Recently I was exchanging emails with an old friend and mentioned that I was going to be in Florida fishing from a kayak for redfish and seatrout. He commented that it seemed to him like everyone is going fishing in kayaks these days. Saying “everyone” is hyperbole, but fishing from kayaks has really gotten popular.
I can’t claim that I was in the forefront of this growing movement, but I’ve been keen on that watercraft ever since I first sat in one almost two decades ago. And the first kayak I ever got into is one that I bought on the recommendation of an Adirondack guide friend, who said that the size and cockpit of the Loon 138, then a relatively new kayak model from Old Town Canoe Company, made it very good for fishing. He was absolutely right.
I bought one in early March of 1999 and when I put this 13-foot kayak into the water at a local pond, where the ice was still melting, I quickly found
A few days later, with the ice freshly melted, I was fishing a small light jig on an ultralight spinning rod for perch, when I hooked a big bass. Having only caught a few small fish to that point from a kayak, I was a bit concerned. At first it actually towed me a little. When it dove under the boat I didn’t want to lean too far over to stick the rod tip in the water. And when it bolted toward my stern, I had no choice but to lift the rod backward over my head, hope that the line cleared the stern, then play the fish on the other side. Shortly I landed and released about an 8-pound largemouth bass, the biggest I’d ever caught in that pond.
I can’t say that the kayak was essential in that catch, but being quiet and stealthy certainly helped. I can say that it was a lot of fun, and that being at water level for the catch was a different, and enjoyable, experience. Since then I’ve caught a large variety of freshwater fish, plus striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, salmon, redfish, seatrout, sharks, barracuda, and many more saltwater species, from sit-on-top kayaks or kayaks with cockpits. I’m hooked, and so have been many other anglers, as this segment of boating and fishing has grown considerably.
What’s the Big Deal?
Kayaks used for fishing are generally recreational/touring models, not the short, tipsy, rollover models used in white water. They are stable and easy to use, and many have large cockpits, which are easy to get in and out of, yet still provide protection in colder water/weather.
Kayaks meant for general recreation, touring, and day tripping are affordable compared to rigged boats (from about $400 to $1,700), have good resale value should you later want to upgrade, can be used close to home even in urban areas (it’s easy to put these in the water in many places), are light enough to be lifted atop a vehicle by one person, provide good quality time with friends and family (many families have multiple kayaks), and can be used for exercise as well as recreation.
From a functionality standpoint, you obviously cannot go as far or as fast in a kayak as you would in a motorized boat, but you can put them in the water in many more places. And you can paddle them into places that shallow-draft engine-operated boats cannot go, plus drift on top of many fish without spooking them.
There are many people who have taken fishing from kayaks to extremes, both in terms of the places they go and the gear that they use on their kayaks. I keep my kayak fishing pretty simple by going to smaller bodies of water, exploring backwater areas, and not loading up on a lot of accessories.
I have multiple kayaks, and vary what I use depending on the circumstances of where I’ll be going and what the challenges are for getting to/from the water as well as on the water.
My top-end kayak is the Old Town Predator, which has an electric motor amidship, and which I use for more extended and big-water opportunities. It’s a dream rig, for sure, but I still do plenty of fishing from my other kayaks, including that 13-foot Loon I bought eighteen years ago.
And I still do plenty of fishing from gasoline-powered boats. But I fish many places in both freshwater and saltwater that a motorized boat cannot go or cannot get to. I like that.
And it has not escaped me that while I’m enjoying fishing under paddle power, I’m also not causing shock and pain to my wallet in terms of gasoline, maintenance, and repairs. I like that, too.