Paul Lebowitz

With hundreds of articles to his name, Paul Lebowitz is arguably the most prolific writer to address the world of kayak angling.  Paul’s storytelling abilities, which seamlessly weave literary talent with a true passion for the sport, have earned him a place among the true ambassadors of kayak angling.  He is currently serving as editor of Kayak Angler Magazine and acting as ongoing kayak fishing editor at Western Outdoor News.

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

It’s all my son’s fault.  Twelve years ago he was a little tyke.  When I unexpectedly found myself a stay at home dad, I was desperate for ways to get the two of us outside. The kayaks at the Fred Hall Fishing Show fascinated James.  I thought,” a-ha, here’s something new to try,” and bought a Malibu II on the spot.  His infatuation didn’t last long, but I was hooked for life.

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

It was a feisty little spotted bay bass from Mission Bay, full of attitude.  The guys at Dana Landing Market and Tackle said I’d hook up if I threw small grubs.  They were right.  Then the mean little red-eyed rascal spined me.  For that, I’ve caught and released a couple thousand of them since.

As one of the most prolific writers within the sport, you have demonstrated an ability to produce an art form that provides both documentary and entertainment.  Can you describe the creative process behind your work?

My overriding goal – I’m not always successful – is to get out of the way of the story.  There are amazing people in kayak fishing.  Their stories are valuable and deserving of memory.  There’s another aspect – if our shared stories aren’t to be distorted through the lens of outsiders (for example, the ridiculous shark coverage we’ve seen this year), it’s up to us to take the responsibility.  Everyone core contributes to our shared kayak fishing culture and values.

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

A cold Red Bull and a blast of old-school Van Halen gets me going.

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

Are you trying to get me in trouble?  I won’t single anyone out.  There’s no one answer.  The kayak anglers who’ve broken through the veil to directly influence fishing kayak design are one important group.  It took longer than it should have, but it’s really hit, driving fishing-forward innovation.  Then there are those broadcasting the message through TV, magazines, outdoor papers, blogs, and podcasts.  I’m a writer so it may seem self-serving, but I don’t consider myself a kayak fishing personality.  Many men and now women have served as the face of the sport.  Still, no one is more convincing than the grass roots guy evangelizing the sport through impromptu show and tell sessions on the water.  We’ve all been there.

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

That’s raising the bar awfully high. I’m already spoiled.  With Chris Mautino, I was the first fool to take a modern fishing kayak into Alaskan glacial ice – at least we think so. Jim Sammons invited me to the west coast of Panama for an amazing adventure with Pesca Panama, a shoot for his WFN show Kayak Fishing with Jim Sammons. For goodness sake, I’ve kayak fished Mexico’s Lake El Salto, the most ridiculous largemouth fishery you can imagine. Maybe New Zealand?  Midway Island?  Ok, I’d love to do something closer to home, to play with the big calicos at Sacramento Reef on Baja’s remote Pacific coast, en route to more calico bassing at Isla Cedros. I love those salty bass.

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

Access, access, access.  And safety.  In California, the state’s ocean-going kayak anglers have had to battle hard against threats to our relatively rare safe access points, often competing with more established groups. We faced down and survived the likely annihilation of La Jolla, the single busiest kayak fishing launch in the world.  Only through grinding hard work have we earned a place at the table with fellow angling groups. There’s nothing glamorous or fun about it.  If you value your access, you better show up when the government tries to shut you down.

On the safety side, it’s up to us to take care of our fellow kayak anglers, particularly novices who don’t know any better. Failure invites more official intrusion and regulation.  So far, the American Canoe Association (ACA) hasn’t made much headway with kayak anglers. They could do better if they took an angler’s perspective – focus on the fish, and how to get to and from in one safe piece. Sea kayaker snootiness will get nowhere with this group.

What’s in your milk crate? 

I still have my original crate from back in the day, when it was a rite of passage to claim one. While my more modern rides don’t really need it, occasionally I toss a tackle flat and a couple of poles in the crate for a simple high Sierra trout trip. It’s good to go back to the basics. It reminds me where it all started.

Tell us about your best day on the water.

Without question, it was the time a squadron of coaly grey porpoise escorted me into a short-lived yellowfin foamer off Isla Coiba in Panama.  Amazing – we travelled in company eye to eye, and then they peeled off and led me to the fish.  I was on as soon as my popper hit the water.  Incredibly, it was the topper to a day that started with a crazy game of chicken with hard-pulling jacks at the surf-chewed base of a sheer cliff.  That was living!

What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

It’s a kayak that lives on the truck for short intervals between outings, the perennial taste of saltwater spray on your lips, sunrises and sunsets marked from the cockpit on the most comfortable chariot I can imagine. It’s feeding your family and / or your soul the sustenance that can only come from reconnecting with mother ocean, and shared time on the water with like-minded friends.


You have been witness to the sport since its modern inception. What important changes have you noted over the years?

The sport is reflected in the kayaks, naturally enough.  These days they roll out of the factory fully rigged (or nearly so), ready to fish.  There’s a ride for every niche, save one.  In the age of the ever wider and bigger fishing kayak, performance fishing paddlers are growing scarcer by the years.  It’s silly to blame the manufacturers – they’re sensibly following the market.  But I’m heartened to see the MacGyver spirit still lives – hooray for custom rigging, for getting it just how you want it.  Also, fewer people see us as freaks.  Heck, in warmer areas we’re mainstream, part of the coastal fabric.

Tell us a story, any story.

The sea is generous with the gift of surprises.  It’s where I learned sharks can fly, discovered the frightening speed of 25-foot tall watery freight trains at the Cortez Bank, and marveled to spectral underwater fireworks. Perhaps best of all, these experiences were shared with great friends.

You provide a lens through which the world can view the sport of kayak angling.  What does this role mean to you?

I take it seriously.  At Kayak Angler Magazine, we hope to reflect the sport in its broad diversity, celebrate its heroes, sound the alarm to looming threats, and just plain have a good time sharing the love of kayak fishing. A lot of it, like anything connected to a paycheck, is routine hard work.

What will kayak angling, and the media covering it, look like in ten years?

The sport is still growing steadily, if not as fast as it once was.  There’s a ways to go.  The heartland interior is in the midst of discovering the best of all man-powered boats.  I think we’ll continue to see niche filling and specialization from manufacturers.  Prices seem to be dropping too; you can get a lot of ‘yak for your dough. On the media side, we could have a monthly magazine by then, and more television programming.  Right now, kayak fishing regularly shows up in the regional outdoor press.  The biggest changes will be more frequent appearances in mainstream media, hopefully not so much as a curiosity.

What does the future hold for you?

Who can say? Plenty more kayaking and fishing I hope.

4 Responses to “Paul Lebowitz”

  1. larry kegel says:

    Paul, I believe America should appoint u President of affairs of The Pacific Ocean & Tributaries. Thank u for more than everything u are & hope u help keep everyone knowledgeable of the importance of fisheries & our Oceans & Rivers ETC.

  2. Anacapabob says:

    I would kayak fish with Mr. Lebowitz anywhere in the world. Not only a true talent with the pen, but a good mate to have along side durring the battle. Cheers.

  3. Jim Dolan says:

    Great interview and great idea for a blog. Paul has pushed the sport forward throughout the country and cross the world. Good to hear his personal thoughts.

  4. David Elgas says:

    right on Paul… i enjoyed the interview.. keep up the good work.. ALOHA

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