I finally had the opportunity to attend the Annual Kayak Fishing Clinic at Billington Sea Kayak this past weekend after 3 years of schedule conflicts. Charlie Fortier and Wayne Perry, two local kayak fishermen, put on an excellent clinic that covered everything from gear to kayak-fishing strategies. I’m embarrassed to admit that I went many years in kayak instruction and sales operating under the assumption that all there was to know about kayak fishing was the fact that some sit-on-top models are specifically outfitted for it! This clinic certainly changed my outlook and I feel much more knowledgeable about what’s really important to a kayak fisherman when they come to the shop to try out kayaks!
By no means do I consider myself an expert in kayak fishing after participating in only one clinic (I’ll leave that to folks like Charlie and Wayne). However, I was able to pick up on a few important lessons on kayak fishing that I would like to share:
Purchase a kayak-fishing specific PFD
“Always wear your PFD” is a mantra that rings true as much for kayak-fishing as for the rest of us! It may be even more important as the chance of snagging that big fish could also land you in the water. Lucky for us there are plenty of kayak-fishing-specific PFDs on the market! These lifejackets feature additional pockets for fishing gear and typically have a high back to prevent it from interfering with your sit-on-top seat. Our friends at MTI Adventurewear have an excellent line of kayak-specific PFDs that are worth checking out!
Take measures to increase your visibility to other boaters
One of the biggest safety concerns while kayak fishing is your visibility to other boaters on the water. Many factors including drab-colored gear, the low-profile of sit-on-top kayaks, and being stationary while fishing on anchor add up to make you a complete ghost on the water. Charlie and Wayne highly recommend installing a flag pole with an orange flag on your back deck in order to make yourself more visible to the passing boater. Installing retro-reflective tape and painting your paddle blades a bright color will also help to increase your visibility while moving between your lucky fishing holes!
Install an anchor system on both sides of your kayak
A lot of the fishing-specific kayaks come with an anchor trolley installed on at least one side of the kayak. This trolley allows the paddler to have some control over the orientation of their kayak while fishing at anchor. Charlie and Wayne swear by these trollies and suggest that you consider installing one on both sides of your kayak for convenience. This is easily accomplished with some stainless steel clips, stainless steel pulleys, and a length of 1/4in line.
Rudders are a kayak-fisherman’s best friend
I’ve never been a huge proponent of rudders for everyday kayaking but when it comes to kayak fishing the rudder can be your best friend. Sit-on-top kayaks make great platforms for fishing because of their stability and open deck layout. The sacrifice that you make is in terms of weight and speed. Paddling a fully-loaded fishing kayak into or across a stiff breeze can be a bear and a rudder will only help to keep you on course in these situations.
Invest in a kayak cart with fat-tire wheels
As I mentioned before, fishing specific kayaks and all of the fishing gear can get heavy. Charlie and Wayne said that their kit easily weighs in the neighborhood of 80lbs. They recommend investing in a kayak cart as a way to transport your fishing kayak from the parking lot to the water. This eliminates the need to shed your gear in order to save weight for the carry and to make multiple trips to shuttle the gear after you bring your kayak to the water. In their opinion, the best kayak carts have fat, inflatable tires to best manage a sandy approach.
Always use a rod leash
Fishing rods and reels can be an expensive investment and it would be terrible to lose one to Davey Jones should it fall overboard. Protect your prized fishing rod with a rod leash. Much like a paddle leash, a rod leash simply connects your rod to a fixed point on the kayak. The leash will prevent your rod from going too far should it end up in the drink. You don’t need to go out a buy a fancy leash as it’s easy to fashion one out of some paracord or the like.
Bring along a fishing net
Sometimes the biggest challenge in kayak fishing is not catching the fish; it’s getting the fish into the kayak! There’s a lot happening on the deck of a fishing kayak and you may not be able to get the proper leverage to haul that big fish over the rail. Charlie and Wayne recommend bringing along a fishing net to help with this critical last step in the catch.
Happy Kayak Fishing and good luck out there!