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Joint Base Lewis-McChord kayak fishing

Servicemembers are catching big ones from a tiny boat

Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Drake caught a 27-pound king salmon from his kayak. Courtesy photo

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Some people are habitual runners, others race bikes and a few even climb mountains to get that rush of adrenaline; but have you heard of kayak fishing?

"This is why I fish ... sometimes I catch fish, often times I get skunked, sometimes I make memories that will haunt me for the rest of my life, calling me back for one more drift," mused Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Drake, an avid angler and the command chief for the 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Drake is just one of many JBLM servicemembers who have developed a passion for the niche sport of kayak fishing. The self-explanatory hobby has been growing in popularity over the last decade and locally the Northwest Kayak Anglers (NWKA) club unites those that have caught the kayak fishing fever.

"The club is made up of knowledgeable and friendly people who are very passionate about the sport and very willing to share their knowledge," Drake said. "Club members were more than willing to share tips and even take me out and show me the local (fishing) hot spots.

"My dad instilled in me a passion for fishing and hunting at a very early age. I've been canoeing and kayaking since my early teens ... so it was only natural to combine the two passions," Drake continued.

"There's roughly a thousand members in NWKA and being in touch with that many like-minded people, being able to meet up and share these experiences is great," stated Tech. Sgt. Richard Wark, who returned to kayak fishing when he PCS'd to JBLM from land-locked New Mexico in 2009. "I had done it before and I loved it. So I looked into groups when I got here and I was out there meeting people on the water right away."

In addition to connecting members, NWKA also provides educational forums and gives back to the community. For years, the NWKA has worked with the Heroes on the Water program, which pairs wounded veterans with experienced kayak fishers on outings that are intended to provide both physical and mental therapeutic benefits.

"When I'm on the water I tend to forget about everything else and just enjoy myself - which is exactly why we try to work with the wounded warriors so that they can maybe feel the same way," said Army 2nd Lt. Nathan Franks, who joined the NWKA when he was stationed at JBLM last year.

Not to say there's no competition in NWKA; it is, after all, still a sport. Throughout the year there are tournaments and members all compete with each other for the coveted "Angler of the Year" honor. However, it's a simple love of fishing that really attracts members and draws them back to the water as much as their schedules will allow.

"We try to get out almost every weekend even though it depends on a lot of busy schedules," Wark said. "Sometimes it can be two to four times a week during the right season."

"Not only have I met fellow servicemembers with similar interests, I've met, fished with and developed strong friendships with fishermen from as far away as Alaska, Oregon and Northern California," Drake said.

So whether you're an angler looking for a new challenge or you're new to the area and interested in making friends, kayak fishing might be worth a try.

"We're always looking for new members who'd like to contribute or learn more about the sport. If you like to fish, enjoy kayaking and being very close to nature, this sport is for you," Drake concluded.

For more information on the NWKA, visit

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