Often neglected, being quiet while trying to catch sport fish is way more important than a lot of people think. You have choices in how you do it. On foot. By kayak. There are some things to think about when making the choice. Those already into it, they may have seen the light. Those still thinking about it: This may tip the scales in favor of kayak fishing. 20 years later it is still the best move I have ever made.
I’ve always liked wade fishing since the time my brothers, father and I waded St Andrews Bay when I was a kid. Later, my father and brothers did a lot of wade fishing on trips to South Padre Island, Mexico Beach, and Port St Joe.
In 1993 I moved to Florida with grand visions of fishing 7 days a week. Tampa Bay. Aside from occasional offshore trips I waded exclusively for my first few years here. For a guy on foot, I covered a lot of ground. I learned some great areas. I lost a lot shoes in the deepest muddy areas. But still, I really enjoyed being in water that was knee to waist deep.
The frustrations were still there. And there were plenty of them. The aforementioned mud: There were areas that I caught some great fish that I sometimes fell down trying to get one leg unstuck from the mud while the other one squished down in the sediment mush. Fishing areas like this meant staying on the move or finding a spot to stand that was firmer bottom. I also learned all about “drop offs”, holes where you step off a two-foot-deep area and you suddenly realize your hat’s floating. Similar to these “holes”, I would try to cross certain cuts between islands and would sometimes have the fishing rod in one hand while I literally swam across areas that were over 6 feet deep.
I learned during my first couple of years fishing here that there were certain clues to where the fishing action was hot. Diving birds, explosions on the top of the water, and baitfish flipping around isolated the location that predators were enjoying a meal. Even deep-water issues aside, as a wade fisherman I had another serious handicap: Speed. Often, I’d try to cover distance at top speed (occasionally stepping on stingrays and tripping on rocks and old derelict crab traps) only to get there and missed the fish in feeding mode.
You can eliminate noises and keep fish in their feeding patterns. This is particularly critical when you are after a fish like the “redfish.” Red drum are very sensitive to human noises. It is my contention that redfish patterns are different than they have been in history because of human activity on the water.
What are these “noises?” There are the “anchor bangers.” From a kayak the act of deploying anchor should be a zero-noise proposition. First off, keep your anchor in a spot that is easily accessible. You should be able to pick up your anchor without hitting it on any part of your boat. Instead of throwing you anchor, lay it in the water next to your kayak. No noise. Other noises associated with angler movement: Whenever you pick something up and put it down you shouldn’t be putting vibration into the water. “Everything has its place” means that you can quietly use all your tools without messing up your fishing opportunities.
I can’t figure out why people think that wading is quieter than the kayak approach. I’ve heard that for a long time. The kayak is only noisy if you make it noisy. I would argue that walking in the water creates more noise than gliding in a kayak. Moreover, you can get places 1000% faster by kayak than by wading. How do I know that? I was a wade fisherman for five complete years before I transitioned to the kayak. Wade fishing is great. If you have good spots, the fish close to where you parked your car, you can have excellent opportunities on foot.
Ultimately the answer is: Do both. Use the kayak. When you get to where the fish are, if you want to stand, get out and wade it. The paddle is an important piece of equipment with dismount of the kayak. Put it down and you will figure 1) how deep the water is 2) how much mud there is 3) presence of oysters (bad to step on) and 4) it will spook out any stingrays in the dismount location.
Another feature article “The Seated Position” talks about fishing from the kayak. Wade fishing, your feet are planted. Your legs are not out in front of you. You are at water level but it is somewhere like being in a boat.
My day I got into kayak fishing, I was staring at a pod of feeding snook trying to decide if I would risk drowning crossing a nine-foot-deep cut to get to them. While I was thinking a guy came up on me in a kayak. We started talking. I had a kayak two hours later. That pod of feeding snook, I was on them the next day and I was completely dry. As a poor minor league baseball umpire, I wasn’t sure what expense I’d be getting in to but I saw an option to increase my mobility to chase fish around these waters. As it turned out, the purchase fit the budget nicely. $400 later I had a fishing kayak.
Still, I enjoyed wade fishing. I enjoyed being in the water since the time I was a kid. There was always so much to see and we always caught some fish. I enjoy being in the water now because I still like being in the water. In the warmer months in Florida, it feels good to be in the water. If wading is your way: Learn your areas: Some areas have deep mud. Some have snags, sharp oysters and deep holes.
In the kayak in the winter months more but with breathable waders, you can get in and out stay dry. Wading, without a dry suit or waders, you can struggle to get through a morning standing in cold water.
The debate will rage on. Everyone has their way. I have done it so many ways I feel like I can evaluate it. Large hulls, motors, and bulky options are effective but tougher: Smaller craft, paddle craft and on foot, more advantages. It’s a debate that doesn’t really matter. Do it how you want to do it. I can tell you that for me, by kayak, the advantages far outweigh any other way of doing it. Wading is limited. Boats are higher profile and make more noise. I know people who still do both. The stories are usually better when they do it by kayak.
Find your way: Catch more fish.