Spring weather brings out kayakers

Published 10:28 am Wednesday, April 16, 2014




Fred Bonner


It’s been nearly 40 years since I obtained a little boat called a “Poke Boat.” It was made up of the then-new miracle fabric called Kevlar and weighed in at a mere 23 pounds. Kayaking, as a nautical sport, was in its infancy and I was wondering what the attraction was for these few outdoorsmen, who were taking to some pretty serious water in a craft that could easily turn upside down.

It didn’t take me long to discover that a Poke Boat was indeed another kind of kayak and was probably the most useful one boat that I’d ever owned. It was amazingly stable and took me into waters that I couldn’t even navigate in a shallow draft canoe. For a fisherman, hunter or explorer, this was the most useful boat I’d ever used.

I never knew just how much of an “up and coming” outdoor sport kayaking was until I attended the first Pamlico Paddle about 35 years ago. That organized paddle took about 45 new kayakers and canoeists on a “paddle” from Lowland (Pamlico County) out and around the famed Pamlico Point, then back into Lowland where a local church treated the boaters to a Down East dinner. Kayakers from every walk of life took part in this excursion, and it was obvious that this kayaking thing was on its way to becoming a popular outdoor activity.

The Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, the Beaufort County Commissioners and the Mid-East Recreation Conservation & Development Council saw the tremendous outdoor resources we had with our 380 miles of protected waterways. Eco-Tourism was beginning to bloom in our coastal area.

With the Down East section of North Carolina offering so much and attracting visitors to our area, the PTRF and other recreation organizations realized that visitors badly needed information on where to launch their paddle craft and where to explore the hidden waterways.

Their answer to this need was to have a wonderful waterproof Beaufort County Canoe/Kayak Paddle Guide and Complete Atlas printed to aid not only the citizens of Beaufort County, but the visitors here as well. It’s a tremendous benefit to outdoorsmen and outdoor women that want to enjoy Beaufort County’s natural resources from a new and exciting angle.

The Pamlico-Tar Rivers now have camping platforms available to paddlers (and other boaters as well) along the upper sections of the two rivers. Similar camping platforms have been constructed by the Roanoke River Partners on the lower reaches of the Roanoke River Wetlands. Birdwatchers have found these structures great for spending a night or two in the really remote sections of eastern N.C.

It’s not just the backwaters that are seeing the paddlers either. After kayakers realized just how stable and safe the vessel really is, they’ve started taking to the open waters of our sounds and rivers. I haven’t heard of anyone who’s braved the notoriously rough open waters of the Pamlico Sound and crossed over to the Outer Banks yet, but I feel sure that sooner or later someone who keeps a close eye on the weather will make that passage in a kayak. The crossing from Harkers Island and across the Core Sound to Cape Lookout is routinely carried out these days by kayakers who watch the weather.

Speckled trout, striped bass and red drum are easy targets for kayakers who can troll two lines at a time, while silently slipping along in the shallows and presenting lures to fish that didn’t expect to find anglers on their trail.

Likewise, hunters find the silent (and legal) kayak a great way to slip up on wild ducks, deer, squirrels and maybe even a black bear or coyote. Just be aware that the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has laws and regulations that spell our some interesting restrictions on shooting from a boat in certain areas of the state.