Kayak fishing not only gives you a simple, effective and less expensive way to get out on the water and fish, but it also opens up a whole new realm of experience. NRS ambassador Isaac Miller discusses how he discovered kayak fishing and what he’s discovered through the sport.
A few years ago I found myself unemployed. “Go fishing,” my wife said to me. At the time the economy was on its initial drop and things were already looking grim. Just fish. I can do that. In fact, I love to do that. So, I followed her advice and spent my days fishing.
I had some trouble, though. Bank access was difficult for the fish I was wanting to catch. The places that seemed to have the best fishing were out of reach – some inaccessible by foot, others by my casting distance. I needed another way.
I started looking for boats. They had to be small enough that my little hatchback could tow, but big enough to include my wife if she decided to fish with me. I was renting a duplex, so I had to figure out where it was all going to go. Then, of course, there was the cost of all of that. Being out of work, it just wasn’t going to work out.
One weekend, I found myself at a friend’s cabin on the Puget Sound. Near the shore was a kayak. That was my “eureka!” moment. I grabbed my fishing gear, donned a PFD, and fished from that kayak. I didn’t catch any fish that weekend, but from the kayak I found I could fish effectively. Even crabbing was possible! Fishing from a kayak was my answer.
When I got home, I set about looking for more information, and found that people all over had started fishing from kayaks. Like me, they were looking for an affordable way to get out on the water to where the fish were. Once on the water, we found a whole new connection to the world. Solitude. Tranquility. Fish.
Ease of Access
Kayak fishing allowed me to get wherever I wanted to fish. I could drive down to the local boat launch if I wanted, or I could put the kayak in at any public park and beach. Where I was once bound to the bank, I could slip the kayak quietly into the water and paddle to areas I always wished I could fish. New waters were borne to me. I was now able to put the kayak into some rivers with renowned fisheries that were nearly inaccessible by foot. It wasn’t long before I even ventured into saltwater fishing, and fell in love with the kayak again. Sitting just a couple inches off the water, I was surrounded by shore-birds, porpoises, whales, and more. After blasting through the surf, they were my only company.
Fishing kayaks are stealthy. Besides the marine mammals and birds that accompany me in the ocean, freshwater fishing isn’t much different. Gliding silently on the surface of the water, I have come around bends only to meet deer getting a drink at the water’s edge. I’ve had conversations with fish that have come to hide under the kayak as if it were a log (they looked at my lures suspiciously and wondered if I knew what I was doing). Blue herons barely give me notice as they stalk prey of their own. The ninja-like kayak allows me to catch fish that would have been spooked by a boat motor or the grinding of gravel along the shores.
One thing that made kayak fishing an easy choice was that I didn’t need to make an investment on a bigger vehicle. The little hatchback is quite capable of hauling all the fishing and camping gear I need for a week of fishing, and the kayak straps securely to the roof rack.
The other rewards are just as awesome. I have met kayak anglers from across the country and they are a great sort. They are always willing to share fishing stories, how they rig their kayaks and offer up some great tips to help you pick up the next bite. The camaraderie is unreal, even at highly competitive kayak fishing tournaments. Kayak fishing is a solo sport but allows for a group experience. I have had just as much fun cutting through glass water in high mountain lakes by myself as I have weekend-long float trips with friends just drifting down the river, fishing and camping. If it were not for kayak fishing, and the people I have met because of it, I would have never casted to big redfish in Florida (on flats boats could never reach) or caught landlocked striped bass in Georgia.
And then there is the sleigh-ride. If you have spent time in a kayak before, then you already know that a kayak requires little effort to make it move. The sleigh-ride is the result of hooking into a good fish that is ready to run. While a 12” perch can turn you and your kayak around, steelhead, redfish, sturgeon and other fish will take you for a ride. I recall hooking into a decent four-foot sturgeon a few years ago. While not large by sturgeon standards, it took me about a quarter mile up the river before it decided to come up next to the kayak to be released.
One thing I didn’t think about when I started kayak fishing was side effects. Turns out that paddling a kayak burns over 400 calories an hour. Just fishing burns nearly 300 calories an hour on its own! Before I knew it, I had to buy new belts to keep my pants on.
Keeping in shape to paddle has also introduced me to other fitness techniques such as yoga, which has, in turn, made me a better fisherman. Getting from fishing hole to fishing hole faster, casting longer distances and ability to stay on the water longer are great reasons to stay in shape when you’re not on the water.
Turning to a kayak answered my early fishing needs. I could throw it on the car. I could store it in my basement. I could drop it in the water almost anywhere. It certainly cost a whole lot less than a boat and I didn’t have to worry about registration and insurance fees. A second kayak allows my wife to join me while still costing less than a typical fishing boat. The kayak also opened up a world of fishing I hadn’t known possible before. The serenity. The inspiration of nature. And more.