There’s something special about being woken up at the crack of dawn, helping your dad load up the truck with fishing supplies, heading out to the water’s edge and dropping the boat in, that never leaves a lot of us. Fishing has a way of helping the hours slip by and our worries fade away. It’s an escape that allows you to put the world on hold for a bit, and enjoy what nature has to offer.
Fishing From A Kayak For Beginners
Over the past few years, kayak fishing has become an increasingly popular way to enjoy this favorite pass-time. It’s a really inexpensive and natural way to get as close to the water and the fish as possible. It also involves a decent amount of activity, so those looking to incorporate a more active lifestyle into their routine will find what they’re looking for with kayak fishing.
Whether you’ve been fishing for a long time without ever having set foot on a kayak, or you’ve been kayaking for a while now and want another excuse to paddle out each day, kayak fishing is a great way to unwind and fill your day.
Kayak fishing can be a little difficult the first time or two you do it, as managing the kayak, your fishing equipment, the fish, and the water requires a bit of practice. To ensure that you get the most out of your time outdoors, here’s a guide on fishing from a kayak for beginners. Regardless of your experience level, these tips and guidelines should give you a great place to start, or some new ideas to consider.
Which Kayak Do You Need?
The first thing you need to have in order to go kayak fishing is, as you might be able to guess, a kayak. There are a ton of different kinds of kayaks to choose from, and the process can be a little overwhelming at first.
What kind of fishing your planning on doing and where you plan on doing it will determine what kind of kayak you need. The more narrow and long a kayak is, the faster (but less maneuverable) it will be. The wider and shorter a kayak is, and the more stable and navigable it will be.
If you’re completely new to kayaking and have no clue what you’re looking for, renting a kayak the first few times is probably a good idea. This is a good way to try different sizes and styles of kayaks before settling on your final addition. Plus, if you’re not totally sure about kayak fishing, it gives you a chance to decide if it’s really for you.
If you feel ready to start picking out which kayak you’re going to buy, the first thing to consider is where you’re going to be fishing. As with all fishing, fishing from a kayak breaks into two general categories: Saltwater and Freshwater fishing.
Be sure to check out our guide for the best inflatable kayaks if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to get started fishing from a kayak.
Where Will You Be Fishing?
When fishing from saltwater, offshore or inshore, a sit on top kayak is the way to go. Picking one that is a little shorter and wider is also helpful for maintaining the stability of your watercraft. These kinds of kayaks are more difficult to sink, and they remain stable amid harsh waters.
Freshwater fishing can take place on two kinds of water, so depending on what. Freshwater can be either still or moving. A short and wide kayak will give you the right mix of stability and versatility to navigate choppier lakes and smaller bodies of water. If you’re going to be fishing over a large and smooth surface of water, then a longer and more narrow kayak will help you travel further and faster.
What About Storage?
Another factor to consider when picking a kayak is storage. One of the first things that probably went through your mind when considering kayak fishing was how little space kayaks have to offer. If you’re a minimalist, you may not see this as such a bad thing, as it gives you an opportunity to streamline your fishing equipment.
However, if you’re one of those fishermen that has to have every tool for every occasion, then opting for a wider kayak that allows for more storage. A bigger kayak will also be more suitable if you plan on catching bigger fish, so keep your target game in mind as well.
All of that said, most kayaks can be made to work in different situations. One of the best aspects of kayak fishing is how flexible it is. So as long as your kayak is reasonably sized and unlikely to capsize (costing you time, energy, and potentially equipment) you should be fine. When in doubt, the more stable the kayak, the better.
Once you know what body style you want your kayak to be, the next thing to consider is how you’re going to outfit it. This is what sets a fishing kayak apart from a standard kayak.
You can also check out our Getting Started Kayaking Guide to help learn more about different sections of the kayak and why they are so important.
What Should You Bring For Kayak Fishing?
While most of these may seem like common sense, making sure that you set out on the water with all of the right tools is the most important part of making the trip a success.
An important factor to consider while looking over what equipment you plan on bringing is the likelihood of capsizing. While it may not seem like a big deal if you’ve never been kayaking before, it’s more common than you would think. Fortunately, most of these accessories come in variations that float, and you can find different ways to tie your equipment to the kayak.
Aside from your paddle and rod, a tackle box will be your best friend on the water. Ideally, you want one that will fit comfortably in the kayak with you. Otherwise, you could end up spending a good deal of your time fishing for it instead. A lot of tackle boxes that are made for kayaks come with useful features like rod holders, cup holders, and removable linings for easy cleaning.
A fish gripper is also something that you may have never needed on standard fishing trips, but in a kayak, it makes a world of difference. Trying to pull in the big catch without flipping your kayaking is an art form of its own. A fish gripper will allow you to pull your fish out of the water faster, reducing the chances of capsizing. Once you use it, you won’t know how you lived without it.
After you pull the fish in, the next battle begins: Where are you going to put it? If you’re feeling frisky, you can let it sit in the kayak with you during the rest of your trip. If that’s not your preference though, you can get a stringer and attach it to your kayak. This way your not limited by how many fish you can hold in your lap.
Accessories For Stress-Free Kayak Fishing
Having a way to anchor, or at least slow down, your kayak is super important for fishing. The last thing you want is to find the fish and then drift away from them. Getting a sturdy kayaking anchor and kayak anchor trolley is the best way to keep your kayak in place once you’ve found the sweet spot.
If you don’t have room for an anchor, or would rather an alternative, a drift chute is another option to consider. It’s a helpful accessory for slowing down your kayak, though it won’t bring you to a complete stop.
A fishing rod holder is also a really useful, arguably essential, tool while fishing from a kayak. Managing both your paddle and rod at the same time is just about impossible without one. A fishing rod holder will allow you to drop your line in the water and still maintain control of the kayak. You could also throw a paddle and rod leash into the mix, so that just in case you drop one or happen to capsize (it happens) you won’t lose your most vital tools.
A dry bag is another item to consider purchasing for your kayaking expeditions. Kayaking puts you and all of the things right on top of the water’s surface, so ensuring that your valuables and water sensitive items are safe is a must. There are even options that allow you to use your phone while it’s in the dry bag.
Part of the fun of kayaking is that it puts you in a situation where unexpected things can happen. However, part of the risk of kayaking is that it puts you in a situation where unexpected things can happen. A real double-edged fishing knife, if you will. Aside from making sure all of your equipment is floatable and/or properly secured, there are some other precautions you can take to make sure you paddle back home in one piece.
A personal flotation device (also known as a life jacket) is a must for anyone going out on the water. It’ll keep you safe in the event that your kayak capsizes, and make recovering from it much easier. There are plenty online that feature lots of storage, that way it doesn’t feel like so much of a nuisance. Most also come with padding to make them a little more bearable. They’re uncomfortable for sure, but you don’t want to get caught out without one.
Another important consideration is the weather. It’s always important for any kind of fishing, but especially so with kayaking. I feel sorry for any unfortunate souls that have paddled out for hours, only to have to turn around and paddle back in the rain. Not to mention that if the weather is severe enough, it can be dangerous to be out on the water in a kayak.
A map or GPS is helpful when paddling offshore or on larger bodies of water. There are a lot of waterproof GPS’s to choose from, and even some fish finders that come with GPS’s built in. Not only is it a great way to prevent yourself from becoming best friends with a volleyball, but it also enables you to explore further than you normally would since you’ll have a reliable way to get back.
Last but not least, a headlamp or flashlight is really helpful for fishing early in the morning or later in the day. This is one of those accessories that is so cheap it almost doesn’t make sense not to buy one. There are even versions that come with red lightbulbs, which will help you see without scaring off the fish or attracting mosquitoes. Plus when you get lost, it’ll make reading your map a lot easier.
Fishing from a kayak is a great way to recapture that spark you felt on your first fishing trip. A lot of times figuring out where to drop the boat, park the trailer, which equipment to buy, can get in the way of what makes fishing such a unique experience: A chance to be quiet and alone with nature.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to try kayak fishing, I would definitely find a local kayak shop and rent one for a few hours. There’s something about sitting inches above the water and fish that revives a new sense of passion for the sport. Not only that, because it’s such a simple and affordable method of fishing, the trips themselves become much less of a hassle.
To make sure that your days out are just as they should be, take all of the essential equipment and safety precautions beforehand. And to really have the best experience possible, don’t take anything more than that. When all of the excess associated with fishing is stripped away, and it’s just you, your tools, and the kayak, you can focus on what you paddled out there to do in the first place.