Saltwater kayak fishing can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Both beginning and veteran kayak fishing enthusiasts will agree that the open sea provides a whole different adventure compared to the sedate waters of a river or a lake. Even dauntless day-trippers who tried the activity for the first time in guided tours are getting hooked into the sport. Whether it’s done in-shore or off-shore, sea kayak fishing provides those who dare to try it with an epic adventure they won’t soon forget.
Keep in mind though that fishing in seawater presents its own unique set of challenges. So before you take on this particular fishing horizon, here are some helpful tips to ensure that you have a safe, fun, and satisfying expedition.
1. Get the Right Kayak
“Not all kayaks are created equal” goes the old cliché. Different types of kayaks are available in the market nowadays with new and improved models being rolled out almost every year. To prevent yourself from spending your money on the wrong type of kayak, here are some things to remember when you go shopping for one.
- You need to remember why you’re buying a kayak in the first place: you’re going fishing, so you want a kayak that is specifically built for fishing.
- Fishing kayaks are designed differently from other types of recreational kayaks. For example, when you look at a fishing kayak and a touring kayak side by side, you’ll immediately notice that the former is shorter and wider than the latter. This design provides fishing kayaks with a higher degree of lateral stability and reduced chance of capsizing, which are very important when you’re out in the choppy blue waters of the sea.
- Consider getting a fishing kayak that is suitable for saltwater. Ocean fishing kayaks are specifically designed to withstand the corrosive effects of saltwater.
- Sea kayaks come in red, yellow, and orange colors. This makes your vessel stand out better against the blue and white waters of the sea and makes you more visible to the coastguards, large yachts, and other adventurers you’re sharing the beach with.
- Choose sit-on-top kayaks (SOTs) over sit-inside kayaks (SINKs). SOTs are much easier to get in and out of if you happen to fall out and have more storage options to accommodate your fishing equipment and gears. SOTs also have more seating options to enhance your comfort and prevent you from getting an aching back
Aside from seaworthiness, there are several other things that you need to think about when choosing and buying a kayak. Things like transportation, storage, and maintenance should be considered. And when you see a kayak that you like, you should first look for a kayak rental shop, rent a kayak similar to the one you’re thinking about buying and test it out in the water. Doing so will help you better decide whether it is indeed the right choice for you or not.
2. Invest in a Good Paddle
Covering as much ground (or in this case, water) is not much of a concern for most since kayak fishing is more of a sit-and-wait kind of game. However, you still need to have a good paddle since this is what you’ll use to bring your kayak out to sea and move from one fishing spot to the next.
When buying a paddle, here are some things that you should consider:
- Invest in the best kayak paddle you can afford. Choose a paddle that is made with high-quality materials and correct design to allow for more efficient paddling.
- Choose lightweight paddles that are made from fiber-glass reinforced nylon instead of resin or polypropylene paddle to ensure that you don’t fatigue easily before you get to your destination.
- Choose a paddle that is the right size for you. For instance, taller and heavier paddlers may want a longer paddle with a wide blade to move their weight efficiently while shorter or smaller paddlers may want the opposite.
There are many other things to consider when finding the right kayak paddle, but that warrants a whole different article altogether. The point is, choosing the right paddle is crucial to ensure comfort and efficiency and at the same time reduce (if not eliminate) sore hands and shoulders.
Always leash your paddle. Losing your paddle by accident amidst the waves is one of the worst nightmares that can happen to you when you go kayak fishing in the big blue sea.
3. Fishing Gear and Equipment
Whether you’re kayak fishing in freshwater or saltwater, you need to have a good set of fishing equipment. Do note that there are differences between fishing gear for freshwater and saltwater kayak fishing. For example, the lines used for freshwater fishing are lower in density and larger in diameter, while saltwater fishing lines are lower in diameter but have higher density. Fishing rods used for saltwater fishing are also usually longer and heavier.
Consider equipping your fishing kayak with other kayak fishing accessories like rod and paddle holders as well. These will free up your hands and allow for a more comfortable fishing experience.
Aside from your fishing rods, hooks, and baits, here are some other fishing gear and equipment that you may want to consider bringing on your excursion.
- Scissors or knife for snipping line and cutting up small baits.
- A decent pair of pliers for removing your hooks from toothy sea critters.
- An anchor that is light enough to carry but heavy enough to hold your kayak in place.
- Heavy-duty nets with non-slip grip or handle (you may want to choose a soft, knotless nylon mesh or rubber net if you’re into catch and release fishing).
- Emergency repair kit like waterproof epoxy putty to repair unexpected damages to your kayak (very important if you’re doing off-shore saltwater kayak fishing where a swim to shore is almost impossible).
Keep in mind that you will be fishing in the sea, so you may want to look for fishing gear and equipment that stand well to the corrosive impact of saltwater. Such items may be more expensive than ordinary ones, but with a little research and some due diligence, you should be able to find decent yet reasonably priced gear and equipment.
Many beginning kayak fishing enthusiasts often get too excited and bring everything with them in their kayaks except perhaps for the grilling pan. This is one practice you should avoid. Keep it simple and bring only the gear that you know you will use. Kayaks offer only limited space, and most of the basic items you need are enough to take up the whole deck. Besides, being a minimalist will help you stay organized and less prone to losing things overboard.
4. Tracking System
A tracking and navigational system are one of the most important pieces of fishing equipment you’ll be carrying when you go kayak fishing in the open waters, especially when you go off-shore kayak fishing. As thrilling as it is, fishing in this vast frontier comes with a very serious risk of getting lost. If you go far out into the sea, you can lose your bearings and may even be paddling away from the coastline instead of towards it. Losing your sense of direction while out in the open seas can be downright scary, and your navigational system is your best bet for getting back to shore.
Buying a GPS navigator can be a daunting experience for first-time buyers. However, it shouldn’t always be the case. When buying a GPS navigator, look for the following features:
- Excellent waterproof rating (IPX7 or IPX8 should be good enough)
- Power saving option to keep you from changing batteries while out in the waters
- Clear and readable display in any time of day and any condition
- Ease of use so that it will be easy for you to plot or pinpoint locations
- Mounting options (although a handheld GPS navigator leashed to your life vest is good enough)
That said, be sure to put fresh batteries on your GPS navigator before going out, or at least bring some extra batteries just in case your old one dies out.
You should also spend some time creating a paddle plan or a travel route before heading out to the waters. This way, you can easily mark your desired fishing spot and your return location. Also, talk to the coastguard when possible. They can help you plan your paddle guide and let you know about the latest weather forecast.
5. Stay Safe
The sea can be an unforgiving mistress, and sea kayak fishing comes with its own inherent set of risks. To ensure that the experience is safe as it is enjoyable, here are some safety tips to keep in mind.
- Never go sea kayak fishing alone. This is perhaps the number one safety advice you’ll get from seasoned sea kayak enthusiasts. When something unfortunate does happen, you’ll be thankful to have someone nearby. Besides, although kayak fishing conjures images of solitary anglers on the water, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be a nice social sport, too.
- Keep your eyes peeled for any drastic changes in the weather and water conditions. Some anglers get too engrossed in their fishing that they don’t notice the changes in their environment—and these changes can happen rapidly.
- Always wear a life vest or personal flotation device to keep you afloat when you go overboard. This is even if you’re only doing in-shore kayak fishing. Make sure that your life vest fits you right since it will be difficult to move in an ill-fitting PFD. One that has a marine survival emergency whistle attached to it is a good choice.
- Protect yourself from the sun. The harsh sun can cause sunburn and a host of other problems like skin cancer. Be sure to put on some SPF waterproof sunblock before you head out, and wearing a wide brim fishing hat will also be helpful. Too much exposure to the sun can also cause you to become dehydrated, so bring lots of water.
- Bring some form of communication devices like your phone or a VHF radio. It is recommended that you get waterproof devices. If not, you should have a waterproof container where you can store your communication device. Make sure that the batteries are fully charged as well.
Your safety should always be your number one priority when you go kayak fishing in the seas. With good safety practices and the right safety equipment, you will be better prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at you, from high winds to large swells and even rapidly changing weather.
If you’re interested in trying sea kayak fishing, you may want to consider attending a training course or two first. Aside from basic kayaking skills like surf entry/exit and paddling techniques, you’ll also learn crucial safety and survival skills like capsizing drills and self-rescue.
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If you live in or near the coastal regions or are taking a trip to one, be sure to give saltwater kayak fishing a try. Sure, river kayak fishing is fun in its way, but the ocean simply offers more aquatic life providing more opportunity for a more exciting catch. Plus, this challenging environment is perfect for anglers who are looking to expand their fishing horizons.
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