We realize that not everyone who buys a kayak from ACK is looking to wet a line (lingo for casting a fishing line into the water), but we also know that some of you may be curious or ready to jump right in.
First off, here’s a little video inspiration to peak your interest:
While catching fish from a fishing kayak is almost as simple as fishing off the bank, you do need to consider a few differences. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of outfitting your kayak for fishing, what to expect on your first fishing adventure and a couple of tips to make your experience a safer and more enjoyable one.
Outfitting Your Kayak
The truth is you really don’t need much to get your kayak outfitted for fishing. When somebody asks me what it takes to turn a kayak into a fishing kayak, I jokingly say “Grab a rod next time you go paddling and fish.” While that holds a lot of truth, the reality is that there’s a massive selection of products to help make your experience better. While many anglers customize their boats with hundreds of dollars worth of gear, you can start with a few basic items:
Rod Holder – Get Your Rod Out Of The Way By Securing It
You need something to keep your rods in place. The last thing you want to do is lose your rod and reel combo, whether your boat flips or your rod gets hung up on a tree. Rod holders are typically made of plastic material and can be mounted with bolts or rivets. Here are three of the most typical applications:
A tube that is inserted into your kayak or sometimes molded into the boat. The end of the rod is simply inserted into the tube and can then be secured with a rod leash. Flush mount rod holders are usually installed behind the seat on the top deck area.
These provide a more secure hold than a flush rod holder by “grasping” your rod and reel. You’ll typically find them installed on the center of the deck between your lower legs and sometimes behind the seat. The adjustability of these make them a popular choice when you want to keep your rod tips pointed lower than the flush mount option allows.
Another popular option combines both tube-like rod holders with a lidded crate or boxed in area to store and protect your gear all in one package.
Anchors – Stop Your Boat Or You May Lose The Fish
Like fishing from a motorboat, you’ll want to stay put when you find that “honey hole.” Securing your kayak in a specific location is key when out on the water fishing, and there is no better way to do it than with a small anchor and line. Since you are limited on space and capacity, don’t get anything over 3 lbs. Here are two we recommend:
Folding anchors tend to be the most popular design due to their ability to provide a good hold in most environments and their portability.
If you want an anchor that can hold you in place even in the softest bottoms, this is the anchor you need. It may not be as portable as a folding anchor but you can rest assured you won’t be going anywhere.
Paddle Leash – When A Fish Is On, The Last Thing You Want To Think About Is Your Paddle
Secure your paddle. We’ve all heard the term “up the creek without a paddle” — avoid it. By installing a simple device that secures your paddle to your boat, you’ll never have to worry about losing a paddle when you catch the “big one.”
One end simply ties to a piece of hardware or installed accessory on the boat and the other to your paddle shaft. The leash is typically coiled or made of a “bungee” material. Most kayaks also have built in paddle tie downs, but leashes are easier to deal with when in the moment.
That’s about all you’ll need to get started, assuming you’ve already purchased a paddle and PFD. However, there are hundreds (if not thousands) made specifically for kayak fishing, such as anchor trolleys, drift chutes, kayak rudders, stake out poles and much more. Here is an old article I wrote featuring more gear you may want to consider.
Secure your paddle. We’ve all heard the term “up the creek without a paddle” — avoid it.Roland Jimenez, ACK Director of Marketing
What to Expect When Kayak Fishing
Fishing can be addictive. What was supposed to be a one-hour fishing trip can easily turn into a half-day excursion, especially when the fish aren’t biting. Be prepared to fish longer than you plan. Load up a small ice chest with plenty of water, snacks and a sack lunch. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and/or apparel made for spending long periods of time outdoors.
Launch With Care
As you prepare to launch your boat, keep in mind that it may paddle a bit differently than you are used to with all the extra gear. Balance your boat by putting the heaviest items towards the center, and when launching, be aware that depending on how much gear you’ve loaded, the amount of your freeboard (boat out of the water) may be less than what you think.
Understanding Fish From Above
I am not a fish expert, but I do know that they are extremely skittish. The good news is that what makes kayaks a popular choice is their “stealthiness.” As you creep closer to your honey hole, you can easily glide into position with a few gentle paddle strokes.
Just be careful not to bang your boat when putting your paddle down and lifting a rod; the slightest bump will scare the fish away. Want to see what you’re casting at? If the water clarity is somewhat clear, get some polarized glasses, stand up and do a little sight casting. Boat not stable enough? Get a pair of stabilizers.
Casting Off A Kayak
For many, the idea of casting off a kayak seems awkward. For those with tippier kayaks, this could pose a problem. Practice your cast and reaching around your kayak (to access your tankwell, dry hatches, etc.) before you launch into deeper waters. It’s all about using more arm than body and casting with a bit of finesse. The same (if not more) care applies to casting while standing.
If the water favors it, many kayak anglers side-straddle their kayaks, meaning they sit side ways while their legs dangle in the water. This position keeps you cool but also provides a general feeling of balance; many find it a bit more comfortable, especially if paddling and fishing for long periods of time. A general rule of thumb is to always keep your body upright and your head centered over your kayak. If you lean over in any direction too far — splash!
Catching A Fish
So what do I do when I catch a fish on a kayak? To the experienced, this may seem like a silly question. But for those that have never fished off a kayak, it’s a very important one.
Make sure your hook is set and stay focused. Keep a tight line by holding your rod up above your head (watch out for those trees) while you double-check to make sure your paddle is secure. If you are anchored down, try to steer your fish away from the anchor line or this could quickly get messy. Once you reel your fish close enough to land it (always leave some slack in your line), please take care in how you handle the fish, especially if you plan to catch and release. Fish have a protective coating, so try to avoid holding the fish with your hands. If you do (for a photo op, release, etc.), be gentle. I always recommend a fish grip designed to do just this, and carry a pair of pliers or forceps to remove hooks.
There tends to be a lot of difference in opinions when it comes to catching and releasing fish; here is a great article on doing it properly. If you plan on keeping the fish, bring a fish cooler with you (especially during the warmer months) to keep your dinner cool and fresh.
Not Catching A Fish
You’ve heard the saying “It’s ’s not called catching for a reason,” and for good reason. Don’t expect to catch fish every single time you go fishing. I have many friends and family who have given up fishing off a kayak because they didn’t catch anything on their first outing. It may be the gear you are using, but there is also a good chance that water and weather conditions are the culprit.
Don’t lose hope, persistence is key. Do your research, see what’s working and what’s not. Don’t worry, you’ll eventually catch one, and when you do, I promise you’ll be hooked (pun intended).
I don’t want to scare you out of kayak fishing, but you are introducing the possibility of getting yourself hooked, bitten by a snake or some creepy crawler and dealing with less than ideal weather conditions. It always helps to stay updated with the weather forecast regardless of what outdoor adventure you plan to partake in. Of course, this is the case with paddlesports in general but as an angler, you will find yourself under trees, in waters full of vegetation and along banks making yourself more susceptible to encountering wildlife.
Be cautious of your surroundings, always take a first aid kit and wear a PFD! I can’t stress how important this is. When flipping a kayak with all kinds of fishing gear, your first reaction may be to try and recover your hard-earned dollars — stay focused on you instead, because everything else can be replaced.
Go Easy On The Gear
We could write an entire book on the type of actual fishing gear you’ll need. But since the hobby/sport/lifestyle can vary so much by style, season, body of water and region, we’ll stick to the kayaking aspect for the sake of this article. That said, I recommend you do some research, find what’s biting and where and get acquainted with the gear other anglers are using.
While many kayak anglers prefer to take everything but the kitchen sink, I prefer to keep it simple with only the gear I know I will use. Your boat deck is limited on space, so before you know it, you’ll have hooks, worms and countless other items strewn across it. Keep it organized in a small tackle box or bag and place it in an easily accessible area.
The best thing you can do to avoid losing your gear is to properly secure it. This includes your paddle, anchor, tackle boxes, etc. If you don’t have lash points, install some simple pad eyes and get some deck line. While bungee is great for securing a few large and light items, it may not hold up to some of your heavier gear such as a tackle box or ice chest. Tie it down!
Go With The One That Knows
Most kayak anglers are introduced to kayak fishing from those who already have some experience with it. If you have yet to be invited, invite yourself along or join a local forum or group. While competitive and sometimes secretive in nature, most kayak anglers are a friendly bunch and always willing to offer up some advice or even meet up with other anglers with similar interests. Those with experience are a wealth of knowledge; learn from them.
A word of advice before you go posting “Hey, I’m a newbie that’s never been kayak fishing, any advice?”: Search the forums. Chances are, hundreds of others have already asked the same questions you are about to ask and the answers may be right there in front of you.
As referenced above, it may be a good idea to not only practice casting but also capsizing. During warmer months, I always advise paddlers (angler or not) to force themselves to turn their boats over in a controlled setting and practice getting back on a boat. And it never hurts to take a class or two on paddling technique and safety.
Wear The Proper Apparel
I have to admit, it’s pretty silly when you go out kayak fishing only to find that most anglers are wearing similar outfits to what you have but for good reason: the apparel is made for kayak fishing.
In warm weather, look for light, loose-fitting clothing that dries quickly. If it’s the proper material, long-sleeved shirts and pants will keep you cool and protect your skin. Most performance fishing wear will do just this. Water gloves, face protection and hats are also recommended.
For fishing during colder months, you’ll want to layer up. Start with a base layer of a synthetic material such as this Immersion Research Thickskin Union Suit, a mid-layer of fleece and an outer layer of splash wear such as this NRS Endurance Jacket. The idea is that as the day warms up, you have the option to shed a layer or two.
There is much more to kayak fishing than what I presented here, but I hope this starts you off in the right direction. As always, we want your feedback. Got your own tips, any experiences of your own you would like to share with those who have yet to try kayak fishing? Comment below; we want to know!
– Roland, ACK Director of Marketing