Brian Steves

Brian Steves is an Oregon-based angler with a penchant for the smaller things, be it kayaks or fish.  A most-welcoming individual, Brian has sparked the kayak angling stoke in many an inquisitive visitor to paddling events and online forums.  Though an ecologist by trade, Brian is responsible for much of the look and feel of the webpages representing Northwest Kayak Anglers (NWKAand NorCal Kayak Anglers (NCKA). He created the Angler Of The Year (AOTY) contest that is popular amongst members of both forums.  Brian is also a member of the Ocean Kayak Pro Staff.

What first drew you to this style of angling?

In the mid-1990s I was living on the north shore of Long Island, New York, and in grad school studying marine science.  I was lucky in that I shared a house with some other grad students that had access to the beach. In the summer I’d go fishing at dusk and see bluefish and striped bass boiling (feeding) off the beach but they always seemed just out of reach from my ability to cast to them.  A buddy of mine wanted to keep his kayak at my house for the easy access to the water and I agreed as long as I could use it from time to time.  I had never heard of kayak fishing as a defined sport, but one night I decided to take his kayak out with my fishing rod.  I trolled around with my rod resting on my shoulder as a make shift rod holder as I paddled. Within minutes I had a decent sized bluefish on my line and pulling me around.  After that I was hooked.

How did you get involved with NWKA?

I got involved in NWKA when I moved to Portland from Northern California.  I was an early member of Nor Cal Kayak Anglers and knew NWKA’s founder, Allen Sansano, from there.   I had done quite a bit for the NCKA site. I wrote the code for an online tournament we call AOTY (angler of the year), I created the NCKA logo, posted a ton on the forum and even moderated a sub-forum on fish biology.   When I moved up the Pacific Northwest, Allen asked if I could help moderate the NWKA forum.  One of the first things I did was set up an AOTY tournament for NWKA to promote a bit of competition as well as get people to fish for species outside there normal comfort zone.

Barring money or logistics, would tomorrow’s fishing trip take you to the local lake or far off lands?

Barring logistics and money, I’m on the next plane to Alaska, Baja, or other top fishing destination.   The actual fishing is only part of the attraction to getting away on a kayak fishing trip.  That said, there are plenty of people who spend good money to come to Oregon to fish so I’m pretty lucky.

With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you?

As with many outdoor sports, access seems to be the biggest issue for kayak anglers these days.  Many lakes are shutting down for fear of the spread of invasive species and marine protected areas are closing off huge sections of productive marine fishing waters.   Unlike other outdoor sports, the consumptive nature of catching and potentially eating our catch often puts us at odds with others who enjoy nature.

You’re known as a person who makes a real effort to teach and welcome beginning kayak anglers, be it through online contributions or booth-manning at demo days.  Why do you feel it’s important to act as a representative of the sport?

I have to admit my original reason for promoting kayak fishing here in Portland was to find (or create if I had to) kayak anglers for me to fish with.   I usually don’t like fishing solo, part of that is a safety thing that keeps my wife happy, but mostly I just like the camaraderie and the smack-talk that comes when fishing with friends. When I first moved to Portland there were only a couple guys from the area active on NWKA to fish with.   It also didn’t help that I moved at the end of fall, during the beginning of our wet season.  I had six or seven months ahead of me where nobody wanted to fish out of their kayak.  Most of the die hard anglers among us were pounding the coastal river banks for winter steelhead, but I wanted to still kayak fish.   I quickly set about to try and change that and put together as much info as I could to get folks excited about kayak fishing for winter sturgeon.   Here was a productive winter fishery right here in Portland that on a good day could produce double digit hook ups with medium to very large fish, but it was untapped by kayak anglers. Once we figured out the anchoring system and the appropriate river levels to fish, kayak fishing was a twelve month a year sport again for me. These days there are plenty of kayak anglers in the Portland area for me to find someone to fish with when I need to.

Who is shaping the future of kayak angling?

I think I’d give most of the credit to all the online kayak fishing communities out there.   It’s sort of a hive mind thing.  At first someone will post a new idea, be it a rigging idea or a new fishery they’re trying to adapt to kayak fishing.  Then a few more try it and improve on the idea.  Next thing you know a bunch of us are doing things like anchoring in 80 feet of moving water and catching sturgeon from our kayak.   I think the sport has evolved and will continue to evolve at a much faster rate due to that sort of interaction.

Individuals that are driving kayak angling?  Here are two, Jim Sammons on the West Coast and Kayak Kevin Whitley on the East Coast.   Both have been putting out quality kayak fishing DVDs. It’s such a great promotion for the sport of kayak fishing to have clips from these videos online showing amazing fish being caught out of kayaks. Sammon’s videos are of the adventure kayak fishing model, you know, “watch me travel to amazing locales and catch large fish in kayaks”. As for Kayak Kevin’s videos, he pretty much only fishes close to his home in the Chesapeake Bay and yet the quality of fish he pulls up from the kayak makes it clear the advantages kayaks have when it comes to stealth and fishing close up to structure.

Tell us about your best day on the water.

I won the first kayak fishing tournament I ever entered so that was pretty exciting for me.  I was so jazzed to be fishing in a tournament with friends I only knew from the kayak fishing forum.   I had a game plan, I had a secret lure and I knew exactly where I wanted to fish. I was first on the water after the starting horn and I quickly paddled over to my spot.  After about an hour I caught the biggest lingcod of my life and landed it with much enthusiasm.  The next six hours of the tournament waiting for the weigh in to end made for a really long day.

What’s in your Milkcrate?

Oddly, I didn’t have a milk crate for the longest time.  I used to fish out of fairly small fishing kayaks like my OK Caper and milk crates wouldn’t fit.  I was much more a minimalist back then, I wore  just a wetsuit and a PFD and my fishing gear consisted of only a single rod, a small knife, a gaff and zip lock bag of jigs.   When I got my OK Trident 13 a few years ago I discovered a milk crate would fit, but it took months before I broke down and started bringing it along fishing with me.   I use it now to carry most of my gear to and from my truck, things like my fish finder and battery, my tackle trays, lunch, my water bottle, etc..  When it’s mounted in my kayak it has a couple rod holders, one for a rod or net and one for my safety flag.  The gear that was inside of the crate usually gets stowed in my kayak through the center hatch.   Sometimes if I’m using an anchor, it’ll get stowed in the milk crate while I’m paddling around.   I think I’ve achieved a decent balance with my milk crate, just enough gear to warrant its use while staying clear from what I call the “La Jolla kayak peacock”.    You know, the guy with the kayak that has a dozen very expensive fishing rods in his milk crate fanning out behind him.  Does he really need that many rods to catch a yellowtail or is he showing off his gear to attract a mate?

After a long day in the boat, is it fish tacos and beer or cedar plank salmon or pinot?

I’m not too picky; I mostly just like to eat my fish fresh.  So I guess it all really depends on what I catch that day.  If I have a bunch of fresh rockfish fillets it’s going to be fish tacos and beer. If I happen to have a nice fresh salmon I’ll bust out a nice bottle of pinot.  Lately it seems I’ve been returning home with an empty cooler and end up eating a lot of humble pie.

What is the kayak angling lifestyle?

It’s still a young sport and I feel a part of the lifestyle most when I stop to answer questions at the boat ramp, on the water, or when working a kayak fishing booth at a paddle festival.   It’s talking about your passion for the sport and convincing someone that you’re not crazy for wanting to catch big fish from such a small platform. It’s informing them that being pulled around by a big fish (a.k.a. the Nantucket sleighride) is to kayak anglers what a barrel is to surfers.

What does the future hold for you?

Hopefully more kayak fishing.  I have two kids (ages 2 and 5) and a loving wife, and I’ve given up most of my fishing time (and money) to them right now.   As my children get older I’m hoping to take them kayak fishing with me more.  Right now, my son really likes to go trout fishing on the kayak with me at the local lake. Which is great. I really looking forward to when my kids are a bit older and can experience a day paddling and fishing with me out on the ocean.

One Response to “Brian Steves”

  1. Ryan Howell says:

    “La Jolla kayak peacock” thats pretty funny, I love reading about other kayakers and really about these pioneers in the sport.

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