Dee Kaminski

Recently crowned by her peers as Guide of the Year, Dee Kaminski is the woman behind Florida’s Reel Kayak Fishing Charters.  A life-long angler, Dee is widely regarded as one of the sport’s more dedicated ambassadors, and is well known for her dedication and drive.  With a thoughtful mind aimed at preserving the ecologically-based aspects of kayak angling, Dee devotes much of her time and energy toward the bettering of the aquatic environment.  When not promoting the Native Watercraft brand or guiding clients, Dee can be found spending time with her fiancee, Brian.

What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?

I have fished all my life out of a boat or a canoe. After moving to Florida in 2006, I didn’t have access to open water, just pier or shore fishing. Like many other anglers who have a great passion for the sport, I was driven to find a way to get more access to more areas to find quality fish. I did not want to be limited by targeting whatever might be swimming by. I wanted to be the huntress guiding my own destiny and actively chasing down my prey. After long and thoughtful consideration of the varied watercraft options out there, my ongoing commitment to ecology, and my wish to be able to fish any body of water regardless of depth, I became a kayak enthusiast. As I studied up on my options, I knew it had to be a kayak that was stable enough to stand in and sight cast from. The question was, what make and model? It took me a year to make a final decision based on a long list of requirements. In 2007, on the 4th of July weekend, I purchased two Native Watercraft Ultimate 12 kayaks, one for me and one for my fiancée, Brian. We had considered a tandem at first, but it did not suit my need to get out on the water whenever the urge would strike, regardless if I had a fishing partner or not. We wanted to be able to fish comfortably, cast without worry of hooking each other and to be able to cover more water. I remember having to wait to pick them up after the holiday and how excited I was. I wanted to get out there and fish so bad that I didn’t sleep a wink!

Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?

The day after picking up our kayaks, my fiancée and I launched out of Long Point Park near Sebastian Inlet. We had done our homework for weeks using topographical maps and chatting with the locals on where to fish. I netted up some pinfish for bait right before heading to our choice locale. Casting out a pinfish rigged on a Cajun Thunder popping cork, we started to work our way down the edge of a weed line. The float would occasionally hunker down in the water while the baitfish sought refuge in the grass. Every little motion had me on the edge of my seat. Suddenly that bright orange cork dove and started streaking through the grass away from me. My reel went screaming, and so did I! I learned a quick lesson on drag adjustment on the fly and the fight was on, way on! After a minor snafu of the fish getting caught in the anchor trolley while she spun me around, I was finally able to lip hooked beast. Once I stopped shaking enough for a quick photo op, the pretty fish was released unharmed. She was a 30-inch Spotted Sea Trout and fat!! Much fatter than the trout I was used to catching. Although I was the one that caught her, boy was I hooked! She spoiled me right then and there! How do I beat that? The answer was to keep fishing ’til you can.

 

 

Your peers, and the internet-savvy kayak angling community, recently awarded to you the title of Guide of the Year. Tell us what this title means to you.

It is an honor to be awarded Guide of the Year. Thanks to all who voted for me. I was quite surprised that I was up against an all male group. With the likes of Steve Gibson from Tampa, Justin Carter, Neil Taylor, and all of whom I have learned from, I must be doing something right to have be awarded first place.

What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?

I was recently turned on to a power shake by my fiancée, who works with a lot of touring musicians that literally live off this stuff. The shake mix is called Rockin Wellness and is primarily derived of super foods. I drink one each morning while driving to my launch destination. Once on the water, I usually have some trail mix or granola to keep me fueled for the rest of the day. For music I always keep a copy of the Apocalypse Now soundtrack in my truck. I don’t always listen to it but some mornings it fits the bill. No, really, most of the time I am listening to talk radio and news reports. It lets me stay in touch with current events that I miss because I am on the water so often. On several occasions I have had to alter my put-in location based on news of a delayed rocket launch. You gotta love the Space Coast!

 

 

Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?

“I believe that Children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way!” Obviously I didn’t come up with that one myself, but it does ring true in this and many other eco-friendly sports. It is important to instill the equal love of fishing and protecting our natural resources in our youth. Everyone should try and lead by example. I find that it is those that put their heart and soul into the sport, those who posses a great passion and desire and who love to share their experiences. They are the ones who inspire kayak anglers, novice or expert, young or old, through education and conservation via seminars, blogs, articles, posting via social media outlets and spending time on the water with others. I have learned a lot from them and have great admiration for their generosity. Those like Rob Choi, Kevin Whitley, Jim Sammons, Juan Veruete, Chuck Wrenn, Cory Routh, Steve Gibson and Tom VanderHeiden to name ONLY a few. From extreme anglers pushing the limits, to guides sharing advice to clients, to just your average kayak fishing Joe, any kayak angler who spreads the word about the sport shapes the future of kayak angling. Then there are the product developers like Luther Cifers from Yak Attack. He is shaping the world of kayak accessories. He is always designing and testing necessary equipment based on our needs by listening to what we have to say as professionals. You can find his gear on almost every kayak out there.

With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?

There are many but I believe conservation is the most important to me. Without fish, there isn’t a sport. I have found, through only a couple years of fishing Florida that our state waters and fisheries in other places are in more and more distress each year for several reasons. A primary example is over-fishing and bulk harvesting. As so many others were doing, and still are, they keep their limit of fish and pack their freezers every time they take to the water. I see lots of people posting their prize catches and I wonder how they are going to eat all of it! Being from up north I too was brought up with the hunter / gatherer mentality that the changing seasons forced you to accommodate. “Fill the freezer before the water is stiff enough to walk on.” But now I see things in a very different light. I now only take what is going to be eaten that day or one that I know will not survive upon release and is still in legal slot. I will also never take a female game fish from the water that I know is full of eggs. Another issue is the wide spread disrespect some fishermen have for the fish themselves. Many fish are released harmed by the stress put on the fish by improper handling techniques or over-playing only to be found floating upside down, dead. Some fish are very fragile. Gearing up with the right rod and reel, holding the fish horizontally not vertically for a quick photo op, and proper resuscitation methods can all help with the release of trophy fish to reproduce for the next generations. And the biggest issue is pollution, intentional or not. What is an example of non-intentional pollution? On many occasions I have had to venture deep into the mangroves to attempt to free a bird trapped by ribbons and balloons that were released for someone’s “special day.” I keep seeing the commercial with the Indian crying on the side of the road from years back. If we all pick up our trash, discard extra fishing line in the proper receptacles, and stop using harmful fertilizers that spill into the waterway system, our ecosystem would be just that much healthier and productive. Keep a trash bag with you at all times and pick up a few items while out on a trip. Another way to help is volunteering at waterfront cleanups. I volunteer for the FWC and take water samples in areas I fish. This is helping them find out reasons why our sea grasses are not growing in certain areas – grasses necessary to hold nutrients to sustain our fish and why algae blooms have been so predominant lately. Education is a key to having a healthy and strong fishery for many generations to come.

 

 

It can be said with a fair amount of certainty that you, as a female kayak angling guide, are a member of a very small and elite club. Your business, Reel Kayak Fishing Charters, enjoys great popularity and well-earned respect, and has taken you to the top of many guide rankings. Has your reception always been this positive, or were the early days met with challenge?

Thanks. As always, women find it a challenge to be recognized in what is called “a man’s” sport. My original intention was not to be competitive or to be in an elite club but to educate others who want to get into the sport or who just want to know some of my techniques; it was about sharing the experiences and fun of the sport. RKFC started because neighbors kept asking me how I did that day fishing. After telling fish stories about my successes, I soon realized that my day-to-day fishing and record keeping was valuable knowledge and sharing that over a cup of coffee was far less prominent than taking them out and sharing it first hand. The more they heard about it, the more they wanted to go. It snow balled from there and I decided to start Reel Kayak Fishing Charters. I am very proud of how RKFC keeps on growing. With the recommendations from my clients, doing seminars, giving fishing reports and posting up some of the fish I am proud of on social media sites, I find that I am right up there with “the guys.” I never felt that I had a poor reception, mostly open arms. Most kayak anglers seem to have a good heart and soul and very willing to help. I do have to give a tremendous amount of thanks for the understanding and support from my fiancée, Brian, my “Sherpa.” Without him, I would not have many innovative creations that make my life easier in the storage arena like a kayak cradle to hold my fleet of kayaks, a paddle rack, a rod holder to mention a few nor a hot dinner waiting for me when necessary.

Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?

I don’t think I can answer that with just one trip. It would have to be going back to all the locations I fished previously when I was a wee one. My fiancée and I want to go back and “re-fish” the same locations that provided us so many wonderful memories while growing up. If any of our children were able to fish with us, we would welcome them as well. These places include the many lakes of Canada, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. We were not able to fish these in a kayak back then. There is always that excitement of camping along the rivers and lakes as well and having a nice shore lunch. Back then my experiences included my father and mother, now I want to experience those with my fiancée, who is an avid fisherman in his own right. He would like to share his fishing locations with me as well. I would also love to be able to say I put a kayak in the water and caught a fish in each and every state of the union and the provinces of Canada.

 

 

What’s in your milk crate?

I like to carry a couple tackle trays in my gear bag that sits inside one side of a waterproof double-chambered cooler bag. The other side holds ice, drinks and a snack. The small tray holds a selection of my favorite top water lures and a couple submersibles and the other larger tray has a nice selection of styles and colors of soft plastics from 12 Fathom Lures, one of my sponsors. In the zip pouch in my gear bag, I carry a selection of weedless Edje Joe hooks and Joe Jigs in different colors and weights along with some spools of fluorocarbon leader, a pair of scissors, pliers, a knife, sunblock, line lube, a small emergency kit and 10ft cord of rope. In a dry box that I keep next to my seat, I store my wallet, keys and cell phone. It sounds like a lot but it only ends up weighing about 3 lbs when all is said and done and doesn’t take up much room in the back of my seat.

Tell us about your best day on the water.

It would have to be when Woody Callaway and John Grace came to do a video shoot for a marketing campaign for Native Watercraft. I was so nervous. What if the fish were camera shy? After picking the day, time of launch and deciding on whom to ask to accompany us on the water, I was blessed with what turned out to be fantastic day. The winds were calm, the water glass, and the sky clear of clouds. Mullet were actively jumping and everyone invited to kayak fish was excited at the chance at catching gator trout and redfish. During the video interviews, the “gator” sized sea trout did not let me down. Everyone caught one as they were being interviewed. And it didn’t stop for hours! Woody and John got some great footage while chasing alligators and some beautiful Florida birds for backgrounds for the shoot. After that long day, we all went for a couple of drinks and talked over the beautiful day and told some of our favorite kayaking tales. All that was missing was a campfire and marshmallows. Good times, great people.

 

 

What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

It’s all about thinking about fishing every minute of the day or night. I am dreaming about being out there right now. I am sure that everyone who is a kayak angler is thinking the same if not already on the water. It’s not always about catching fish, but being out, one with nature. I could get skunked and still say I had a great day on the water.

When I am off the water, I am constantly checking the weather, trying to make a decision on the best place to launch. I usually set my alarm for 4 am – trying not to wake my fiancée, having a cup of coffee then a power shake, getting dressed and finally packing my cooler. All equipment is packed after fishing from the day before, kayaks, paddles, safety gear, rods, tackle. After a full day of fishing, usually being gone 8 – 12 hours, it starts all over again. Up at 4am in bed by 8pm. It gets very tiring AND I LOVE IT!!

Why? There is nothing better than being on the water, in harmony with nature. I love sharing this with my clients and friends. They use it as way to bring peace to their busy lives, as a therapy, and as an escape. It’s amazing to see the smiles the second they put the paddle in the water. And then there is the joy and excitement of a hookup up on a prize fish. I love to see the adrenaline rush they get and the excitement of reeling it in and getting their picture taken holding it. It makes me happy for them.

Tell us a story, any story.

This is a tough one. I have so many favorite fishing stories that could have me talking for a year. It would have to be the day my fiancée and I went fishing together and the day started out with him being lifted out of the water while in his kayak by a just awoken sleeping manatee. After being dropped back down and getting totally drenched by the giant’s massive tail splash, rinsing his shorts and saying a few prayers, we paddled to a favorite fishing spot. Brian hooked up on what we thought was a HUGE fish due to its reel dragging, kayak dragging, 30 minute exhaustive fight. After I chased him around in my kayak for that time, hoping to help in some way, the fish finally showed himself. It was a 40 pound redfish that he had not hooked into but actually snagged. He snagged a 6 inch silver spoon that was attached to a 100 pound leader. Brian hooked onto someone else’s “hang over” tackle that was obviously being utilized as less than sportsman-like method of catching a redfish. Because he was hooked on his side, there was no way to turn the fish quickly to land. Brian was being pulled like a Clydesdale pulling a beer wagon. It was a great fight but it seemed so sad to see such a beautiful fish hunted that way. We were so happy to remove the junkyard of ballast and release the redfish healthier than when we caught her.

 

 

You have stated that shallow water sight casting is among your favorite angling approaches. Does your affinity for a visual style of angling harken to a fly fishing past, or is it simply a byproduct of your home waters?

My site casting style stemmed from my flats boats days prior to my kayak fishing days. I fell in love with the fact that you can actually see the fish on the flats and hook up on one with a precise cast. There are many species that can be targeted with this method like redfish, snook, trout, sheepshead and black drum. Seeing a copper fish feeding and not knowing you are there gives me a huge adrenaline rush. It’s one of the main reasons why I purchased the Native Ultimate. It is so stable that I can stand up on the gunnels and sight cast or pole. I love being able to point out a fish in a sand hole to a client and directing him on his cast. It’s very close to flats fishing on a boat without a motor. I have always wanted to try fly fishing, though. There are a couple of fly rods hanging on my office walls, but these are antique octagonal bamboo works of art passed down from a kinder gentler era. I have picked up a friend’s buggy whip a couple times but I have never spent enough time casting. I have had the opportunity to charter a couple of fantastic fly fisherman from Japan that made it look like a ballet. Fly Fishing is an art-form all it’s own.

What does the future hold for you?

I have some great plans for the future. I have been trying to expand my “territory” to give my clients more options. I have goals that will take me back to my roots of fishing for bass, crappie, and blue gill, Florida style. I am also looking forward to getting my fleet of Native Watercraft Slayer kayaks delivered in November. That opens the door for me to try out my hand at offshore fishing. I am so excited to have a chance to land new species like cobia, tuna, grouper, kingfish and maybe a sailfish one day. Once I feel comfortable with this new area, I will be able to share my experiences with others. I am always trying to look for new adventures and challenges.

 

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