Metairie kayak angler lands sailfish off Florida beach

Billfish flips angler’s boat during vacation fishing trip to Destin

Robby Ruel and his friend Mitchell Chevalier, both from Metairie, make regular trips to Destin, Fla., to enjoy the white sand, crystal clear water, and trolling for king mackerel — from kayaks. Their most-recent trip was no different from any other except they went a month early — and they landed a fish neither angler ever expected.

“We vacation in Destin a lot,” Ruel said, “but typically go later in the year. May is earlier than we normally go, but the bite ended up being better.”

Ruel and Chevalier are both experienced kayak fishermen who mainly fish the shallows of Louisiana for redfish and trout, but they like to expand their horizons when vacationing in Florida.

For kayak trolling Ruel uses a Shimano TLD 25 spooled with heavy monofilament on a short trolling rod. He uses a wire leader with circle hook and stinger hook tied to the business end. The bait is rigged with the circle hook through the eyes and the stinger hook in the tail.

“Mitchell and I were about a mile off the beach trolling a northern mackerel bait,” Ruel said. “We got a late start, but got hits immediately. I had a hookup as soon as we started trolling but it came off; Mitchell caught a shark and a king.

“Not long after Mitchell released the king I had a second hookup. I’ve caught several kings out of a kayak, and thought it was just another king.”

But he hadn’t hooked the mackerel he was targeting, which soon became evident.

“I didn’t realize it was a sailfish until it broke the water,” Ruel said

The battle soon became even more of an adventure.

“I fought it for about 30 minutes, and then it pulled me sideways and flipped the kayak,” Ruel said. “I was able to hold onto the reel until my buddy got there.

“I handed him the reel, grabbed a lifejacket, gathered up the stuff that fell out, up-righted the kayak and got back on.”

And then he simply continued the fight.

“Mitchell gave me the rod back, and I fought the fish up to my kayak,” Ruel said. “We were concerned it would jump by the boat and impale one of us, so we worked it between our kayaks and was able to get a rope around it, tie it off to my kayak and paddle in to the beach.”

Ruel said the catch proved how wild kayak fishing can be.

“Yeah, it’s crazy,” he said. “You never know out there.”