In our last column, we covered some basic gear decisions kayak anglers need to make. Things like the size and type of kayak, paddle length, type of seat and fishing gear were mentioned. So, having gathered the right stuff together and found time to get that kayak in the water, here are a few other things to consider as you launch.
Compared with a boat, launching a kayak is easy. Kayaks can be carried to the water if it’s not too far or the kayak too heavy. For heavy kayaks and long hauls, we recommend a dolly. These wonderful wheels will get the kayak where it needs to go. Plus, you can rig the kayak ahead of time and then wheel it down to the water.
Whether launching at a kayak launch or a boat ramp, be considerate of others wanting to get on the water. We generally avoid boat ramps and the chaos there. We don’t appreciate the residual outboard oil that sticks to the waterline of our kayaks and paddles and is hard to remove. At a kayak launch, don’t block access with your vehicle. By using wheels, it’s easy to park farther away. Move your kayak to the side of the launch to allow others to “play through” if you’re rigging your kayak or while you take the dolly back to the car.
Don’t let the calendar dictate when you kayak. There are good and bad days to go fishing whether in a boat, from shore or in a kayak. When a kayak angler is getting started, it is much easier to fish on good days. As you get more comfortable fishing from a kayak, you might consider heading out in marginal weather. Wind, rain and tides can work either for or against you. The day just before a front arrives can provide some excellent fishing — but when the wind shows up, it’s time to head back to the launch.
We believe the less time spent paddling, the more time we can spend fishing. To this end, we share over 25 excellent launches near some great fishing in our waterproof pocket guide. For extended scouting, we spend a lot of time looking at Google Earth. We look for white sand along the shore and near roads to find launches. White sand spots also represent places to stretch your legs in remote areas. Avoid launches that are on private land or where you can’t safely leave your vehicle.
For heavily vegetated mangrove areas, where getting lost is always a possibility, we recommend printing these maps and taking them along. Of course, the “track back” option on a GPS device is the modern way to find your way back through the maze. In case your tech solutions fail, it’s a good idea to look back every now and then so you can see what you’ll be seeing on the return trip.
And speaking of finding your way back, allow extra time for your return to the launch. On a good day, you’ll find feeding fish to delay your return. You might also find the tide and wind make your return trip more challenging. This is especially true on a falling tide that might make an earlier shallow passage impossible to use.
Mostly, we urge folks to get off the water before sunset. Navigational lights are required for night kayaking and most folks don’t carry them along. There is also the issue of no-see-ums and skeeters that can make loading gear in the mangroves miserable after sunset.
Another reason to get off the water before sunset is to allow time to clean up the gear in fading daylight. No matter how tired we are, we still wash off the kayaks, paddles and anything else that got into salt water (or tannic creek water). To put it off until morning brings a much harder job with a lot more scrubbing. Be sure to rinse off your fishing rod and reel after every outing. You may think it didn’t get dunked, but just the salt water on the wet line will mess up your reel.
One last safety tip: Be aware of your surroundings as you paddle and fish along. Boaters don’t always look for kayaks. Be particularly careful fishing close to mangrove shorelines. Flats boats will sometimes follow the deeper water along the mangroves at high speed. If you hear a boat coming your way, tuck yourself back into the trees as they go by. You are then entitled to offer a word or two of advice directed their way.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing Southwest Florida” 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, AnglerPocketGuides.com, or Amazon as a download or hard copy.