You’ve tricked out your fishing kayak and have your rod holders placed just right, but now it’s time to get out on the water. You’re well versed in fishing from a boat, but kayak fishing has a set of challenges all its own. These tips will help you master your kayak and bring you closer to catching the big one.
Customize Your Boat for Silence
Tap the side of your boat with your fist or paddle, and you’ll hear a fairly loud rumble. The fish can hear that same sound, and it’s even louder since sound travels better through water. When you set your paddle down to cast, don’t bang it against the boat; better yet, install a rubberized paddle holder on your boat.
Practice Casting (and Paddling) One-Handed
Perhaps the biggest difference between boat fishing and kayak fishing is the need to simultaneously control the boat and your rod. While you’ll want to fish in slow moving water, you’ll still need to make small adjustments to the kayak’s position. To make a one-handed stroke on the paddle hand side, brace the shaft against your chest. To make a stroke on the rod side, brace the shaft against your forearm.
Use Your Feet to Steer
When your hands are tied up with a rod, controlling the boat can get difficult. While you can paddle one-handed, don’t forget to use your feet, too. Want to keep casting from the same spot? Use them as a temporary brace against a rock, log, or the riverbed. Need to slow down? Hang your feet over the sides of the boat, and use their drag to act as a rudder.
Use Eddy Lines to Your Advantage
Wherever there’s an obstruction in moving water, you’ll find an eddy – an area of slow moving or still water behind it. These are excellent spots to fish from, as feeder fish hang out there, waiting for their prey. Steer the nose end of your kayak into the boundary between the eddy and the current to give your boat just a little downstream drift.
Use an Anchor
Anchors are great for keeping you in place and allowing you to keep fishing the same hole. In a light current, they’ll prevent you from needing to paddle around as much. Using an anchor in a strong current, though, can cause debris to build up on the anchor line and even weigh down the end of the boat. Avoid this situation at all costs.
Know the Water
Unlike with touring kayaks, the goal here isn’t to get anywhere in particular, but rather to stay in just a few good locations. Therefore, it pays to scout the river, lake, or ocean shoreline before heading out. Walk along it, and make note of the currents, eddies, and places to park your kayak. This will save paddling time later on.
Stay Close to Shore
The currents are not as strong in shallow water, so it’s much easier to stay in your intended position there. Plus, paddling upstream won’t be as difficult.
Know Your Prey
This is important with any kind of fishing, but kayak fishing takes you a bit closer to nature, and it pays to learn more about the ecosystem you’re entering. Choose a specific species to go after: this will limit the number of baits and lures you’ll need to bring. Know what prey your catch is likely to go after and where it tends to congregate. All this affects what type of line you’ll need, the lure you’ll use, and the best position for your kayak.
Be Ready to Give Up the Big One
It’s possible to end up with a larger catch than you intended, something that’s able to pull the boat (and you) where you don’t want to be. You’re a lot less protected in a kayak, and if what you’ve caught is too big or has too much fight, be ready to let it go. For this reason, always carry a line-cutting tool.
Have a Plan for Handling Your Fish After the Catch
Given the kayak’s limited carrying capacity, most anglers will catch and release. For those who do want to keep something for dinner, place the fish in a cooler or bring an ice bag to keep it cold. You can use a stringer too, but be careful, you don’t want to entice predators (like alligators or sharks) to attack your boat.