Fishing is one of the most rewarding and relaxing hobbies there is. But it can be pretty frustrating sitting on the bank all day without a catch. That’s why so many fishermen are turning to kayak fishing. Instead of sitting there waiting for a catch, you can move around the water, seeking out the fish.
Kayak fishing is the ‘in’ thing in the fishing world. But there’s a bit to learn before you hop into a kayak. In this essential guide to kayak fishing, we’ve covered everything you need to know to get out there and start fishing!
Why You Should Choose Kayak Fishing
If kayak fishing doesn’t seem like your thing, then you need to check out the amazing benefits.
Accessibility – One of the biggest benefits of kayak fishing is that you can get to places that other boats can’t because you’re not restricted by having a large boat or a powerful engine. Therefore, you can fit into smaller areas and get access to the fish that no one else is touching. This means more fish, less competition, and much more fun.
Price – Of course, it’s cheaper to fish without a boat at all. But, when you compare kayak fishing to buying a motorized boat, you’re going to save a whole lot of money. Once you’ve bought all the equipment (which should cost you around $3000), there are barely any running costs.
Environmentally Friendly – As a lover of the great outdoors, you will probably be concerned about your impact on the environment. Fortunately, kayak fishing is one of the lowest impact hobbies out there. The equipment will last you forever and you don’t need to power the boat with harmful petrol or diesel.
Good Exercise – You don’t see many overweight kayak fishermen. That’s because they spend all day paddling around. It’s an excellent low-intensity workout, which means you’ll get fitter without even noticing.
Convenience – If you choose to fish on a motorized boat, you’ll need to get a trailer or pay to dock it. With a kayak, all you need to do is tie it to the roof of your car. There are even inflatable and foldable options which you’ll be able to fit in the trunk.
Choosing The Right Kayak
Now that you’re convinced about the benefits of kayak fishing, you need to start thinking about the equipment. The first thing on the list is, of course, a kayak. There are all sorts of options, ranging in length, width, features, and type. So, let’s break down the different types and look at their advantages and disadvantages.
Sit-on-top fishing kayak – As you might have guessed from the name, this type of kayak features a seat placed on top of the kayak. This gives you the ability to see further around you and seek out the best fishing spots. They’re also more stable, so are better for inexperienced paddlers.
Sit-inside fishing kayak – This is the most common type of hard-shelled fishing kayak. The seat is inside the kayak, which gives you a little less room on the hull. However, they’re fast and stealthy and used by a lot of kayak fishermen.
Tandem fishing kayaks – If you like to fish with a buddy, then you should look at a tandem fishing kayak. They’re obviously a lot longer than a single-person kayak, but then you get the benefits of having two people, like less paddling and more chance of catching fish. Really, it just comes down to whether you want to fish alone or with a friend.
Fly-fishing kayaks – A fly-fishing kayak is specifically rigged up so that you can fish with artificial bait and a rod. Some people prefer fly-fishing because of the stealth and ease of it, but then again, it’s a separate skill that needs to be learned. We’d say this type of kayak is probably more for the seasoned fisherman.
Inflatable fishing kayaks – Inflatable fishing kayaks are an awesome alternative to a traditional hard-shelled kayak. They’re often cheaper, a lot easier to transport, and still very durable, so it’s no surprise that lots of fishermen use them. They can be difficult to put away after your trip and they’re not as fast in the water, but they still make a pretty solid alternative.
How To Prepare Your Kayak For Fishing
Once you’ve chosen the right type of kayak for you, you need to think about what else you’re going to need. Most kayaks won’t come prepared for fishing, so you might have to buy a few extras. In this section, we’ll detail exactly what you need to get your kayak ready.
Paddles – You won’t get very far without them. Lots of kayaks don’t come with paddles included, so you’ll have to buy yourself a pair. You want something relatively lightweight so that you don’t tire yourself out too quickly.
Paddle Leashes – Paddle leashes stop your paddles from floating away if you drop them. This is super important because otherwise you could be stranded without any way of getting back to shore.
Rod Holders – Rod holders allow you to easily control your boat whilst fishing. They hold your fishing rods so you don’t have to pack them away every time you want to move position.
Seat – You’re going to have a pretty miserable day fishing if you don’t have anywhere to sit. Whether you choose to sit on top of the kayak’s hull or inside it, you need a comfortable chair that you don’t mind sitting on for hours at a time.
Anchor – Once you’ve found the perfect spot, you might not want to move again. That’s when you need an anchoring system and trolley. This allows you to easily drop the anchor and pull it back in.
Kayak Storage – When you set out on a day’s kayak fishing, you’ll have a lot of stuff with you. You need a place for all of your fishing tackle, food, clothing, and valuables. You can buy specific kayak storage boxes that attach to the kayak and make life onboard much easier.
Cooler – A long day out fishing in the sun can be the perfect day. But it’s not going to be much fun without refreshments. Whether that’s a cold can of beer or a bottle of water, a cooler is an essential item if you want to enjoy your fishing.
Net – Any fisherman will be able to tell you the importance of having a landing net. Once you’ve reeled your fish all the way in, you need something to catch it in. Ideally, find one that is easy to attach to the kayak.
Dry Bag – If you’re careful you should never end up in the water, but just in case it’s important to have a dry bag to keep your valuables in. Then, even if you do end up capsizing, at least your stuff will stay dry.
Fish Finder – A sonar fish finder and GPS system will make your fishing trips so much more fun. It will tell you the best places to fish and help you track your progress.
Where To Go Kayak Fishing
The best thing about fishing on a kayak is that you can go pretty much anywhere. They are so versatile that you can fish in almost any body of water, moving or still. You can fish in both freshwater and saltwater, all you need to do is change your fishing equipment accordingly.
Freshwater Kayak Fishing – Most kayak fishermen, especially beginners, like to fish in still water. It’s a lot easier to maneuver a kayak when there are no currents to think about. You can paddle around, find your perfect position and start fishing. It’s easy to find fish like pike, trout, catfish, and more in local lakes or reservoirs.
Rivers are the other obvious freshwater kayak fishing option. It is definitely more challenging than fishing in still water, but it can also be a lot of fun. The interesting thing about river fishing is that you can use the flow of the river to your advantage. Just point your kayak down the river and let the flow take you.
Saltwater Kayak Fishing – When you move to saltwater kayak fishing, everything gets a bit more serious. The currents are stronger, the fish are bigger and more powerful, and the fishing areas are vast. So, you really need to know what you’re doing. That’s why it’s important to start small. Don’t rush in and go for the most extreme saltwater kayak fishing.
Most people start out fishing in inshore waters. That means that it’s close to the shore and often protected by some sort of barrier like an island, reef or bay. Obviously, because you’re fishing in the sea, you are going to encounter bigger fish like grouper and tuna. That means you will need to have the fishing tackle to handle it.
Essential Kayak Fishing Safety
Without the right safety equipment, an enjoyable day out fishing can turn into a disaster. As a responsible angler, you should never underestimate the potential dangers of water and be overprepared in case of an emergency. Here is a list of essential safety equipment you should have on your kayak at all times.
PFD (personal flotation device) – It doesn’t matter how strong a swimmer you are, it’s important to have a personal flotation device. This could be the difference between life and death in an emergency.
First aid kit – A decent first aid kit will have everything you need to treat a minor wound. Whether you cut yourself on a line or even get bitten by something in the water, having something to clean and dress the wound is really important.
Whistle – If you’re close to shore and need help, a whistle is a perfect way of alerting someone. It’s more reliable than a radio and will immediately let someone know you need help.
VHF marine radio – Every boat should have a VHF marine radio. If you ask for help, all of the boats in the surrounding area will rush to your aid.
Dry suit or wetsuit – This is an essential item if you’re kayak fishing in colder waters. It will keep you warm and stop you from getting hypothermia, should you enter the water.
Knife – A knife might not seem like the most obvious safety item, but it could come in really handy if your ropes get tangled or you need to cut a line.
Sun protection – Spending the whole day out in the sun can be pretty dangerous. You need to take sunscreen and protective clothing.
Flares – Flares will allow you to let other people know your position if you get caught out at night.
Tow rope – If you do get lost out at sea, then you might be able to get towed back to shore by a bigger boat.
Safety flag – This isn’t an essential item, but it will make you more visible to other water users.
Navigation/visibility lights – This is especially important if you’re planning to fish in the late afternoon or evening.
Understanding Kayak Fishing Conditions
First things first, it’s really important when you’re just starting out kayak fishing to choose easy conditions. If you are new to the equipment on your boat, it could get very complicated, very quickly. Think about it, you’re trying to operate the fishing gear as well as keeping the boat in position and keeping an eye on other boats in the area. So, on your first trip out, fish in still waters and give yourself plenty of time to get to shore before it gets dark.
For more experienced kayak anglers, here’s what you need to be looking out for. There are multiple places to check the conditions, but the most reliable is BOM (Bureau of Meteorology).
Wind strength – The wind strength will give you a good idea of how the waters will be. Of course, on top of this you have to consider the wind direction, tides, fetch, and everything else that will affect the water conditions. If you find multiple different wind strength predictions online, always assume the highest number will be correct.
Wind direction – The direction of the wind is what makes the water either choppy or flat. If the wind is blowing towards the shore, the waters will be choppy. If the wind is blowing out to sea, the water will be flatter. However, it’s worth remembering that even if the water is flat, you will have to paddle against the wind to get home.
Fetch – Fetch is something considered by experienced sea fishermen. It is the distance that the wind has traveled over the water before it reaches you. The higher the fetch, the more strength the waves will have.
Tides – You should always research the tide before you set off on a kayak fishing trip at sea. Sometimes tides are easy to predict, but you need to be careful when they are mixed with strong winds. If the tide and wind are going in the same direction, it is easy to handle. However, if they are working against each other, it can cause your boat to swing around which makes fishing very difficult.
Local knowledge – Wherever you are fishing, it’s great to get some local knowledge before you set out. Try and buy your bait from a local store, so that you can get into a conversation with the shop owners and ask about the conditions and best spots. If that doesn’t work, just approach other people around the landing area and see what you can find out. You never know, you might find out about the best secret fishing spot.
Sunrise and sunset – Unless you’re an early bird, you probably won’t need to check the sunrise time. Although, it is a pretty special experience being the first one out fishing as the sun comes up. However, the sunset time is absolutely crucial. It’s easy to get carried away and forget about the time when you’re kayak fishing, so knowing what time the sun is going to go down is really important. You could even set yourself an alarm on your smartphone, so you know what time to start heading in.
Kayak Fishing Tips
We’re not going to go into a huge amount of detail on the fishing techniques related to kayak fishing. There are endless options in terms of where to go kayak fishing and what fish to look for, and detailing all of these would be impossible. Instead, here are a few general tips that every kayak angler could use to improve their fishing.
Practice moving silently – The quieter you can move through the water, the less you will spook the fish. If you practice moving silently at all times, you will be an expert by the time you’re sneaking up on a school.
Learn sight fishing – This is the practice of looking for fish with your eyes. You can even stand up in some kayaks, which will allow you to look further. On sunny days, polarized glasses will make this much easier.
Learn to change lure quickly – Different fish respond to different lures. Being able to change this quickly could be the difference between catching a fish and missing an opportunity.
Learn how to drift – When you find a current that isn’t too strong, you can drift through the water. This will allow you to move without any effort. You can even use a drift chute to slow yourself down.