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User Spotlight Richard Ofner

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User Spotlight Richard Ofner Photographs by Julie Nowicki

For this month’s kayak angler spotlight, we talked with Richard Ofner. One of YakAngler’s first Canadian members, Richard was our points leader for December, racking up an impressive 1033 points. Richard is an accomplished tournament angler, Hobie Fishing Team member, and writer. When not kayak fishing, Richard can be found on the hockey rink and soccer field working as a referee and coach.

Why little plastic boats? When did you start kayak fishing?

My brother built two stitch-and-glue Pygmy kayaks, and I decided that I would build my own. In the fall of 2006, I purchased a Waters Dancing stitch-and-glue kit, which I was planning to have completed by the time the ice thawed in 2007. After getting about half completed by the spring, I became impatient and purchased the first of two Hobie Mirage Drive kayaks. I purchased the second Hobie in the fall of 2007. I didn't get out much in them until I saw someone fishing out of a kayak late in 2008. Not being an experienced angler (other than dropping a line with a hook and sinker with a worm or minnow) I really had no idea how to catch fish, let alone from a kayak. In 2011 I sold my unfinished stitch-and -glue kayak and used the money to buy another fishing kayak.

What is your first fishing memory?

In my earliest memory of fishing, I was about ten years old. I grew up on the water and had a fear of boats. My father and uncle took my brother, cousin, and me to a park on the Detroit River, and we fished from shore for silver bass. I hated it!

Richard Ofner and Julie Nowicki

What is your biggest pet peeve while on the water?

Fishing guides that come on fishing forums and bully other anglers who ask for help. Being completely naive once myself, it is disheartening to read a post from an angler just starting out, asking for help on locations or giving a fishing report on locations where he caught fish, only to be criticized and ridiculed. The one that really gets me is when someone will ask how to target a certain species and what presentations to use, and a charter guy or guide will tell them to hire him and learn more in four hours than it will take them 10 years to learn. Pay for an ad, and don't call us, we will call you!

Who or what was your biggest influence in kayak fishing?

The Internet! After going out a couple of times in the summer of 2008 and not having much luck, I joined my first kayak fishing forum and started reading about others who were fishing out of a kayak. Getting out with them made me realize that I really had no idea what I was doing and that I had a lot to learn. I went back to researching the Internet on how to fish for bass and walleye. It wasn't until I participated in a couple of online derbies in 2009 that I really got the bug. Catching a 48” muskie my first time targeting that species in October of 2009 really was the turning point. That’s when I started getting more serious about fishing out of a kayak. Most of the online derbies are multi species formats. This has driven me to target all freshwater species. The kayak fishing forums are much friendlier than regular fishing forums when it comes to getting help.

Kayak Fishing Montreal River

You just won $400 million on Powerball - tell us what your ultimate kayak fishing trip would be.

I wouldn't need $400 million to fulfill my ultimate kayak fishing trip(s). One of my goals is to purchase a trawler set up to carry two kayaks, and travel the Great Lakes to fish areas that I wouldn't otherwise be able to get to from a launch. I would also like to load up the kayaks and travel trailer and go to the west coast of Canada to fish for salmon.

Tell us about the biggest or toughest fish to land in your kayak.

I have caught muskie, salmon, and steelhead. My largest muskie was 48” and weighed 25- 30 lbs. The species that have given me the best fight and taken the longest to bring in is a toss-up between a 12 lb freshwater drum (sheepshead) or a 10 lb channel cat. But my toughest catch was when I was trolling with a three-way rig using a deep-diving crankbait with a worm harness running above it. I got a hard hit and looked back to see two smallmouth bass jumping about 50’ behind my kayak. I was able to net both of them after about five minutes of carefully reeling them in without getting them tangled on my other line. One was 4 lbs, and the other 5 lbs.

Are you a “lean and mean” or “everything including the kitchen sink” angler? What do you typically bring out with you on the water?

I have learned to take only what I think I am going to use on that particular outing, and try to keep it to one tray of lures and spare terminal tackle. After that I will bring bug spray, sun screen, pliers, lipping device, net, measuring board, VHF radio or phone, long nose pliers, a camera of some sort (including video), and plenty of water to stay hydrated. For the 2013 season I plan to lose 20 lbs, which is more than any tackle or equipment that I would bring. I am currently halfway to my goal.

Richard Ofner kayak fishing

What is your favorite activity other than kayak fishing?

Hockey has been a big part of my life. I started as a referee and linesman after I finished playing competitively, graduated to a coaching role, then moved to administration where I have participated for the past 15 years. Kayak angling has taken the place of playing recreational hockey, though I still am very involved in the sport.

What, in your eyes, is the ultimate game fish? What species will you target over all others?

I will have to say that the biggest adrenaline rush comes from hooking a muskie. I have caught muskie casting and trolling, but to hook up while jigging with a 5-8 oz bait, fifteen to thirty feet straight down below your kayak, is the ultimate experience. The fight may only last 10 - 30 seconds but it is fierce. I learned that netting the muskie while it is still very “green” is even more difficult. I lost my first two that I hooked jigging, only to see them jump out when the bait became dislodged while I was netting them. I hope to target and catch a lake sturgeon in 2013, which is legal to fish for in Michigan water about an hour from where I live.

Tell us something most people would NOT know about you.

Reading between the lines in this interview, you may have learned that I was not into fishing before doing it in a kayak. My brother reminds me how I hated to fish growing up. We lived on a creek minutes from Lake St. Clair, and had every opportunity to fish. We also had a cottage in Northern Ontario, and when we went for our usual summer vacation there I would rather drive the boat than fish. I didn't have the patience for the sport. Since I started kayak fishing just over four years ago, I have only been in a boat once to fish for steelhead the day after I had caught one in the kayak. I still couldn't wait to get to shore - it was boring and didn't compare to fishing in the kayak.

kayak fishing canada

Campfire stories - everyone loves them. Tell us a story that wasn’t covered by the above questions.

It was our long weekend at the beginning of July, 2011, and we were camping with friends at Rondeau Provincial Park on the northern shore of central Lake Erie. On the evening of Saturday, July 1, I and a friend (who was fishing Lake Erie for the first time and had already caught a couple of steelhead the day before) wanted to go out after dinner. The forecast called for slight chance of a thunderstorm, but the skies were clear and lake was calm. We set up the kayaks and wondered if we should chance it or not. I tried to get a radar image on my smartphone but couldn’t get reception. My VHF radio didn't have any warnings, but called for a chance of thunderstorms, and I have learned that it is the standard forecast; if I listened to the VHF weather forecast and not fish every time they said there was a chance of thunderstorms, I would never get out on the water.

We decided to go out. It was a 45 minute trip out to our spot that we knew the fish were, in 45’ of water. I was monitoring my VHF radio, but the reception was bad and I couldn't make out the reports. My buddy had hooked up while we were trolling west with the wind in our face. About the time he hooked up I could hear on the radio that a storm warning had been called for our area. While he was landing his fish I let him know we should start to head in. As I turned towards the east to go back to shore I could see the dark clouds coming from that direction. It seemed that we had enough time to make it into shore. It wasn't five minutes when all of a sudden it was like a wall hit us - suddenly the wind changed directions from west to coming from the east. The water boiled for a few seconds while the storm took control of the lake. Waves were building as we pedaled our Hobies as hard as we could. With over 6’ waves hitting us and gusts of 50 mph, I was at the top of a wave when a gust of wind blew me and my kayak over. When I surfaced, all I can remember is seeing my turbo fins sticking straight up and waves still crashing over the boat. I had only turtled once before, and it was in chest deep water, not 40’. I remembered seeing a YouTube video on how to turn a SOT kayak by grabbing the opposite side and pulling it over. The kayak was loaded with a net, fishfinder/GPS, extra rods, and bag full of gear still holding to the kayak by bungees. This was going through my head as I was trying to pull towards me to get the kayak over. It seemed like a full minute that I was stuck at the top with the kayak pulling back the other way. Just as I thought it wasn't going to make it, I pulled with everything I had left and the kayak righted itself. The bag detached from the bungee cords, and my buddy went to retrieve it while I tried climbing onto the kayak. This was easier than turning it over, except for the fact I was facing the stern and now had to turn myself around. I should mention that I was in the Hobie “Adventure”, which may be the narrowest of SOT kayaks on the market at 27” wide. Once I was facing the bow I turned on my Humminbird 788ci HD DI after it shut down while in the water. I realized we still had about a mile to get to shore. The whole process from the kayak dumping to getting going again took less than 30 seconds, but seemed like an hour. We pedaled hard towards shore, and I honestly have to say I was now relieved that my rods were gone instead of having two graphite poles sticking straight up as lightning rods. By the time we reached shore we were almost two miles from our launch, and we were lucky that both of us had our wheel carts to strap onto our kayaks to get us off the beach and back to our vehicles. The whole event from when the storm started until we were safely back at our campsite took about two hours.

When we went into town for groceries the next day, we saw hundred-year-old trees knocked down a couple miles inshore. This was the biggest storm in 2011, and 2012 did not see one of this magnitude. It was an experience I won't forget; I have a whole new respect for weather forecasts, and Lake Erie.

 

Read 10922 times Last modified on Thursday, 24 January 2013 15:41
Mark Watanabe

Mark "YakSushi" Watanabe is the Co. Founder of YakAngler.com, "He built this site!". He considers himself a mediocre fisherman and an unexceptional writer. He's the devoted father of a ton of little sushis (Air Quotes) and everyday tech ninja.