“If I could only ever fish one body of water,” says Chris Santoro, “It would be the Susquehanna River. It’s different every time you go out, and each time I’m fishing it, I have to re-learn it.”
Chris (@yakfishChris on Instagram) has been fishing since he was five or six years old. He started with his grandfather in fisheries of eastern Pennsylvania, where he grew up — just outside of Philadelphia.
Chris admired his grandfather, who traveled to fish with his buddies. Unfortunately, he passed when Chris was only 16, and Chris never got to go on a long-distance fishing trip with his granddad.
When he started to go out on his own though, Chris found a little honey hole all to himself.
“I cut my teeth on a little lake called Marsh Creek,” he says. “Even today I can go there and I’m sure to get at least a couple four-pounders [largemouth bass].”
It’s the fishery Chris is most familiar with.
“I know that lake,” he says. “I’ve been lucky to have been blessed with it.”
A few years ago, Chris saw someone out fishing in a kayak, he thought it would be a great way to get to the places that he couldn’t reach from shore. So, he went out and found a cheap, flat water kayak and made a bunch of mods — like rod holders — himself.
“It was my little fishing machine for a year and a half,” he says. And YakfishChris was born.
Then Chris picked up a technical fishing kayak and he hasn’t looked back.
He’s put a lot of mile on the kayak — both on the water and on the road.
“I’ll head up to the Susquehanna River for smallmouth — the stretch between Harrisburg and York is an incredible smallmouth (gigantic smallmouth) fishery — and head over to New Jersey for stripers and flounder,” Chris says. “But it’s mostly backbay stuff. Getting the kayak out into the surf and then trying to fish from it can be dicey.”
But Chris doesn’t limit himself to the mid-Atalantic region.
“For the past couple of years, some buddies and I have been heading down to Louisiana for redfish and specks [speckled seatrout],” he says. “We stay on a houseboat and use the water as a grocery store.”
He loves it down there, and the trip gives him the opportunity to target one of his favorite species.
“I love catching redfish,” he says. “They are my favorite saltwater species to target. But if I was limited to only one kind of fish to chase, it would be smallmouth bass.”
Smallmouth are Chris’ favorite species to catch.
“There’s just something about a football coming up out of crystal clear water,” he says. “On the Susquehanna, you could literally have a 100-fish day. I’ve easily done 40 myself.”
For Chris, the experience is the reward.
“Every time I go out, I’m always learning. I’m always trying to take something away from the experience,” he says. “About myself, about the fish, about the water.”