Where do you want to go today? That’s the question that often begins our day of kayak fishing. This discussion always shifts to where we should go kayaking today. For folks out for exercise and a day on the water, their issues are mostly about distance and wind.
For anglers, though, the choice is further complicated by tides, fishing reports, species targeted and weather forecasts. While you can launch and fish in less than perfect conditions, it’s more fun when you know spots out of the wind and waves — and where there are feeding fish.
Of course, wind is still the primary factor of a launch choice. Winds from either the north or south can make kayaking on our bays iffy. The choices for kayak anglers increase when the wind comes from the east or west. But even on a windy day, there is always a lee shore somewhere with hungry fish.
In the winter; sheltered dark-bottomed flats warm quickly. This is a good thing for winter anglers and the gamefish we chase. This time of year, however, the shallows get too hot in the middle of the day. The most productive time switches to early in the morning after the water has cooled down overnight. This summer schedule works for kayak anglers too, since it gets too hot for most of us at midday and those pestiferous afternoon thunderstorms can mess up any late-day plans.
Forecasting wind direction is tricky. We seldom find conditions on the water that match the wind forecast in the newspaper. NOAA Marine Weather Forecasts are probably the most reliable source, but they cannot predict local conditions on the bays. Also consider the sea breeze which, on warm afternoons, adds a westerly component to whatever wind direction is forecast.
Our best advice is to walk down to the water and see which way the wind is blowing before you unpack and launch. It can save you from repacking to hit another launch site, or maybe change your float plan for the day. The ultimate plan for kayak fishing on a windy day is to use two vehicles — just fish downwind all day until you get to the takeout spot.
If you are caught in a wind event, keep the nose of the kayak pointed into the waves and use the angle adjustments on your paddle to lower wind resistance. Enjoy the aerobic workout and figure a way to avoid this next time. Kayaking is a lot like bicycle riding, with the wind usually coming at you head on. Remember to relax and enjoy it when your drift plan actually works out.
But, just to be safe, try to start off upwind so you can drift back to the launch when you get tired. If you find yourself having to go against the wind and into a fierce current, it may be time to head for a shoreline and tow your boat African Queen-style back to the launch. Been there, done that.
Tidal flows around here can be whitewater scary or slow and perfect for a drift along fishy shorelines. Currents and boat wakes in the passes (inlets) are nothing kayak anglers need to deal with. You can find other spots to enjoy the feeding frenzy created by flowing water without the adrenaline rush of being capsized and swept out to sea.
Current speed has less effect on a kayak than wind due to the low drag coefficient of the hull shape below the waterline, compared with the wind resistance anglers and their gear create on top. Flow velocity decreases near the shore and on the inside of curves in a channel. Ease over towards the shore and you’ll make some headway. We find spots where paddling at top speed will barely maintain our position out in the middle of a swift current.
Fishing reports (found right here in WaterLine) are invaluable for anglers in kayaks. Though most of the reports are from folks in boats with almost unlimited range, the areas they recommend are often accessible to kayak anglers using nearby launches. Keep in mind that most fishing reports are at least a week old. It takes time to compile all that info and get it printed. Often the “Best Bets” section will provide information on a consistent bite worth checking out.
For a daily report, check local bait and tackle shops. Those folks talk to anglers every day and are a good source of timely information. Always try to launch as close as you can get to the action they suggest. That way you can spend more time fishing and less time paddling.
The 30 launches detailed in our waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida,” when matched up with the information and fishing reports in this magazine, will help you catch fish. A couple of dozen paddle strokes should get you into productive water. The question then becomes basic: “Do you want to paddle, or do you want to go kayak fishing?”
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.