Most kayak enthusiasts started out as recreational paddlers, and many of them eventually ended up as kayak anglers. And why not? If kayaking is fun and fishing is great, then combining the two must be pretty awesome, right? Besides, fishing from a kayak, whether for relaxation or sport, is one activity that anyone can definitely enjoy.
If you’re interested in giving kayak fishing a shot, then it is important that you arm yourself with the right tools and requisite knowledge. As such, in this blog post, we’ll outline some of the things you need to consider when choosing and buying a fishing kayak and fishing equipment. We’ll also throw in some tips to help make your kayak fishing experience as safe as it is fun.
That said, let’s get started.
Choosing a Fishing Kayak
In order to find the perfect fishing kayak for you, you’ll need to answer the following questions:
- “Where do you plan to fish?”
- “What kayak features should you look for?”
- “How much can you afford to spend?”
Where do you plan to fish?
There are different bodies of water available for kayak fishing, and each of these have their own unique personality. It is important that you have a fairly good idea of the characteristics of the water you plan to fish since this will have an impact on your choice of fishing kayak.
- Still Freshwater like small ponds and great lakes belong under this category, as well as any other body of water that is gentle and tranquil. If you plan to fish in these kinds of waters, a regular sit-on-top fishing kayak should be more than enough to get the job done. Many kayak fishing enthusiasts also use recreational kayaks and inflatable kayaks since the water is relatively calm.
- Moving Freshwater includes running streams and flowing rivers, and for these kinds of waterscapes, you’ll want a fishing kayak that will allow you to maneuver efficiently around the currents. Thus, you should be looking at river fishing kayaks since their wider beams and shorter length offers good stability and maneuverability.
- In-shore Saltwater are fishing spots in the coastal waters and have a maximum depth of 70 feet. In such waters, kayak anglers can face relatively strong winds and rough waters. As such, an ocean fishing kayak is the preferred option because it offers excellent stability and is pre-treated to withstand the damaging effects of saltwater.
- Off-shore Saltwater are fishing spots out in the ocean and have depths of more than 70 feet. Although these spots are where the biggest fish are found, they also present a more challenging fishing environment (think steep waves and strong winds). Under such conditions, larger and more specialized fishing kayaks are definitely the way to go.
What Kayak Features Should You Look For?
A fishing kayak can have various features that separate them from a regular touring or recreational kayak. However, the basic features you should look for in a fishing kayak are:
- Rod Holders free up your hand so you can paddle your kayak. They can be especially helpful when you’re fish trolling. Some fishing kayaks have built-in rod holders, but if your kayak doesn’t come with any, you can always buy them separately and have them installed.
- A paddle Holder, as the name suggests, holds the paddle while you’re actually fishing. This is so you don’t leave your paddle on your lap and accidentally drop it in the water while you’re landing a fish. Again, most fishing kayaks are already outfitted with a paddle holder, but if yours doesn’t have one, then you can buy aftermarket paddle holders and have them outfitted into your kayak.
- An anchor system is a definite must for kayak fishing because this is what will hold your boat in place and keep you from drifting along with the tide or current.
- Kayak seats for fishing kayaks should offer excellent support for your lower back. Remember, you’ll be sitting for quite a while in the kayak, so you’ll want to be as comfortable as possible. There are also specialized kayak seats with pivoting capabilities so you can cast your lines in different directions without having to turn your kayak.
How Much Can You Afford to Spend?
Fishing kayaks can vary greatly in price. There are fishing kayaks under $500 that are ready for action right out of the box. One the other end of the price spectrum (reaching up to several thousand dollars) are kayaks that are rigged and outfitted with everything you’ll want from a fishing kayak.
To keep things simple, buy the best kayak that you can afford for now. Otherwise, you may want to avoid buying a fishing kayak just yet and save up for “the one”.
Either way, a good quality fishing kayak, regardless of the price, is a solid investment that can give you years of fun and enjoyment. And those fond memories you have with family and friends out in the water? Priceless.
Fishing Gear and Equipment
It’s always important to have the right tools for the job, and it’s no different when it comes to kayak fishing. There are many different types of fishing gear and equipment being sold in the market today, from the traditional fishing rod to the more advanced kayak fish finders. However, if you’re a beginning kayak angler, you may want to stick with the basic fishing gear first. Besides, you can (and most likely will be) always add to your collection of fishing equipment as you progress into the sport.
- Fishing rods come in various lengths, but as a general rule, you’ll want to avoid excessively long rods since they can be difficult to cast and manage from a kayak. A fishing rod between six to eight feet should be more than capable of doing the job. Fishing rods also come in different types, but it is recommended that you only focus on buying the two most commonly used types: the casting rod (which uses a spincasting reel and has a short handle with a pistol grip style) and the spinning rod (which uses a spinning reel and sports a longer handle). Each of these have their own pros and cons and specific purposes, but that topic a whole warrants a different article altogether.
- Reels, like fishing rods, also come in different types, but again, let’s focus on the ones that you’ll most likely be using when kayak fishing: the spincasting reels and spinning reels. A spincasting reel is a simple, close faced reel that is easy to operate, which makes it a perfect choice for beginning kayak anglers. Spinning reels, on the other hand, are extremely popular because they don’t run into kinks as much as spincasting reels do.
- Tackle boxes are essential for kayak fishing since this is where you’ll be keeping your tackles, lures, and extra lines among other things. Tackle boxes come in different sizes and can have varying number of compartments. What’s important though is that you choose a tackle box made from hard and robust plastic and has strong and sturdy handles and hinges.
- Storage boxes can either be strapped onto the kayak or tied to a leash on the side of the kayak and left to float on the water. Between these, most kayak anglers would prefer to let their storage boxes float on the water since this helps to save space inside the kayak.
- Fish nets are often necessary for landing fish, and when buying one, it is recommended that you choose a fish net with a long handle. The longer handle gives you more leverage to hoist the fish into the boat. Most fish nets you’ll see in the market have nylon netting. However, if you are into catch and release fishing style, then it is best to choose a fish net with rubberized netting. This will cause less harm to the fish so that it can live to fight for another day after you let it go.
- A multi-tool is very useful when dealing with tangled lines and removing hooks. Along with a pair of pliers which you can use to remove hooks, this handy tool also has full and serrated blades, a fish scaler, a file for sharpening hooks and more. Why carry a whole toolbox when you can have 10 to 20 different tools in one foldable utensil?
- A first-aid kit is a definite must when going kayak fishing. You can be sure that once hooked, the fish will be fighting for its life. Many kayak anglers have experienced being bitten by fish while they try to remove the hook from its mouth. Some anglers even had puncture wounds caused by the fish’ spines. In such situations, you’ll want a first-aid kit to help clean and treat your wounds so you don’t get any infection or disease.
Kayak Fishing Hazards
Although kayak fishing can be fun, it does come with some risks and hazards that can quickly turn a relaxing fishing trip into a disaster. Here are some of the most common problems that most kayak anglers face when they’re out in the water, as well as some tips to help you avoid or deal with them.
Turning Over and Capsizing
Fishing kayaks can take a bit of rough water, but this doesn’t mean that they’re invincible. Kayaks can and will turn over when they’re hit by strong, rolling waves on their broadside.
Tip: Keep your kayak’s bow or stern directed at an angle to the waves to protect your broadside. Also, be sure that all your fishing gear and equipment are leashed to the kayak so that you don’t lose them in case a huge wave topples your kayak.
It’s can be pretty easy to get lost when your kayak fishing off-shore or in branching rivers and wide mangrove forests. This is especially true if you’re not familiar with the area and are fishing alone. There are kayakers who suddenly find themselves paddling in circles and not knowing where they actually are. That’s why if you’re a beginning kayak angler, it is recommended that you stay close to the shoreline as possible.
Tip: Before heading out for you kayak fishing trip, be sure to let your friends or family or even the coast guard about your plans. That includes where you’ll be fishing, the route you’re taking and what time they can expect you to be back. Also, you should bring a GPS device to help you navigate back to shore.
One of the greatest threats to kayak anglers is hypothermia. Most people would think that this only happens when the weather is freezing cold; however, this isn’t really the case. All that is needed is for the atmospheric temperature to be lower than your body temperature. When exposed to such conditions over an extended period of time, hypothermia can set it. The threat even becomes more dangerous if you’re wearing wet clothes and are exposed to the wind. Under such situations, your body temperature can drop dangerously without you even realizing it.
Tip: Wear waterproof clothing and dress appropriately for the weather. Also, bring a set of dry clothes for you to change into when the ones you’re wearing get too wet for comfort.
Heat Exhaustion and Sunburn
Hot, sunny days coupled with paddling long-distances can cause beginning paddlers to suffer from heat exhaustion, which at worst can lead to heat stroke. In addition, long-term exposure to the sun can result to a painful sunburn or even skin cancer.
Tip: To avoid heat exhaustion, be sure to bring lots of drinking water on board. Also, wearing sunscreen and SPF-rated clothing along with a hat can help protect your skin from the sun.
Extreme Weather Conditions
Out in the open waters the weather can quickly turn from good to bad. It is quite common for wind conditions to change in a matter of minutes, turning what was once a tranquil waterscape into a sea of rolling waves.
Tip: Always check the weather when planning a kayak fishing trip. Also, bring a VHF radio so you can be alerted of upcoming weather disturbances while you’re at sea. And if there’s any chance of the weather getting ugly, avoid fishing in deep, open waters. In fact, you should avoid going out at all. There are plenty of fish in the sea and they will still be there once the weather clears. Until then, your main concern should be to keep yourself safe until the weather’s right for fishing again.
Aside from fish, there are many other creatures that inhabit the waters and its surrounding landscape and waterscape. For instance, there is a likelihood of a snake falling into your kayak when you’re fishing in rivers with low-hanging branches. Alligators, though not very active in daylight, can still be an issue. Sharks are less likely to be a problem considering that more people die of bee stings than shark attacks. However, when you do come across any of these creatures, it is best that you steer your kayak away from them and look for a different spot to anchor your kayak.
Tip: To keep from being harassed by alligators or sharks, avoid leaving blood trails in the water or using a stringer to hold your fish. If you must use one, choose a stringer with a quick-release trigger so you can detach it quickly should the alligator or shark decide to take your catch away from you.
Speeding Power Boats
One of the biggest threats to kayak anglers are speeding powerboats. This is why you should avoid angling in boating channels and high-traffic areas. Besides, with all the disturbance in the water, it is less likely that there’ll be any fish lingering around for you to catch.
Tip: Choose a brightly-colored kayak like red, orange or yellow to make you more visible amidst rolling waves. Also, displaying a bright visibility flag high above your kayak will make you easier to spot and avoid being run over by a speeding power boat.
If you are a novice kayak angler, it is advised that you take a course on kayaking first before testing your capabilities in the water. Aside from paddling skills, you need to learn certain safety and survival techniques like self-rescue or getting back to your kayak if you fall off. You should also be familiar with standard emergency procedures if something goes wrong while you’re out there paddling and fishing in the water.
The Bottom Line
Kayak fishing as a hobby and as a sport is quickly gaining popularity all around the globe. If you are planning to join in on the fun, there is no better time to do that than now. But as mentioned in the earlier paragraphs, there are certain things you need to take into consideration before committing yourself to this activity.
You’ll need to have a good quality fishing kayak that is suitable for the kind of water that you’ll be fishing in. You also need a set of reliable fishing gear and equipment. Lastly, you need to be aware of the different hazards that you may encounter while kayak fishing and how to deal with them correctly. With the right equipment and knowledge, fishing from a kayak can be a worthwhile activity that can be enjoyed by any one.
- Hypothermia, mayoclinic.org
Do you fish from your kayak for your summertime adventures? Talk to us about how your experience was in the comment section below.