Kayak Fishing. Brand new to the sport? Trying to get it right? We have all been there. Me, a guide for 15 years, I have everything down to “a system.” It is almost counterproductive to let anyone help me. A pet peeve, when people help invariably things are done “wrong.” Wrong, wrong or just wrong because I don’t like it? A little of each.
The following is “thoughts on kayak fishing” according to me. Questions that are common, answered.
One right out of the gate that comes to mind. Finishing a trip. You can land your kayak directly behind your vehicle. Why do people land their kayak ten yards to the side? I never could figure that one out and I see it all the time. To me the goal is as much as possible to reduce effort.
One to consider: A huge rule I have. There are two places for your gear, in your car or in your kayak. Don’t lean rods against a guardrail, your car or trees at the end of a trip. If you adhere to “in the car or in the kayak” the chances of driving off or paddling out with your gear laying there go down to zero.
The beauty of kayak fishing is the simplicity of it all. There is nothing to it. You select the right kayak for you: There is no fuel. No electronics. And really, no maintenance. What I replace on a kayak? A piece of bungee on the anchor trolley and even that, only once every four years. Tire of kayak fishing? Sell the stuff and get nearly all your money back.
Buying a kayak, doing it used saves hundreds of dollars. Most people selling a kayak used that they bought new, will knock $300 off what they paid for it.
The right kayak, the stability you want. A fishing kayak should not flip. A width of around 32 inches, they usually don’t. If you are in a kayak that flips, you got the wrong kayak. The gear can be expensive: Choose a kayak that keeps it dry. The equipment now is more durable than it used to be. Servicing of reels is done less frequently. Clients who are “dunkers” aren’t putting as much stress on my reels.
The Kayak and Questions:
Question #1: How do I reduce the prep time in getting the kayak ready for launch?
My efficiency article covers it in great detail actually. But to abbreviate: Make fewer trips. How to help make fewer trips? The crate organizer. Instead of making ten trips to carry all the different items, why not make one trip with a crate? No crate, take along buckets. Carry multiple items one way or another. Save time.
Question #2: What are ways to reduce the breakdown time after a trip?
Crate for both situations: Moving a crate instead of several dozen individual items. It is the same as setup. It just saves time. For breakdown, keep in mind, everything should have its own place. Put things away in the same spot every time. Things that require maintenance before the next trip placed in the easiest to access location.
Question #3: What are the efficient ways to rig the kayak?
You will come up with your own system. I’ve already said it: Everything has its place.
“Put things where they are supposed to be.” Think about “where” you want things to be. If you always keep items where you planned on having them, you will be more efficient when you’re utilizing your tools out there. Your anchor, attach it during set up and place the anchor in an easily accessable location. Anchoring doesn’t matter as much for people who live in certain areas. I use anchors all the time.
Question #4: Is there a process to treat the plastic shell of the kayak to keep the elements from fading or breaking down the plastic? 303, the Aerospace protectant that I mentioned when we were on the water. The way kayaks are made now and the upgrades to plastic this is almost unnecessary anymore but it is still an option. 303 will bring out a shine in plastic. Anymore, kayak plastics are so much better than ten years ago, you might not even need the 303. I haven’t had any for seven years or longer.
Question #5: What else can I do better? Efficiency: Finishing a trip, I watch people time after time, beach their boat ten yards away from their vehicle. Make it easier and faster: Ending a trip, beach the kayak as close to your vehicle as possible. It’s a minor thing but it saves time.
Fishing license – if I store you wallet/license in the forward hatch which I can’t get to at sea, are the authorities going to have a problem with that? An idea: Keep it in a dry bag at all times and my dry bag always goes with you. Throw your wallet in your dry bag too because you are technically also required to show identification when checked.
Question #6: When the kayak has to be portaged from the vehicle to the water and back, is there a fast way to attach the dolly with straps. This depends on your cart and how your boat lines up on the cart but usually like I said, bungee of the right length will get it done. You could probably figure out how to attach it permanently to one part of the cart, run it across the beam and then clip it off to the cart on the other side.
Question #7: Where do I keep a fish? Two choices: A cooler or a cooler bag. A stringer, no. You want to eat dead fish not on ice? I don’t. Dangling a fish off a stringer in salt water and you are going to have some frightening stories to tell. Sharks will take advantage of a fish on a stringer.
Question #8: What safety equipment do I need? A vest. I attach a whistle to every vest. So, when I add a vest to a kayak for a daytime trip, I’m legal. Nighttime, a 360 degree light. This is as simple as a flashlight or headlamp. Yes, kayak fishing is good at night.
Question #9: What age will my kid be able to operate his own kayak? It differs kid to kid. Generally, I saw 8. Before the age of 8, I will have kids ride with me. Usually at the age of 8, a kid will be able to paddle. Take along rope. If the wind is up and the kid is struggling with paddling, tow him.
The dry bag is underutilized. Anything you don’t want to get wet, get a dry bag for it. Your flashlights. Your batteries. For wintertime, extra jacket and clothes. Dry bags are not expensive and extremely helpful.
From the point of view of an experienced fisherman, how much tackle is required to bring on days fishing trip? Minimize: You can get away with less stuff the more and more you put in time out there. Leader line, spare jigheads, an assortment of replacement tails. “Everything has its place.” Put things in one spot where you can find them and always keep it there. Shirts with pockets are underrated. For me, I don’t use the dry bag anymore. My phone: In a shirt pocket. My wallet, in the other shirt pocket. Scissors, pliers: They need an assigned location.
Types and number of lures: Set up the right assortment with different lures on your different rods you take along with a regular jighead, a weedless jighead, a topwater/spoon/other lure choice. Or different weighted jigheads on extra rods, whatever your targeting is going to be for that day.
Types of hooks for live/frozen baits, I like size 2 Mosquito hooks (or 1/0) The mosquito hook is a cross between a J hook and a circle hook.
Rough seas, when is it considered too choppy for going out? (other than common sense) It depends a great deal on the location. Find areas where you can use the lee side of shorelines/islands/buildings etc. “Wide open” areas with no protection at all are areas to avoid if the winds are over 15. Avoid areas that also have current particularly if the wind and the current are going in the same direction (ie: Hurricane Pass; Bunces Pass with an east wind).
Rough conditions, you have to know your craft. I have boats that are not self draining. You have to pay attention to how much water you are taking on. Two situations: High wind and waves. Heavy rain. My coffee cup is a bailing device. Avoid deep water with heavy current in rough conditions. That will keep you out of trouble.
Wind velocity and speed. I use Windfinder for wind predictions. A kayak angler needs to “learn the wind” for deciding where to go. Tides are also important for fishing. Fully 12 days of every month have tides that are not excellent for good fishing. Going fishing on an extremely windy day, not usually the best choice.
Is there a concern when dangling your legs in the water when fishing side saddle? No. Like I said, unless there are jellyfish around, nothing’s going to hurt you with your legs hanging over.
Is there ever a need to bring along a retrieving net for your larger catches or can you eliminate this item? Flounder fishing. A lot of them shake hooks near the boat. I rarely take a net so I’ll try to get them in the boat as fast as I can but a landing net will preserve some catches.
How do you store fresh bait on board, other than an over the side bait well? That is your best option. You can also keep natural baits on ice as well. Shrimp, pinfish, sardines will all work coming off ice. Rotten baits will not be eaten by much more than catfish. I have no interest in a “live well.” I utilize a five-gallon bucket with a snap lid. I drill holes in the top 1/3 of the bucket. I attach a rope to the top of the bucket. You can deploy your baits into the water to keep them lively. You can pull the bucket into the kayak when you are moving. Going distances, I take breaks and drop the baits in the water every two minutes to keep my baits healthy.
There are 1000 ways to do things. Me, 24 years in kayaks, I have my exact ways and there are reasons for it. I constantly watch other people do things differently and I wonder why. To each his own. These are suggestions that could help.
Wade fishermen, have their own tricks. Power boat guys, they should have their ways that work. The kayak is different but not difficult. Pay attention to what you are doing and evaluate “other ideas” that could make things easier. That is really what it is all about: How can I make this the easiest it can be?
Advanced training: Book a quality guide. I teach it. I take a “newbee” and I craft them into a kayak angler “like me.” The concept: The more you can fish like me, the better it is for you. My former clients win tournaments. They enjoy better success the rest of their fishing lives.
Mistakes made: Reeling up too much line. Taking a weed off. Changing a lure. But especially, landing a fish. Leave more line out and make it easier. The goal, to have enough line out to lay the rod down and use both hands. Landing a fish, stop reeling with 8 feet of line out, raise the rod tip up overhead, grab the leader, lay the rod down inside the kayak to enable use of both hands.
Your question not specifically covered here: Pick up the phone and call me. Search capmel.com for topics that interest you. It is all basically there. Capmel.com, likely the largest fishing web site in the entire world.
Neil Taylor, owner and guide www.strikethreekayakfishing.com