Fishing in saltwater isn’t all that different from freshwater, but the challenges of any fishing trip are magnified when you’re in the ocean. The weather, distance from the shore, and gear needed all make saltwater kayak fishing a bit more challenging, but with a few simple tips you should be out on the open water and catching bigger fish in no time.
How’s the Weather?
More than anyone else, sea kayakers need to be cautious about the weather they’re paddling in. In a river or small lake, it’s easy to make the short retreat to the shoreline at the first sign of lightning, and a motorboat’s engine could bring you back in no time at all. As a saltwater kayak angler, on the other hand, you need to make your way to the shore as soon as dark clouds start forming. You’re too big of a target for a lightning strike in open water, and there wouldn’t be sufficient time to get back to shelter once you’re already hearing thunder. Check the weather before you head out, and pay attention to the skies while you’re paddling.
Protect Yourself from the Sun
All kayakers need to shield themselves from UV rays, but it’s doubly important for sea kayakers. There’s often little to no shade on the open water, and unlike motorboat anglers, you won’t have a canopy for protection (well, some paddlers have a canopy, I guess…). Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeve shirt, and pants if you can handle the heat, and put plenty of sunscreen (SPF 50) on any exposed skin. If you’re out more than a couple hours, be sure to reapply.
So many paddlers underestimate the amount of water they’re going to need. The sun sucks the moisture right out of you, and you could end up at risk of dehydration. The amount of water needed for a kayaking trip is determined by how far you’re paddling, how hot it is, and how much cloud cover there is, but a good rule of thumb is one liter for every two hours that you are on the water. Get a good water bottle for kayaking
Bring the Right Tools for the Job
When you’re fishing from a powerboat, there’s a good chance you’ve got all the gear needed for just about any situation. But the tackle box used for kayak fishing is usually a fraction of the size, so it’s best to carefully consider what you’ll need for this specific outing, it's also important to not over pack and only bring the essential items for fishing. Plan on eating your catch? Bring a stringer. Want to hold onto your fish and weigh it while your buddy takes a photo? Don’t forget the fish grips. Also, you’ll always need some basic tools like a line cutter and a pair of pliers for removing hooks.
Buy a Quality Paddle
Most beginners focus too much on the quality of their kayak, but when you’re just starting out, a great boat isn’t necessary. Almost everyone will upgrade once they’ve got some experience and more money. But it’s worth it to spend money on a good paddle – nothing is worse than having it snap and needing to scrap the rest of the day. You’ll want something solid and comfortable, especially since sea kayakers cover a lot of distance in a day.
One of the challenges of kayak fishing is catching a fish from a boat that it can easily pull around. To prevent the fish from dragging you downstream while you’re trying to land it, you can use an anchor. Windy conditions can also drag you away from your favorite spot, forcing you to spend more time paddling and positioning yourself instead of casting. There’s plenty of specialized equipment for anchoring out, like the trolley anchor or power pole, but a 5-pound weight attached to a rope will do.
Can You Hear Me Now?
This is more important if you’re paddling out into open water or distant islands, but having a means of communication is critical wherever you are. Mobile phones usually work for about ten miles offshore, depending on the location of the cell tower. Be sure to store yours in a waterproof pouch or box – a wet phone won’t be calling anyone. If you’re paddling in a more remote location or getting far offshore, carry a VHF radio. They require a license to use, and there’s a specific protocol for communicating with them, but they could save your life if you get into trouble.
Knowing your location is important if you do need to call for help, check out the best gps watch for kayaking here
Don’t let the seas scare you off though; saltwater kayak fishing just has a little more preparation involved. A conscientious angler won’t be in any more danger and the challenges only make it a more interesting sport.