Sport fishing with the help of kayaks has gained popularity in recent years. This is particularly so for anglers, whether fishing in freshwater or saltwater and more prominently in warmer areas. Water sports are a sought-after activity for all kinds of enthusiasts, particularly in summer months. Kayak fishing is no different and provides people with a great alternative amongst the many water sports activities they can choose from. One of the best features of kayaking is the moving scenery and the natural beauty that you can explore, as you go along. With the much needed physical activity or exercise, you also get to fish (that is therapeutic in itself) and enjoy the beautiful outdoors, at your own pace.
A normal kayak usually accommodates only 1 person. However, there are other models available now that can accommodate up to 3 persons (of a decent size), in a comfortable space.
Kayak fishing (where a single person moves the boat without the assistance of a motor) is a skill-based activity and a relatively easy sport, as compared to other water sports activities. It is meant to test your physical and cognitive skills at various levels. It needs upper body strength, good hand-eye coordination, and endurance.
You are not only managing your maneuvers in the water whilst you are sailing the kayak, but you are also mindful of your balance and at the same time concentrating on using multiple types of equipment to fish in the water. Keeping all of the above in mind, you must maintain a relaxed pace and take frequent breaks, as and when possible.
Kayaks are not too expensive to purchase and also do not have any recurring major maintenance costs. In addition to this, they are portable and easy to carry around. It requires very little space for storage and can be launched with minimum ease.
The technique required for fishing on a kayak and the equipment required to fish is quite similar to the ones utilized in standard fishing. Fishing kayaks can easily be equipped with modern gear such as rod holders, electronic live-bait fish finders, and containers.
Security and stability will be your number one priority whenever you set out to purchase or hire a kayak for fishing. There are fishing kayaks in the market that are specially designed to include gear such as double hulls (including those that allow paddlers to stand up and fish), wide beam and stabilizer design, to afford optimum safety to you whilst fishing on a kayak.
The wider the kayak (ideally up to 3 feet wide), the broader its position will be in the water. This, in turn, provides the angler with more side to side stability. This is quite akin to what the native islanders used to have in their fishing vessel, i.e. beams and fins on either side, providing stability to the vessel in rough sea conditions.
There is a new trend these days where many dealers of the kayak in the USA have started to customize their kayaks specifically for fishing expeditions. There are a lot of similarities that can be drawn between the characteristics and functionalities of these fishing kayaks and those on your standard boats. Having said that, a kayak has its limitations and requires customized gear and items such as anchor trolleys, electronic fish-finders, live-bait containers, rod holders, and equipment mounts. These kayak fishing customized equipment can be relatively expensive as compared to the traditional kayaks, but it all boils down to the add-ons you need, for the safety and comfort of the paddler and the type of fishing experience you are expecting.
Tips & Requirements for Fish Kayaking
You may also need a map or a GPS to guide you around the area and once in the waters, so you do not lose track of your journey. It is always better to do these activities with friends and family so you always have some form of support; just in case if you need any help for any untoward incidence or avoid losing your way. If you are an inexperienced kayaker who wants to go fishing too, then it is best to take the assistance of a guide, professional kayaker, or join some form of a kayaking group. This will give you the confidence and peace of mind that you are not alone and can be assured of the best possible guidance and safety precautions in the unpredictable water. Whenever you are sailing in deep water, you should always be observant and vigilant and keep a fixed and close eye on the shoreline where you started your journey as well as other paddlers and group members that have come with you.
The benefit of sailing with professional kayakers or organized tours is that they are experts in this business and fully appreciate the risks and requirements when the weather starts misbehaving. It is in times like these that they can be very helpful and can keep your nerves in check, and most importantly, you safe. They keep a close eye on the weather conditions and will cancel or reschedule the expedition if there are safety concerns due to rough water or windy conditions.
You should also be mindful of any dangerous or wildlife species that may be a cause of concern for your trip. All this information is generally available on the website of the lake or oceans that you are about to head to. You may want to take specific notice of any aquatic birds, alligators, crocodiles, or venomous snakes and guard against them whilst you are in the water. Remember, the first aid kit is meant to help you in this unlikely event where you come in contact with any of these.
Any kayak fishing adventure is as safe as its equipment, particularly the kayak and the comforting aspects of the paddler.
This guide aims to provide you all the relevant information and education on accessories related to kayaking, fishing, and matters associated with it. This will help you understand what exactly you need as part of your kayak fishing trip and make an informed decision. This will, in turn, ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip, each time you set out sailing.
Essential Kayak Fishing Gear for a Safe Expedition
You need to understand and equip yourself with the necessary kayak fishing gear before you set out on your trip. The last thing you need is to reach the lake and realize that you have forgotten to purchase or left at home, an important piece of kayak fishing accessory, without which, you cannot operate effectively and efficiently.
Your kayak fishing gear must include a helmet, a spray skirt, and a flotation device for emergency scenarios.
The helmet serves the obvious purpose of protecting your head from injuries, i.e. protecting your head from bumps with hard objects or rocks for example.
The spray kit will help avoid any water getting into your kayak. This is extremely dangerous as maneuvering becomes difficult, but more importantly, this can lead to sinking and hence, endangering your life.
A flotation device (preferably with light reflectors) is not an option. You need it with you on every trip, at all costs. It doesn’t matter whether you are a professional or good swimmer or not. The light reflectors will help you stay illuminated in the dark so you can be spotted easily in times of distress.
Some other important pieces of safety gear include first aid kit, extra paddle, and emergency shelter, such as a tent. These are back-up gear. You may or may not need them. You need to be prepared for worst-case scenarios, and either of these would come in very handy when you are faced with one.
It is equally important to arrange and carry with you the right fishing equipment. Some of the key items include the basic fishing gear, extra clothing, sunscreen, paddle lease (so it remains fastened whilst you fish) et al.
Another kayaking gear that is important for your expedition is the rod. You should do your research before you buy one, rather than impulsively buy one. The options for rods are endless as you will find thousands of reels to choose from. This will come down to your desired budget. Rods are expensive items and you need to find the right balance between a good quality rod that is reasonably priced. The rod’s basic functionality must include flexibility so that it can be turned with ease. For this very reason, they should be light-weight too.
Fish kayaking, like any water sports, will require you to either purchase or hire the right equipment. In this section, we will be introducing you to some of the most sought after accessory for fish kayaking.
If you are a real enthusiast, you would consider buying these kayaking accessories. The presumption for purchasing would be that you would be using them frequently as well as getting to know the equipment better and customizing it to your liking. Some also get to develop a personal bond with their equipment as they maintain and clean it now and then.
Even if you cannot afford to buy these accessories, you can always rent them, as and when required. This will suit a lot of budget-conscious people, who are seasonal fish kayakers and do not intend to practice this sport frequently. They can enjoy this outdoor sport whenever they want or just experience it for the first time, without breaking their bank. In fact, for first-timers, I would certainly recommend hiring the equipment to understand how they work, and more importantly, to see if this is the right sport for them. The last thing you need is to purchase all the accessories, spend the time and energy gathering all the gear, and eventually realizing this activity is not your thing. You will end up selling all of it, and that can be a real hassle.
Your choices regarding purchasing the appropriate fish kayaking gear are important and they must be guided by a full understanding of what these accessories are. Let us have a close look at some of them.
Anchors are a compulsory kayak fishing accessory. This is because fishing kayaks are generally light-weight and can be difficult to maneuver. They can drift away in the water quite quickly with even a light breeze. It is for this reason that you need an anchor to stabilize it.
There are three different kinds of anchors for kayaks: (1) the folding cleat anchor, that is a traditional choice and ideal for deeper waters; (2) sea anchor or drift sock (used as a brake against the air currents caused due to the movement of the kayak); and (3) surface or mud anchor (ideal for very shallow waters and is pole shaped that gets pushed to the bottom for anchor).
A good kayak anchor should be light-weight to keep the kayak moving at its natural speed. At the same time, it needs to have a ‘certain weight’ so it can be effective when you throw it in the water to steady the kayak.
They should be compact so that they can fit in properly into the cockpit of the kayak or if slightly bigger than it should be mounted on the kayak. It should also be wide enough to grip and hold to the bottom of the surface when used.
No matter what your thought process is to buy or rent an anchor, there are certain aspects you need to bear in mind, and we have listed those for you below.
Weight vs Size
Weight and size are the key determining factors when considering an anchor. Size is more important than weight as it decides the holding power of the anchor. A heavy anchor that isn’t wide will not grip into the bottom of the water and will keep dragging, which in turn, will keep your kayak moving too.
Opt for anchors that have large wings or teeth. They sink into silt and mud more easily and effectively. They can also grip well into branches, rocks, or other material found underwater and enable you to stay steady.
Mounting Your Anchor
Mounting an anchor can be a tricky task and many kayakers may find it a difficult proposition, as many of them won’t have a trolley or a dedicated anchor mounting hook or location. It is not a good idea to tie the anchor anywhere that is convenient. When you tie them to the side of the boat, wind and waves can disrupt the kayak from sideways, create more drag with a larger wind profile – worst-case scenario can be a capsized or misbalanced kayak.
You should mount the anchor to bow or stern of the kayak which gives you more balance and less drag from the wind – a much safer option.
Some anchor models will need a mounting plate to be added to your kayak. They aren’t a compulsory item for anchoring purposes but go a long way in securing your anchor and making them easy to use.
Anchor Rode and Scope
Another important component of an anchor is the rope or chain of the anchor. If it is too short or weak, it renders the anchor useless.
You need to be roughly aware of the depth of the water that you will be kayaking in. With that in mind, you can assess the size of your anchor chain which should be at least 7 times longer than the water’s depth. This is because you release the anchor to the bottom of the water, but away from the boat as it can cause the boat to tip over. If the rope is short, your anchor will keep dragging and simply not serve the purpose it should. This can cause major frustration in the middle of the lake!
Always check and re-check the rope and knots, or when replacing them, that you haven’t left anything at the bottom of the lake or river.
Drift chutes are an alternative to anchor. They are deployable bags and are available in different sizes. They can slow down a kayak when thrown into the water. Generally, chutes that are 30 inches should be sufficient for most kayaking purposes. Larger chutes are available if you need more drag and vice versa with smaller chutes.
As opposed to an anchor which can bring a boat to a complete stop, a drift chute will only slow down the speed of a kayak, by attracting water and adding to the drag.
Seats are, by far, one of the most important accessories for fish kayakers. These are usually made out of hard plastic and then covered with the help of a comfortable foam or an inflatable cushion. It all depends on how plushy, soft, and comfortable you want it to be, depending on your personal preferences. A basic minimum in a kayak seat should have a seat back and a bottom pad for those long sailing trips.
You also need to be mindful of your back support and any medical conditions that you may have that may require added padding, cushioning, or lumbar stability.
These seats come with attachments points that make them adjustable and enhance your comfort while sailing. The more you add to the seats, the more expensive they will be.
You will be sailing for long periods and that too whilst sitting. So it only makes sense that you ensure that you have the best seat possible that matches your comfort level and sitting style. This will have a direct impact on how much you enjoy the trip – so make sure you spend some time and thought into it.
Some other important features that you may look at in a seat are its quality – breathability, water-proof fabric, storage space (if needed).
Dry bags or deck bags provide fish kayakers with great utility. In the simplest form, it is a water-proof bag used for storage purposes. It is usually lashed to the deck area of a kayak so you can easily access it for the required items.
It provides for the much required additional storage of your gear. It has multiple tie-down points, bungee cords and straps on the side. They come in all shapes, sizes, designs, and colors to suit your style and needs.
Another important purpose of a dry-bag is to keep your supplies and gear dry. This can be hard when out in the open water and that is where a storage bag comes in handy.
There are certain aspects you need to keep in mind when choosing your best dry-bag for fish kayaking.
You should know what you intend to store and accordingly opt for the appropriate size for your kayak. For clothing items, cylinder-shaped bags would be ideal. Similarly, if you intend to store sharp and square items, then rectangular dry bags are recommended.
This is a personal choice – whether you want to wear your bag or not. If you do, then you will need straps. For those who intend to wear them, they will need drawstring bags that serve the purpose for most kayakers. Some paddlers like to hike as well before or after their kayaking and in such cases, they would require a wearable bag. In such cases, dry bags that have waist-straps can come in handy and serve the dual purpose.
Neons and pastels on the bags add to their visibility in the dark or night time fishing. You can also purchase them in brown and black tones. It is a good idea to buy these illuminated bags in case you lose them in water or to make your boat or you visible in the dark for safety purposes. These bags also come with reflectors and are ideal for low-light conditions, so you can easily be spotted by other kayakers.
Dry-bags are made out of hydrophobic linings that keep them water-repellant. Thermoplastic urethane (TPU) and polymers are also some other components that make up a dry-bag. You should not opt for bags that have exposed steel linkings or those that have hydrophilic cotton.
Generally, kayak bags are singed to be light-weight. But you can have the option of something more sturdy and heavy too. This will be an important factor when purchasing them and will vary from person to person.
You need to know beforehand what you need to store in these bags so you can ascertain its exact capacity whilst purchasing. A lot of these bags will specify their capacity in liters or inches.
Submersible bags, as the name suggests can be immersed in water and still keep your items within it dry.
They generally come with a lock-and-seal opening, allowing the air to be sucked out of them. Those dry-bags that are not capable of submerging will have zipper opening and some will also have nylon drawstrings. It is a great accessory with lots of utility for all types of kayakers, whether they are new to the activity or seasoned professionals.
Your kayak may have an impact on the type of bag you purchase. If there is an allotted space, you can use a bigger bag, and if not, then a smaller (10-liter) bag is all you would have to be content with.
Those who purchase a kayak for the first time usually buy a standard pair of fishing kayak paddles too. The basic paddles are good enough to take you from point A to B and have some fun in the water. These are compulsory gear for fish kayaking as you won’t be able to go very far without them.
It is advisable to invest in adjustable paddles (feathered positioning) so you can adapt to your paddling style quickly and comfortably. These should also be relatively light-weight so you spend less effort paddling.
You do not need any special expertise in paddling and with few strokes, you get the hang of it.
A canoe paddle comes with a single blade and can be paddled with both sitting and kneeling positions. Kayak fishing paddles have blades on both ends and are brought to motion in an alternative manner, allowing the boat to move forward or backward.
These paddles are meant to be sturdy. The good quality ones will be manufactured with carbon, fiberglass, aluminum, or wood.
For optimum paddling experience, always hold them with a light grip so there is reduced strain on your wrists and forearms. What you should hold is the shaft of the paddle at a 90-degree angle. If ever in doubt, always check with the kayak dealer before buying them.
You can think of a ‘rudder’ as a nautical device that directs the boat. In a kayak, a rudder is meant to assist the kayak in making turns. They are more frequently used in keeping kayak in a straight path. It is essentially a blade at the stern of the kayak, allowing it to pivot from side to side. You can control the rudder with the help of foot pedals within the cockpit of a kayak.
A rudder is most helpful when a kayaker is crossing open water. It is during this time that the waves and water currents can push the kayak and cause it to lose balance and direction. A rudder is the same as the kayak as are wings or feathers to planes and birds.
A rudder is available in different types and which ones are best suited for you, largely depends on the type of kayak you use, how the kayak will be used, and the conditions in which it will be used. Other important factors to consider before buying a rudder are the skill levels of the paddler and their preferences.
Having said that, those who have mastered paddle strokes and associated skills will not necessarily need a rudder.
A rudder is a moving part that you install separately in a kayak. They are generally reliable and long-lasting but they may break or fail for any reason whatsoever. It is in times like these that your paddling skills will come in handy, particularly in inclement weather conditions.
Kayak lights were invented out of necessity. Kayak fishermen were intrigued and even wanted to pursue this activity at night time. This lead to the manufacturing and usage of lightings that are now available in different shapes, sizes, and quality. Visibility in the dark for fish kayaking at night has never been this easy, whenever you head to the lake, river or ocean. Lights are available to suit recreational kayaking, as well as for kayak anglers.
They are usually fairly simple to install and adjust (with the assistance of mounts) and let you get into the water instantly. With time, these lights have become innovative in design and functionality so that you can enjoy your time in the water at night and be more productive and adventurous.
Fishing is about being sneaky and patient. The kayak lights are long-lasting and ensure you’re your visibility stays good at all times during those quiet and long waiting periods. They also help you with visibility so other boats can see you, whilst passing by or even in an emergency scenario, in case you need assistance.
These lights are now available in regulatory compliant features such as brightness and are made from heavy-duty and single extruded aluminum mostly.
Some of the most common light designs for fish kayaking include aluminum LED light strips (are the most durable ones available in the market and usually come with a decent warranty) and spotlights that are usually high in brightness.
Fishing accessories broadly include all the tools, devices, and containers that the fishing kayakers or fishermen require to maintain a good and enhanced tackle, catch and store fish, and other items of need when they are out in the open water. Let us look closely at three of the most commonly used accessories for fishing.
Rod holders are an important piece of fishing accessory and available in two distinct styles namely, the quick-draw and the flush mount. These are widely available in stores and online as they are a very common piece of accessory for anglers.
The quick-draw rod holder allows the fisherman to easily access the fishing rod, especially when time is of the essence and you need to set the hook quickly. This type of rod comes in a variety of mounting options and can also be mounted temporarily.
The flush mount rod holder is ideal for use during trolling or when you need your rods to be organized. The drawback with this rod is that it can only be mounted along the gunwale and hence you have limited options as to where you can place them.
No fish accessory list is complete without a compact fish finder. If you do not find fish you do not catch them – it is as simple as that!
A fish finder is a device that can utilize sonar to dispatch signals under the water. In return, you get signals back from the water and the fish finding device then transmits that information in the form of an image onto your device. This image will be the result of what is the activity level under the water. It will give you a picture of how the bottom of the water around you looks and if there are any objects or fish around so you can start fishing.
The image will also tell you the depth of water, the temperature of the water, and the placement of fish. In certain advanced models, you can also ascertain the type of fish that you are hunting for.
These specific readings can be marked and saved and with the assistance of a built-in GPS in these devices, you can earmark them and come back to those spots again, where you spot large quantity or a specific type of fish that you intend to hunt.
Once you have caught the fish, you also need to store it. This can be done with ease in a fish storage cooler bag or kayak coolers. Depending on your usage, they come in different shapes and sizes to suit your preference and needs. A larger cooler will be able to accommodate the fish that you hunt as well as cold drinks, food, or just any kind of storage that you like.
These coolers can be fitted in the bow and can be accessed with the help of a zipper at the back of the bag. Alternatively, the entire bag can be accessed to either access stored goods or cleaning, when needed.
Some other related items of accessories that any angler or fish kayaker needs when out in the open waters include a life vest, sunscreen, a fishing hat, and a first aid kit. These are miscellaneous items that usually get ignored by the most professional anglers and kayakers. Never underestimate their importance, as some of them are vital to protect you physically from heat whilst others can make all the difference between life and death.
Life Vests (PFD)
Most of the fatalities concerning water sports happen because the there was no life vest or if there was one, then it wasn’t worn properly or wasn’t compliant with the requirements of the person who wore it. This goes without saying that you must buy and wear a life jacket before you set out on any fish kayaking expedition. Life jacket saves lives and you should not treat this lightly!
A kayak life vest or a jacket which is also commonly referred to as a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is the most important piece of gear that you need to purchase. It should fit you well and comfortably and should always be in a serviceable condition.
Life vests are available in different forms ranging from the traditional foam floatation gear to trendy inflatable jackets. These correspond to the many forms of boating activities and have multiple functionalities, buoyancy, and performance levels.
Summer is a great time to do outdoor activities and fish kayaking is no different. Having said that, prolonged sun exposure has some hazard too, not to forget skin cancer!
You should avoid the sun between 10 am-4 pm during hot and humid days.
Always ensure that you have packed sunscreen as part of your gear accessory, particularly when you have a long day planned out in the sun. These sunscreens are available in the form of lotion or spray. Whatever you choose, always ensure that it is SPF 30 or higher. You can never have enough sunscreen so apply it generously, covering all the exposed parts of your body.
As required, you can re-apply after every two hours, depending upon your exposure.
A fishing hat is also known as a Bucket hat or Beanie hat. It has a wide and downwards sloping brim, suitable to be worn by both men and women. The brim is meant to cover your entire face from sun rays.
The fishing hat is commonly made out of heavy-duty but soft cotton material, most commonly from denim or canvas. It also has metal eyelets on either side, to give you a cool effect on those sunny days when you are out fishing.
Wearing a hat can protect you from the harmful sun rays that can damage your skin and cause wrinkles, excessive tanning, and premature aging.
Hats with adjustable drawstrings are ideal for all face types so you can tighten or loosen it to adapt to your face and head. It is important to wear them tightly so it doesn’t get blown away by a strong wind.
First Aid Kit
No matter how risk-averse you are, you can never be 100% sure of a bad day, particularly when you are out and about and involved in water sports. What you can do is to be prepared for any type of emergency or accident and what better way to do it than by preparing your own customized first aid kit.
This kit will come in handy in a variety of situations such as stings by insects, contact with poisonous plants, blisters on hands or feet, sprain or twisted ankle, sudden illness, or hypothermia in cold or wet conditions.
The type of items you put into your kit will depend on the nature of your trip, the length of your expedition, and the availability of the closest emergency assistance.
Some of the standard items should include drugs like aspirin, antacids, allergy medication, and anti-septic creams. You should also keep assorted bandages, medical tape, adhesive bandages, tweezers, antiseptic wipes, trauma pads, and sterile gloves. A duct tape roll also comes in quite handy for different situations – to repair your kayak for example. Another good example is a matchbox or a quick fire starter in case you need fire to warm yourself or someone else in an emergency.
Kayak fishing is meant to be a thrilling and fun activity and you should be able to enjoy and engage in it without any worry or concern. That is the purpose of kayak fishing accessories – to provide you with that peace of mind as well as the required equipment to make your trip joyful and safe.
One of the major reasons for its popularity is the inexpensive equipment that makes it affordable for the masses, particularly those on a tight budget. Having said that, do not indulge in impulsive buying. You should research well and understand the usage and purpose of each accessory, and its utility to you and your expedition.
Be that as it may, even with all the necessary gear for kayak fishing by your side, you must never be complacent. Always practice safety and take precautionary measures well in advance during your expeditions. Nothing is more important than your life and you should always consider that when setting out in the water.
Another word of caution is for those who suffer from back problems of any sort. Kayaking requires you to put a lot of pressure on your upper body (including the backbone). You must consult with a qualified medical specialist or orthopedic expert who can assess your physical fitness and endurance before you set out on an expedition like this.
Moreover, if you are taking up kayaking for the first time, you will be well-advised to take some basic learning lessons that will help you a great deal. This is important for your safety as well, in case of any unexpected eventuality.
Calm waters can be unpredictable, no matter where you kayak. They can become rough and unsteady in no time and without any warning. Always look out for strong currents or waves. These may impact the water level, and in turn, your kayak as well. Whenever you notice any abrupt changes to the weather or water conditions, you should just simply cut short your trip and turn back, by approaching safer ground. It is in these times that you will have to execute your maneuvers appropriately and your kayak fishing gear will come in very handy to make things stable and safer for you.