Kayak Fishing Catch the Experience
Why is it that anglers seem to be driven by an internal
force to fish? What fuels our passion for being on the
water? Why is it we do what we do? Is it simply being
on the water? Few things can match the feeling of freedom
and serenity that you feel when you’re around the water. Open
water, whether you’re on it, in it or even just near it, is a powerful
attractant for most. The South Florida lifestyle is water. These feelings
about our surroundings dictate our lives and lifestyles.
Being in the outdoors and feeling a part of nature has to be a component
of this drive that we have. On the water, you’re away from everyday
pressures of life. Whether watching an osprey crash on a ladyfish,
a raccoon searching an oyster bar at low tide or porpoises cooperating
together to herd mullet in a bay; when we’re there we feel as if we’re a
part of nature. Simply being amongst these settings allows us to feel as
if we are a piece of that world and sometimes, humbly, part of the food
chain. We want to be as close as we can be and be there as often as we
can. But, again, why sport fishing? Would not a hike in the woods get
us this “close to nature” feeling?
Perhaps, it is the camaraderie of our fellow fishing enthusiast that
draws us in. I know few who enjoy being alone for any length of time.
Although, we all need some space and time to ourselves. After all, time
is the most precious commodity. Time spent alone in special places and
circumstances can’t be replaced. But sharing experiences with friends
is also extremely rewarding.
Personally, I love watching people catch fish as much as I like catching
them myself. Few things can compare with the look in an angler’s
face when they’re about to be spooled by a permit streaking toward the
horizon. Every face on the boat lights up when a huge, glistening tarpon
launches into the air. Fishing offers us something in common with
our group of friends, something unique and special to us that we can
share among one another. This sense of shared experiences is a big part
of why we do what we do.
Perhaps, it’s the raw excitement that draws us to fishing. The rush that
you get from watching a sailfish or dolphin chase your trolled bait is
powerful. The explosion of a double digit snook crashing a top water
plug is also, without a doubt, addicting.
These days it seems that I get very little “rod time,” so it’s precious to
me. On one of those rare occasions when a good friend was poling and
I was fishing, we saw a bonefish that we both estimated to be 13
pounds. I have seen and caught plenty of bones, but watching that big
tailing fish while I worked to get in position to present the fly was so
exciting that I was shaking — shaking so much that I missed the cast
and spooked the fish. That, however, was ok. Just being there was the
real thrill. The excitement, the rush, is part of the passion that we call
The typical sport fisherman competes with himself and the environment;
not with others. Unlike the competition to better our lives, where
failure can have dramatic impact on our families and future, fishing
only has rewards. Fishing offers an incredible escape from the reality
of daily life. For example, I’m happy when a fellow fisherman catches
five snook and I caught only two . . . after all I did catch two! That’s
usually not the case outside of sport fishing. When a colleague out
competes you and advances ahead, it might be years before you get
another opportunity. Your next opportunity for a redfish is on the very
next cast! There are no failures . . . only chances for successes.
A fisherman is a constantly evolving critter. As a fishing guide, I see
it all the time. In the beginning of an angler’s career, a day of fishing
is defined as a day of catching. Things are as good as they can be as
long as he’s catching fish, no matter what species. Soon, he will evolve
and challenge himself to catch a limit of trout, for example. Next time
he may seek a limit of trout using only artificial lures . . . then only top
water plugs. How about the inshore slam and then the inshore slam on
fly! I have anglers who love the personal challenge aspect so much
they’ve evolved to throwing top water plugs to permit at night. Talk
The sport fishing industry too is evolving. Occasionally something
comes along that revolutionizes the industry. Products like saltwater
trolling motors or plastic jerk baits have dramatically changed the
industry. Technical poling skiffs are a good example of industry evolution.
Twenty-five years ago, my plywood decked 13’ Whaler was about
the only boat that I saw in the shallows. That’s not the case now. There
are scores of manufactures and numerous models to choose from.
Hundreds of boats inundate Florida’s flats every day.
KAYAKS are revolutionizing the sport fishing industry as well.
Fishing out of a kayak is one of the fastest growing segments of the
shallow water fishing industry because it’s a way to be closer to nature
and a very effective way to fish. Serious fishermen have re-discovered
the kayak as an extremely productive platform. The word is out and
fishermen across the country are turning to kayaks. Manufacturers are
starting to build kayaks specifically for fishing, with some models so
popular that dealers have three and four month backlogs. Advanced
gear, tackle, rigging, and equipment are being introduced on a daily
It’s easy to see why fishermen are embracing the kayak as the costs of
power boating can be substantial. It’s hard to get a new outfitted flats
boat without spending well over $20,000. A boat becomes a major
investment for most households after factoring the costs of insurance,
interest, fuel, taxes, storage, trailer and a towing vehicle. The kayak’s
low upfront and continuing costs make it economical. A typical fishing
kayak costs several hundred to about seven hundred dollars.
Completely outfitted for fishing, including paddles and all required
safety gear, you’re looking at about a thousand bucks . . . a far cry from
the cost of any flats boat.
It takes but a few well placed rod holders, some safety equipment and
perhaps an anchor to turn that old recreational kayak in the backyard
into a fishing kayak. While the basic kayak is a very effective fishing
platform in its simplest form, like every other boat on the water, if it
can be customized and rigged, someone is going to do it. Many enthusiasts
have rigged their “yaks” with multiple anchoring systems, back
rests, a variety of storage options, coolers, bait wells, batteries, pumps,
GPS units, sonar, radios and even camera mounts. However, kayak rigging
is the subject of another whole article.
A kayak is easy to use and simple to maintain. A quick rinse with fresh
water is usually all that she’ll need. Most are made of plastic, so there
is no hardware to polish, gel coat to wax, electrical systems to corrode,
trailer bearings to pack or oil to change. The fishing kayak requires no
fuel, no insurance, no trailer, no tow vehicle and basically zero maintenance.
Most importantly, the kayak provides access to areas that you
simply can’t get to by other means. Weighing about 50 pounds, a kayak
transports on top of a compact car and can be launched by one person
just about anywhere there is a few inches of water.
YAKS are so simple and easy that many anglers can load up, be at
the launch site and in the water in the less time then it takes to get their
power boat ready for a trip. You don’t even need a boat ramp! Think
about how long it takes you to properly clean and store everything after
a fishing trip. Many find that they use their kayaks more often than
their powerboats. The ease of use and simplicity of the fishing kayak
makes the quick, after-work trip practical.
Kayaks are being used in both deep and shallow water fisheries.
Whether fishing vertically in deep water or horizontally in shallow
water, the kayak is a great fishing platform. Some are seeking and
catching dolphin, sailfish, sharks and giant tarpon in deep water from
their yaks. But, the kayak is coming into its own in the shallow waters
of South Florida.
Success in the shallows depends largely on stealth, whether you are
stalking bones in the Keys, tailing redfish in Mosquito Lagoon, or
snook and tarpon in the 10,000 Islands. One slam of a hatch, a dropped
tool on the deck or a graphite push pole twanged into a rock and the
game is over! Boat manufacturers sink huge amounts of time, energy,
and money into the design of expensive flats boats trying to make them
silent in the shallows. Stealth is King and the kayak is the King of
You can achieve amazing stealth with a kayak by silently gliding into
your fishing area undetected. The only sound that you typically hear is
the paddles dipping into the water. I fish in the backcountry of the
10,000 Islands where tarpon even seem to be attracted to the sound of
the paddles. I’m the one who has actually
been spooked many times by rolling tarpon
only a few feet from my kayak.
In almost every shallow water fishery, at
low tide, fish tend to fall in the deeper
holes. You will find predatory fish seeking
this deeper cover in grass flats, a channel
near a mangrove shoreline or a tideeroded
depression near an oyster bar.
Getting to the fish is all but impossible
with a traditional boat, and in many places
you can rarely get in without spooking the
fish. The silence and stealth of the kayak
amazes me every time I am in one. There
is a whole new fishing world that has
opened up for me as a shallow water
angler . . . a world that I used to motor
When a kingfisher smacks the water, a
mullet jumps across the bow or one of
those little tarpon startles me, it all happens
very close. The fish and the action
are both closer to you in a fishing kayak
than in a boat. You notice things around
you that you can’t at 40 mph. When a tarpon
or a ladyfish jumps, you don’t see it at eye
level, it’s jumping over your head! Looking
up at a tumbling tarpon is an absolute thrill.
The kayak has rejuvenated my enthusiasm
for sport fishing. All the species that I have
caught in my fishing career I now get to target
in my kayak. I now can now get to areas
I could not get to before. This spring, I intend
filming a triple-digit tarpon coming over the
side of a kayak . . .If I am not behind the camera,
I intend to be behind the rod.
Many kayak anglers have been doing their
thing all along, un-noticed by the “mainstream”
world of traditional fishermen. They
have been fishing waters that most of us
would consider inaccessible. Their private
places have remained their secret paradises
for years. The blue water charter captain and
the Midwest bass guide rarely saw kayak
fishermen and the west coast kayak fisherman
knew nothing of east coast kayak fisherman.
The birth of the Internet has changed all that.
The Internet catalyzed the terrific rise in
popularity of the sport of kayak fishing.
In Ken Daubert‘s book, “Kayak Fishing: The
Revolution,” he calls the Internet the “fuel to
the fire of this (kayak fishing) phenomenon.”
For the kayak fisherman, it provides the
means for this disorganized group of enthusiasts
to learn from each other. Kayakers rapidly
exchange ideas on rigging their boats, fishing
techniques, fisheries, launch sites, and share
their experiences with others. It has become
the back-bone of what Ken calls the “Kayak
Fishing Community”. A community, made
up of fisherman, guides, outfitters, paddle
shops, manufacturers, merchandisers, sportswriters
Well until next time, get out there and paddle
up a creek!