Carolina Girl Gone Floridian

All hands on deck.

By Kaisey Watson

I was born on the Outer Banks of North Carolina into a family that enjoyed surfing and fishing. My dad was a commercial fisherman when I was young, so I spent a lot of deck time with him pound netting and shrimping. By the age of 13, I was a deckhand on the local head boat, “Miss Hatteras,” and was fortunate enough to charter fish with local captains, Buddy and Chase Hooper.

I first left Hatteras to attend University of North Carolina at Wilmington after high school. I landed a job in Wanchese, North Carolina with Bayliss Boatworks after college and various circumstances led me to South Florida a couple years later. I quickly began to admire the state’s diverse fishery and understood why it is often considered the ‘Fishing Capital of the World.’

It wasn’t until I moved to Florida I heard the term kite fishing. This type of fishing involves flying a kite, from which hangs drop lines attached to baits. The kite is flown out over the surface of the ocean, and the baits swim near the waterline until it is hopefully taken by a fish. It sounds complex, right? I recently enjoyed a kite fishing trip in South Florida and my experience illustrates why I appreciate this style of fishing.

My husband, who is also an avid fisherman, was itching to get out on the water and try our luck at catching a few sailfish during the cold front we had in early January (yes, I said winter and Florida in the same sentence). Typically, a cold front in South Florida in the winter months results in a good sailfish bite.  Eagerly, we booked a trip on the “Fish On,” a charter boat out of Sailfish Marina in Palm Beach, which was run by Capt. Andrew Dotterweich and his twin brother, David.

We left the dock at 8 a.m. and had a very short run to the fishing grounds. The great thing about fishing out of Palm Beach Inlet is that the Gulf Stream can come as close as a mile from the beach. Of course, this is one of my absolute favorite parts about South Florida fishing. It’s so close! Within minutes, we had the kites flying behind the boat and the live baits in the water. This style of fishing requires constant adjusting and monitoring because the baits move as the kites fluctuate in the wind. An important factor is keeping the baits in the water and ideally near the surface, so the anglers are constantly reeling the baits up or dropping them down.

Our morning started off great with a successful sailfish bite, catch and release by my husband. We found the dolphin in the mid-morning hours and I had my turn. With my hand on the reel I felt the fish eat my bait, I dropped the reel into free spool and locked it up a few seconds later. The line popped out of the kite clip as it came tight and I reeled fast to recoup any loose line between me and the fish. I was hooked up to a nice bull dolphin! In the meantime, we managed to hook another dolphin, so we had a double-header and managed to land both.

We caught one more dolphin later in the morning, missed a sailfish and then jumped off another. The conditions worsened throughout the day with wind gusts consistently reaching up to 25 knots. The bite slowed in the afternoon and we called it quits around 3 p.m. It wasn’t the epic bite we were hoping for, but we had a great time and will definitely be fishing with the “Fish On” crew again soon.

What I like most about kite fishing is the use of light tackle and the limited downtime in between bites. This style of fishing requires my attention and it’s constantly keeping me involved even when fishing is slow. I also enjoy using the lighter gear because it’s easier for me to handle, but from an angling perspective, it can also be more challenging.

I have a few tips for my fellow lady anglers. Kite fishing is oftentimes done in colder weather and requires hours of standing. I suggest investing in “cold weather” Under Armor performance gear for layering on the chiller days. I also recommend wearing comfortable, lightweight and fast-drying running shoes since you are on your feet most of the day. I find the running shoes to be more comfortable than most boat shoes. However, be sure they have white soles, so you don’t mark up the boat deck!

Kaisey was born and raised in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, where she found her passion for the outdoors. She now lives in Stuart, Florida, and enjoys both inshore and offshore fishing in her spare time.