By Josh Wood & Jason Murdock
Kayaks have been around for thousands of years with a primary use as an aid in the pursuit of fish and game. Originally built with animal skin stretched over a whalebone or wooden frame their modern counterpart is typically polyethylene resin. Over the last 15-25 years the sport of kayak fishing has taken off and is flourishing all over the world in all types of water bodies. From a stealthy pursuit of easily spooked fish in the shallows to jigging in the wide open ocean, these vessels are putting more and more people on good numbers of fish while getting active in the pursuit.
Where to Start
There are many books on the market which detail all aspects of recreational kayaking and a quick search on the Internet can reveal many manufacturers and retailers. Forums can also be a great way to get questions answered and real life reviews of products and set ups. Two kayak fishing related sites are Yakangling.com and CanadianKayakAnglers.com – both are filled with knowledge and expertise. Fort Whyte Alive centre in Winnipeg also provides lessons, paddle days along with rentals and can be a good way to find out if kayaking might be for you. With a bit of research and some helpful more experienced kayak anglers, you can get your basics covered with what is needed for a successful and safe day out on the water.
Styles of Kayaks
There are many styles of fishing kayaks which cater to specific needs for different types of conditions and fishing. The two main categories are sit in and sit on top with the latter having a few advantages for the fishing angler. There are lots of brands out there with models catering both to the advanced kayaker and the beginner; Jackson, Wilderness Supply, Hobie, Native Watercraft and Ocean to name a few. The longer and narrower models are faster to paddle but typically not as easy to fish standing up, while wider models can be designed for standing and sight fishing they may be a little slower of a paddle. Some fishing kayaks have pedal drive systems like the Native Watercraft – propel drive, and Hobie kayaks – mirage drive. These may relieve some of the strain on the arms from long days of casting and paddling. Finding the model that is right for you might take some shopping around so remember to be specific with the salesperson about your target species and potential bodies of water you hope to fish as that can make a big difference as to the kind of kayak and equipment needed.
What You Need
First things first is safety. Contrary to what many might believe fishing from a kayak is actually fairly safe. A PFD is a must and there are a few styles designed specifically for kayak seats. You should always carry a small first aid kit for emergencies as well as a whistle to signal for help and a knife to cut loose snags, both attached to your PFD. A paddle, bilge pump if you are in a sit in style and a head lamp or boat light if you plan to be on the water before or after dark are all musts. One more note on safety, especially if travelling in the back country, areas would be a satellite communication device like the “Spot” or “Delorme InReach” which allows you to text from anywhere in the world no matter where you are. Always no matter where or how you are fishing let a friend or family member know in case of emergency and if you are new to the sport it is a good idea to head out with someone.
After the basics are covered the options are almost endless to improve the fishing experience. Rod holders, anchor systems, nets, tie downs, tackle holders, waterproof storage, fish finders, almost anything you can have on a boat can be customized for a kayak. Not all may be needed initially, but the more you fish from a kayak the more you want to “trick” it out. You can also get specifically designed trolling motors for kayaks that are light weight like the Torqueedo Ultra light motor which only weighs 15lbs with the battery. This can make a huge difference, especially portaging when every pound counts. A good seat is essential as comfort is key for long days on the water along with a light weight paddle, each ounce can count there as well. Just like a boat, some form of transportation is needed to get a kayak to its destination and again there are many options from a roof rack or trailer to a carry cart.
Where To Go
Once you are ready to fish from your kayak, sheltered smaller lakes or slow flowing rivers can be a good place to start. Get comfortable with the vessel and basic maneuvers long before wetting a line. Practice getting in and out, banking and launching, even try to tip or dump in shallow water and getting back on from the water. All these are best tried and practiced in ideal conditions and warm water preferably. Once you’ve got the hang of things and landed a few fish more options will open up and in the end you can potentially fish any body of water that matches your skill and comfort level.
Remember everything gets wet in a kayak so dress according to the weather and conditions. Sun screen, rain gear, hat, sunglasses, gloves, face shields even wet suits or flotation suits can all come in handy. Many the angler from a boat were in awe when they saw a few guys on kayaks paddling down the Red River in November for the walleye run as warm, comfortable and safe as any of them. Kayak fishing can provide excellent exercise and angling opportunities to any with a bit of effort and investment and with the right gear and experience any and all species of freshwater fish can be attainable from a kayak.