I’ve been a fisherman longer than I can remember, but the jet ski part began about 2002. Gas prices were inching up and my boat was expensive to maintain and operate. One day I found myself heading out into the Chesapeake Bay on my three-seater Polaris, fishing rod and net under my feet. A bit primitive, but it worked fine for catching croaker, spot, flounder and rockfish. Before long I was venturing as far as the Chesapeake light tower, about 15 miles offshore of Virginia Beach. There I tried spear fishing as well, and had good results with spade and trigger fish.
But after a couple of years, I knew I wanted to rig a personal watercraft specifically for fishing. Research, much of it online, led me to Yamaha’s largest personal watercraft, the SUV 1200. It promised the best in size, stability and storage capacity.
The used (six-year-old) 2001 SUV 1200 I purchased from a local guy in Virginia Beach, was pristine—garage-kept, with only 75 hours of run time. In a mere 18 months, I added another 450 hours. The waverunner can either be launched from my dock or trailered to any boat ramp.
My buddy John at Bishops Rod & Tackle in Grafton, Virginia, sent me to Albert Martin of Martin’s Custom Structures. Albert was more than enthusiastic about rigging a jet ski for fishing. He had been wondering, he said, if someone was crazy enough to try, and there I was. Between my ideas and his expertise, we put together a great setup. The modified 1200 carries up to six rods or a combination of rods, gaff and net. I can troll, drift or dive off of this great platform. I have since added a GPS/fish finder combo, VHF, navigation lights and an additional deep cycle gel battery to support these electronics.
At age 44 and married, I am very safety conscious. Otherwise, my wife won’t let me out of the house. The safety gear I carry includes an additional hand-held GPS, hand-held VHF, Spot GPS tracker, flares, signal mirror, whistle, compass, personal strobe, first aid kit and dye pack. In the winter I also wear a Mustang Survival suit.
Am I a lucky guy or what? In 2008 I was able to go fishing 120 times. (Thanks, honey!) Seventy of those trips were from my jet ski. I also have a Grady White Trophy Pro with twin 200 hp Yamaha 2 strokes. My Grady gets about 1.1 miles per gallon cruising at 35 mph, while my Yamaha gets 4 to 5 mpg at the same speed. It is also capable of speeds up to 53 mph when sea conditions are ideal. With gas prices hitting $4/gallon last year, there is no way I would have been able to fish as much without the waverunner.
Being self-employed also makes it easier to get time off for fishing. My brother John and I co-own and operate American Chemical Concepts, a supplier of cleaning supplies to area restaurants and hotels. We also lease and sell commercial dish machines. Fortunately, only one of us has to be on-call at a time.
Now that we’re empty nesters, my wife and I live on the water in Poquoson, Virginia, a small bayfront community of about 12,500, between Yorktown and Hampton. From my backyard it’s about 6 miles to York Spit Light and 25 miles to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel—by water, of course. It’s the only way to travel.
Talking about Jet Ski Fishing is almost as much fun as doing it. I’ve been honored to give talks to the Great Bridge Anglers Club, the Bull Island Fishing Club, and at the Bass Pro Shop during their Spring Fishing Classic event. I have been featured in The Virginian-Pilot, The Sportsman, and recently on the cover of Fisherman Magazine. You can also check out my fishing reports online at Atlantic Anglers and Tidalfish. Most of my reports are illustrated with my own photographs, often including pictures of other anglers fishing nearby. I am currently a member of the Peninsula Salt Water Fishing club, the Bull Island Anglers, Tidewater Oyster Gardeners, International Game Fish Association, and Ducks Unlimited.
As long as I have some notice, I am happy to come talk to almost anyone almost anytime about the advantages of Jet Ski Fishing. When possible, I prefer to bring my rigged-out SUV 1200 with me.
My next dream is to acquire a sponsorship from Yamaha. I would like to help them design a PWC (Personal Water Craft) dedicated specifically for fishing. I would also like to promote some of the gear I fish with and the safety equipment I carry.