People ask me all the time “Jack, why do you love kayak fishing so much?” and the answer is simple. In what other recreational activity to I get to combine the relaxation and excitement of being outdoors and fishing with something that is relatively inexpensive, easy, and most importantly healthy? I’ve been fishing from kayaks for nearly a decade, but just recently has it exploded. So crack a beer, pull up a chair, and enjoy my all-inclusive beginners guide to kayak fishing.
How do I get started?
Well, you’ve already started the process. Learn as much as you can as the best kayak choice for you is going to vary based upon your region, experience, and budget. You need to understand the pros and cons of the different types of kayaks, the proper kayak for a day on the ocean is going to be incredibly different than the proper kayak for bass fishing the local rivers.
I recommend having a general idea of what type of kayak best suits your needs, budget, and region and then head on down to your local fishing/paddle shop for the best local advice. Chances are they know the area and conditions well enough to help you narrow down your choices.
Best Places to Kayak Fish
Kayak fishing is so incredibly versatile, down here in Southwest Florida I’ve fished the mangroves, the open sea, small rivers, and just about anywhere else you could think. As an avid tarpon angler, my preferred mode of transportation is the kayak. For the uninitiated tarpon fisher, tarpon spook extremely easily making approaching them with larger motorized boats extremely difficult. However, with my trusty kayak I’m able to get right up close and personal. Throw in the added benefit of some great exercise and my wife is much more amicable to the fact that I’m on the water 3-5 days a week during tarpon season.
What Type of Fish Can I Catch?
You can fish for just about any species you could possibly imagine. Kayak fishing is great for both salt water and fresh water fishing. I enjoy fishing for bonefish, redfish, and tarpon during the spring and summer, but I’ve also kayak fished for freshwater striper. The best advice I can give you is to take notice of the weather, moon phases, season of the species you’re fishing, and the environment in which you will be paddling. Keeping accurate logs, will allow you to plan your trips and equipment accordingly and increase your chances of success. Even if you don’t manage to haul in a large catch, you can take solace in the fact that you spent the day exercising.
How Do I Select the Best Kayak for Fishing?
The answer to this isn’t black and white, as there are many factors that go into making this decision. So I recommend asking yourself these questions:
Where will you be fishing, freshwater or salt water?
Will you be fishing docile ponds, lakes, or bays, or will you be doing longer expeditions in the open sea?
What type of fish are you targeting?
What’s your preferred fishing outfit, fly rod, bait caster, spinning reel, etc?
What is your level of kayaking experience, are you an experienced kayaker or are you a novice?
What is your price range?
Take all of this information and head down to your local shop, ask questions, ask for recommendations. If you’re new to kayaking you can rent a kayak for the day for about $40, demo the kayak and make sure kayak fishing is for you before spending hundreds of dollars.
What Do I Need?
There’s more to kayak fishing than just selecting the kayak. For the best experience on the water you’re going to want to take the following items into consideration:
Make sure the kayak has rod holders, a paddle leash, a paddle holder or clip, an anchor, a cooler, and plenty of storage. Fitting all of your equipment onto your kayak while still being able to cast and paddle can be a challenge, but it’s also part of the fun. As you become more experienced on the water you will be able to identify the best attachment sites that work best for you. For example, as a 6 foot tall lefty, my setup tends to be very different than most. You will also begin to learn what is absolutely necessary to have on the water, what is nice to have, and what is a waste of space.
Best Ways to Transport my Kayak
Surprisingly, this is something a lot of people don’t think of before making a purchase. One of the biggest advantages of kayak fishing, is that I can just throw my kayak in the back of my truck or on top of the wife’s SUV and be on my way. There’s no need to trailer your kayak. Kayaks range in size from 12-20 feet, so if you find yourself without the ability to transport one don’t panic there are plenty of high quality inflatable fishing kayaks on the market. For the longer fishing excursions, I like to tether our kayaks to the back of the boat until we get a bit closer to our fishing destination. This is particularly useful for fishing distant coves and mangroves down here in Florida.
Getting the kayak to the water can be a bit of a challenge especially for children the elderly, or those with larger kayaks. A kayak-cart will become your best friend, essentially a set of wheels that your kayak sits on top of, a kayak cart allows you to turn your kayak into a wagon. I cannot recommend a kayak cart enough for those of you who will be navigating sand or long distances on your way to the water.