29

paul with fish

Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Paul: I’m a regular guy who loves kayak fishing who somehow found a new career writing about my favorite sport. My column runs monthly in Western Outdoor News, the nation’s largest outdoor weekly – it’s a position I’m still humbled to fill. I’m also very lucky to be Canoe and Kayak’s go-to guy for most things fishing.

Somehow I’ve tricked other publications into printing my stories, including Western Outdoors Magazine, Pacific Coast Sportfishing, FishRap, Kayak Angler, Kayak Fisherman, Kayak Fishing Magazine, and on and on. Tell you what, this life is a lot of fun.

But there’s a serious side too. I try to give back via my work with the Kayak Fishing Association of California. A bit more about that below. 

What got you involved specifically in kayak fishing and in fishing in general?

Paul: Oh, that! I’ve fished on and off since the age of 5 or 6. But it was my son James who unexpectedly changed the entire direction of my life. When he was but a tyke, I took him to the Fred Hall Show – a cross between and convention and swapmeet for people who can’t fish enough.

Anyhow, when we walked past this booth filled with kayaks, the little guy couldn’t get enough. He scrambled all over them, pretended to paddle – he was having so much fun, I took a ‘yak home. Funny thing, he didn’t care for it much on the water – but I was hooked!

Can you tell our readers a bit about the KFACA?

Paul: The KFACA (www.kfaca.org) is an organization “Dedicated to preserve and expand kayak fishing access.” It got its start with an informal group known in mangled Spanish as the Loco Pescadores – a bunch of crazies who don’t let inconveniences such as big surf put an end to their kayak fishing fun.

We started small, by pushing the state to add kayaking to the use plan for a state park. But the threats to kayak fishing access are so obvious and plentiful, before long the advisory board of our grassroots organization looked like the who’s who of SoCal kayak fishing. It’s great to have a unified front. 

What impact has the KFACA had on some of the issues that face kayak fisherman?

Paul: Our first success was fending off an unjustified fee to launch off the unimproved beach at La Jolla Shores – quite possibly the busiest launch anywhere, but certainly on the west coast. With that one, we did boaters a favor too, because our work scuttled fees for traditionally free services at improved ramps. From there, new challenges keep popping up.

What was the biggest victory for you and the organization?

Paul: That’ll be the one we absolutely need to win in the near future. California ’s Marine Life Protection Act Imitative is a state law requiring establishment of a network of reserves in state water (ain’t that a mouthful). The program’s already chewed up and spit out Central California – kayak anglers got the shaft, and I’m not talking paddles.

Fortunately, things look much better in North-Central California , where my good friend Sean White of Great White Kayak Fishing and NorCal Kayak Anglers represented kayak fishers in the process. They’ll get by without any major losses.

Now it’s SoCal’s turn, and I’m on the hotseat to keep our essential kayak fishing sites open. As you know, for most people ocean fishing access is limited to spots with reasonable surf. That list is a short one.

In other parts of the country kayak fisherman face of the same problems with water access that you have in Southern California , how do you fight and win these battles?

Paul: My best advice is to fight your own battles. Don’t rely on other organizations, especially existing traditional recreational fishing advocacy groups. Oh, their motives are usually pretty good, so at the KFACA we recommend people join them as well – but there are a couple of issues. First, these larger groups often don’t understand a kayak angler’s needs, so it’s hard for them to look after our interests. And when it comes time to make a choice between power boating interests and kayakers – can you be sure they’ll go you way?

Finally, individuals really can make a difference. So don’t be discouraged – get out there and go for it.

You have probably have had more articles published about kayak fishing than anybody, is it more work or play?

Paul: Well, it’s both. Honestly, the stories have opened a lot of doors and given me terrific opportunities I wouldn’t have dreamed of just a few years ago. Like this Cortes trip, or jots down to Baja’s East Cape, to rarely visited high-country water and up to Alaska this year. I’m very lucky; life is good! 

But I have to be careful. When I’m on assignment, unless I focus on getting my photos and taking notes, I get so zoned out on fishing I forget why I’m there. So during any story opportunity, I’m all business (at least I try to be) until the mission is accomplished. Then its play time!

Where can our readers go to find all your old articles?

Paul: Many of my past stories are available on KayakFishingZone.com, something like 250 of them. I try to keep the site up to date. New stuff goes up monthly. It’s very west coast oriented, but I think there’s something there for every kayak angler.

What article are you most proud of?

Paul: That’s tough. The best stories are the ones in which I get out of the way. If the reader feels like he’s at some exotic destination, or if someone else’s story comes through the words on the page, or a reader gets even a single piece of info that adds to his enjoyment on the water, I’ve done my job. I don’t ever want these stories to focus much on me.

What is your favorite fish to fish for from a kayak?

Paul: I’m a generalist – I enjoy pulling on just about anything that swims. But the California yellowtail has a special place in my heart. I think of them as fork-tailed lightning and structure-seeking missiles. Man, those things can pull – and usually they’re aimed right at a rock or thick patch of kelp.

What kayak(s) do you use these days?

Paul: I love ‘em all. That’s one of the real treats of my ‘job’ – I get to play with almost all the toys. Favorites include the elegantly engineered hands-free Hobie Revolution, the sweet-paddling Wilderness Tarpon 160 and sadly discontinued Hurricane 160 (I get a lot of pleasure out of paddling). But the boat I reach for most is the Ocean Prowler Trident 15. For west coast fishing, the Rod Pod and Sonar Shield (silly names) make for an incredibly well integrated system – even if it is more boat than I like to push around at times (get the rudder).

West Coast kayak fishing is kind of different from the rest of the country, would you like to try to kayak fishing in say skinny waters for snook or redfish?

Paul: Heck yeah! It looks crazy fun – sight fishing for tailing reds, what could be more exciting? Plus it must be nice to stretch your legs and pee standing up. You can’t do that on the big blue Pacific. I’ll make it down south or out east yet.

You have just come back from a trip to the Cortes Banks (trip report in this months issue), any other kayak trips planned in the future?

Paul: I’m always planning and dreaming – don’t we all? Next year the goal for our mothership charter is to go long – a 6-day run down to Baja’s Cedros and Benitos islands. That’s yellowtail central! I’m hoping for mass mayhem, hooked-up ‘yaks flying everywhere. And Alaska . After this year’s great taste on a fish and ice trip with Chris Mautino of Liquid Adventures, my sights are set on going truly remote for as long as possible.

From your perspective where do you see the sport going in say 5 years?

Paul: We’ve already hit the mainstream here on the west coast. I see it moving inland – really, it already has. With more users, the ‘yaks just keep on getting better and better. I can scarcely wait to see what’s next off the drawing board.

So what is next for you?

Paul: Oh my, I’ve got 14 months of MLPA meetings staring me in the face. I’ll be cooped up inside and short on water time for a while, but watch out! Once I’m free, no fish will be safe. 

Paul

 

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