You fish from a kayak and you want to keep a fish?  How are you going to retain the fish before it goes in your car for the drive home?

June  2011

By Neil Taylor,

The kayak angler, like anyone else in the fishing community, is prone to learning from the School of Hard Knocks.  While many of the lessons learned are pretty tame, the people who decide to tie off a fish to their kayak and then throw the stringer in the water have the wildest stories to tell.   Every one of these stories ends with the statement, “I’ll never do that again”. 


There are multiple reasons not to tie off a fish to a kayak but the biggest one is that it’s creating immediate danger in salt water.   It is an unnecessary risk taken when a fish that is being harvested could be stored in other ways, preventing what could quickly turn a perilous situation.   People who don’t understand the risk, give me a call and I’ll also consult you on what kind of polarized sunglasses to go buy! 


Reason #1 I will call “Things with big pointy teeth.”   Florida coastal waters are filled with sharks that enjoy a shot at an easy meal.   One year ago this month while on a charter I witnessed a man catch a trout, attach it to a polycord stringer and drop the fish in the water.   I said to my client, “I’ll be right back, I’m going to offer to put his fish in my cooler.”  I didn’t get even get moving that way before I heard frightened screaming and saw this man’s kayak was being pulled sideways and under the waterline with the force of a fairly large shark that got its teeth caught on the polycord when it inhaled the trout.    Polycord or other stringer materials are part of the problem because it’s very possible their teeth won’t cut through it right away.    Therefore, that stringer you have ATTACHED to your kayak is also ATTACHED to an agitated shark. 


When I got to him, he was clinging to his swamped kayak and terrified with the shark a short distance away, fighting to free itself from the stringer.   I told him to let go and sit perfectly still as I rode the kayak and the shark a good distance away from him, took out my knife and cut the rope.  The shark, roughly a ten footer, now un tethered- attacked the kayak twice before it slowly swam off.   Do you want to be in this guy’s situation?    I would like to note that this situation was completely human error, not the shark’s.    My own close call was an eye-opener and I got lucky:  As that story goes, after having fish tied off to the drawstring of my bathing suit while wade fishing-“that was the day that I learned how to make a pair of shorts out of a tee-shirt.”


Reason #2 I’ll call “The rotten fish.”    Personally, I’d like to eat a fish that’s fresh.   A fish that’s dead in the hot water for even a few minutes isn’t going to be as good as the flesh of a fish that’s iced down thoroughly and immediately.   From the upbringing of “if you’re going to kill it, don’t waste it” there are options for the kayak angler to do this, eliminating the aforementioned risk of shark encounters and preserving the quality of the harvested fish.  Most modern day kayaks now have the capacity to take a cooler along.   Many anglers will utilize the “tankwell” area for their fishing supplies, eliminating the ability to put their cooler in that position.  The solution is the fish bag.   Smaller to larger insulated fish bags are available.   They can be placed in various locations such as inside hatches or on other open areas.   For the sit-on-top kayak owner, the fish bag may be bungeed to a surface area toward the bow if other deck space is being utilized.   Frozen water bottles or ice can be put in the fish bag and the fish is safely and properly placed and preserved for the anglers’ dinner.    The now-and-then angler can get a freezer bag from a grocery store but the serious angler should invest in a fish bag that’s insulated and designed for holding your catch.  


It’s a long summer with substantial populations of sharks lurking in the same waters you fish.   They don’t want to bite you, but they will certainly take a bite out of anything you tie off to your kayak.   Ask yourself now: Do I really want to end up in the water with a feeding, agitated shark?  I guess the real question is:  Are you going to be the next person telling the “I’ll never do that again!” story?  



Neil Taylor

Full time kayak fishing guide, Neil was an advocate for conservation since before the time he started guiding.Outdoor writer, speaker and radio show host, Neil connected closely with Captain Mel Berman and did many positives with Mel to promote ethical angling. After Mel passed away, Neil managed and eventually became that web site’s owner.
Neil Taylor

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