As the host of Kayak Fishing Radio’s Mid-Atlantic program, Mark Wheeler broadcasts a wide range of offerings, ranging from tips, reports, and stories. Expertly managing to cover a vast geographic area, Mark brings to the show a wealth of personal, on-water experience. Mark is a pro staff member with YakAngler.com, Jackson kayak, Columbia Sportswear, and Okuma Fishing. When not spending time with his wife and two children, Mark can be found guiding clients through his new business, Landingcrew Kayak Fishing.
What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?
Well, I was living in San Diego; I was fishing from a pier and I see these guys paddle by. They where trolling and hooking up on fish left and right. The next day I was picking up my first kayak – a Cobra Fish and Dive. This was in 2005.
Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?
Oh ya, it was a barred sand bass, in mission bay, 15 inches, and made some tasty fish tacos.
You possess, perhaps, the only broadcasted voice to address the sport as it plays out in the Mid Atlantic. Given the sheer size of the area, and the intensity of the sport therein, how is it that you manage to keep such an accurate pulse on the happenings and angling exploits of your target demographic?
The internet is a wonderful thing! I read a lot of reports on the internet, but I call local tackle shops to verify, also. I also have anglers in different areas that email me their reports and news. If I didn’t have this network of anglers, I wouldn’t be able to do my show.
What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?
Depends on my mood, but right now it’s The Goodyear Pimps, but some Sublime is a must. When I am going to be paddling like a dog, it’s the heavier stuff – Pantera, Killswitch Engage, and Nonpoint do the deed for those days.
Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?
If you would of asked me this 4 years ago, I would spurt out 3 names – Jim Sammons, Chad Hoover, and Kayak Kevin Whitley. They were ahead of the curve, but now with so many people in this sport pushing the boundaries, it’s kind of showing that anyone with enough skill can do many of the same things.
After acquiring and developing skills as a Southern California-based kayak angler, you moved across the country and entered into what can be thought of as a very different fishery. Describe to us this transition, and how it was that you overcame the challenges associated with learning to fish a new environment.
For me it wasn’t an extreme shock to my system, the reason for this is that I spent my childhood fishing up on Long Island, specifically Montauk, NY. Stripers, Blues, and Fluke were a staple, along with other species, so I took my knowledge from that and molded that into my techniques from the west coast. I also spent many hours sitting in front of a computer reading reports, how-to articles, and talking to other anglers in the area. This is something I do all the time if I am going to fish a new area – even if it’s 50 miles away, you would be surprised at how different the thought processes and techniques can vary in a different area.
With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?
Mine isn’t really a kayak specific one, it’s the Menhaden harvest. With these fish being the base of many of our predatory forage species in our water, it’s like this – when you’re hungry and you love to eat chips, but you can’t find them, you decide to eat your significant other’s crackers, and this starts a snowball effect. Fish are eating other species that they wouldn’t normally target. Support your local club or association that is using the legal system and lobbyists to fight the good fight.
Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?
Central America comes to mind; fishing Panama and Costa Rica is on a top of my list. But to also fish the Amazon river with a Yak would be coo,l too.
What’s in your milk crate?
Pliers, Leaders, Slayer Inc. jig heads, swimbaits, single pack peanut butter, and the rest of my tackle.
Tell us about your best day on the water.
Hands down has to be this past Boondoggle when I got my slam, a snook, trout, and redfish all on the same bait. That was special.
What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?
Adventurists, we love this sport because we can get to areas and do things that boaters can’t; we enjoy taking that risk/challenge to push ourselves to see if it pays off.
Your latest life endeavor has you guiding clients on kayak angling adventures in the famous fishery of Hampton Roads. Given the frequency with which this coveted spot is mentioned in kayak angling circles, what does this responsibility mean to you?
Wow, I have never thought of that, but I would want to be known more for the experience. Meaning this: anyone can take out a client and fish all day and not much else, but if you’re sitting there with that person or persons, and you teach them something, or show them why kayak fishing is growing at the rate that it is, I believe that is what takes a trip from just a fishing trip to a memory that they will cherish for a lifetime. And it doesn’t hurt to catch a fish or 10.
What does the future hold for you?
Lots of fishing right now. Started my guide business recently, so hopefully I will be busy this summer. In the next 3 years my lovely and wonderful wife (brownie points) is going to up for orders, and hopefully the Navy will send her to Florida or Louisiana.