Skill Builder: Kayak Fishing Kickstart
Quietly stalk the best spots from the comfort of a kayak.
By Keira Quam
I started kayak fishing several years ago. I had a kayak and a fly rod, but hadn’t put the two together. My first time out was a great experience, so I was hooked.
Kayaks quietly maneuver to the best spots, even in shallow water. They provide access to areas where it’s difficult to stand or walk for wade fishing. No matter where you are, they allow you to get up close and feel a part of your surroundings.
Kayaks come as sit-in or sit-on-top varieties, from simple ones to ones designed for anglers. You can start out with one you have, or rent or borrow to try out different styles. A sit-in kayak with wide cockpit works best for me. I like to tuck all my things inside the boat for easy access. Other anglers like the convenience of a sit-on-top to straddle the hull, get on and off quickly and not worry about water in the boat. Some sit-on-tops even have foot pedals for propulsion, leaving your hands free for fishing.
Kayaks provide a convenient way to get to spots that otherwise might be difficult to access, whether fishing in fresh water or salt water.
Be sure to pack light, but here are some essentials for your trip:
• A fishing license, rod and reel, a net and tackle. Conventional rods or fly rods work fine. I use both. (Remember, no license is needed if you are fishing inside the boundaries of a state park, or are under age 17.)
• A life jacket. Look for the newer designs that allow for lots of shoulder movement.
• A TPWD Outdoor Annual (view it online at www.outdoorannual.com) so you know if it’s legal to keep the fish you catch.
• A paddle leash or some way to let go of your paddle and not have it float away. Forget this one time and you’ll know what a difference it makes.
• A bicycle flag for the back of the kayak so you can be seen by others in the daylight, and a white light for the boat if you are traveling near sunset.
• An anchor. If the wind is blowing or the current keeps carrying you downstream, it is nice to have a way to stop at that great fishing hole you found. Some people also use a pole to jab in the bottom and hold the boat securely in place.
• Clothing made of synthetic fabric that dries quickly. Remember a hat and sunglasses, too.
• Enough food and water in case you are out longer than expected.
• A small first-aid kit, flashlight, whistle and cellphone in case you need to call for help or will be home late. Waterproof cases work for cellphones and car keys.
• Carabiners and bungee cords. Tie or hook stuff to your boat in case you catch a big fish and it pulls you off-balance.
In addition to wearing your life jacket, always prepare to be safe.
• Make sure someone knows where you are going and when you are expected back.
• Know how to exit and board your kayak.
• Learn the paddling strokes that don’t tire your arms and that allow you to turn or stop quickly or pull up sideways.
• Like roads, travel on the right side.
• Bring a friend. It’s safer, and you’ll appreciate the help. Recently my fishing buddy asked me to remove the fish hook from the rope in the front of his kayak. Shortly after that, I needed the same help.
Whether you venture out on a lake, on a river or at the coast, kayak fishing is fun and rewarding. There are wonderful resources on the Web, including how-to instructions, tips on where to fish, forums, magazines and clubs.