Folks new to kayak fishing face a steep learning curve if they’re coming from a background of shore or boat fishing. Paddling, anchoring, launching and landing should be second nature before complicating the fun with fishing equipment. Here’s hoping this column will help paddlers as they evolve into anglers and begin to enjoy some fishing fun in Southwest Florida from a kayak. If you fish from a paddleboard, canoe or pedal kayak, please translate these ideas for your vessel.
So, let’s assume you own or have rented a kayak and survived your initial experience on the water. You’ve probably noticed the abundance of life as you paddled across a clear flat. Some folks think seriously about bringing a rod after spooking a big redfish from under their kayak. Other kayak anglers may see things a different way, but here are a few of our ideas that we want to share with you to help make your kayak fishing easier.
One of the best investments a kayak angler can make is a small drift sock, also called a drift anchor. This allows an angler to slow their trip across a productive flat and make more casts on each drift. With very little hull below the waterline, kayaks blow around like leaves — but a drift sock allows anglers to control the speed and angle of their drift. Attach the sock directly to your kayak. It can be attached to either side to help steer your drift.
A wearable PFD is another good investment. We see lots of paddlers out on the water with no PFD, or one that is stashed where it cannot be accessed quickly. We use an inflatable vest because of its small size and light weight. Be sure to get a manual version so it doesn’t automatically inflate when you fall down in two inches of water.
Folks who don’t wear their vests will begin to after their first dunking. They will have realized that while trying to salvage all their gear, they don’t have time to locate and put on their vest. The water in Florida is cold in the winter. Luckily, most kayak fishing takes place in shallow water where you can just stand up.
Other handy things like a small anchor and a stake-out pole make parking the kayak possible. We also carry a spring clamp on about 10 feet of line for use as a “mangrove anchor” when tying off to something. We made our stake-out poles from fiberglass shuffleboard cues by cutting off the fork end and adding a point with epoxy.
Attach your stake-out pole to the kayak with a bungee cord, not a rope. Bungees absorb wave action without the static shock that might dislodge your pole. Small grapnel anchors are easy to carry and deploy but may not hold in a strong current.
For handling fish in the kayak, a lip gripper is really handy. The smaller plastic ones that float and glow in the dark are perfect for us. We have controlled cobia with this little tool (after they were very tired). Another item is a small plastic tape measure to keep you out of trouble when you keep a fish. The best ones we have found are in the sewing area of most fabric stores.
Finally, we believe in using only single-hook lures in our kayaks. The main reason for our single hook rule is safety. Since most fish are landed and unhooked between kayakers’ legs, our worst nightmare would be to find ourselves hooked in some very sensitive part of our body to one of the trebles on a lure and the thrashing fish attached to the other treble. That would ruin your day!
That limits us to jigs, spoons and flies, but we don’t feel disadvantaged. There are so many styles, sizes and colors of jig heads and tails we may never get to try them all. Besides, a single hook bites deeper and holds better than most treble hooks anyway.
These are just a few thoughts to share with kayak anglers, particularly with the folks just getting into the sport. There are many more tips we want to share with WaterLine readers. In future columns we’ll deal with techniques, tackle and tactics that we have learned over the years for both saltwater and freshwater fishing in a kayak.
In the meantime, we hope you catch some fish from your kayak. Our marine resources are under a lot of pressure, and we must protect what we enjoy. Please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing” and “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida,” contribute these columns to promote the excellent fishing available in Southwest Florida. Their books are available at most tackle shops in the area or at AnglerPocketGuides.com as a download or waterproof hard copy.