If you’ve fished any of the ‘well known’ seabass bites along the coast this year, I’m sure you’ve seen the number of yaks almost matching the number of boats on the grounds. Long gone are the days of a small and unstable piece of plastic with a rod or two.
Most of these modern day fishing kayaks are equipped with fish finders, GPS, livewells, and the capacity to carry enough rods and gear to open up a small tackle shop.
It’s no secret that kayak fishing has gained in popularity, and all for good reason. These plastic fish killing machines are affordable, cost nothing to take out, and have lots of fishing advantages that you can’t get on a private boat or sport boat. Now I’m not trying to say that kayak fishing is better than skiff or sport boat fishing; just a totally different experience with a few advantages as well. If you haven’t tried it yet, I’d highly suggest giving it a try. Who knows, you might just pick up a great new hobby and end up spending more time on the water!
The author with a nice WSB on a fully tricked out Ocean Kayak Trident.
One of the most well known advantages of fishing off a kayak is the stealth factor. It’s no secret that noise is a major deterrent to getting into a good bite whether you’re talking inshore, offshore or freshwater. With no engine and no one walking on the deck, they’re pretty darn quiet. I’ve watched schools of white seabass swim right under me while drifting in the kelp and dropped baits down straight below me to get bit. Now this isn’t an everyday occurrence, but it’s a perfect example of how stealthy a kayak can be. WSB are some of the most easily spooked fish out there, and when you watch a school of them just hang 10 feet below you, you’ll agree with me on this one.
In addition to being stealthy for the fish, you’re stealthy to all the other life out there. I’ve had whales pop up within 20 feet of me. It’s a bit scary, but at the same time a pretty amazing experience that very few people will ever get to see first hand. Also keep in mind that your stealth applies to boaters seeing you as well. If you’re out at night, make sure you’re well lit up. During the day, make sure to wear something bright especially if the swell is big enough to hide you in the trough.
Sure you’ve got limited range on a kayak. But your mobility allows you to cover a spot, whether it is a squid bed, kelp line or a rockpile much more thoroughly. Let’s use a kelp line for an example. Typically if you anchor your boat on the kelp and fish it a while without getting much action, you’re going to pull the hook and move. Now when you’re moving, you’re probably not going to move 20 feet over, but more likely ¼ mile or more. When it comes to fishing structure like this, the fish are usually going to be keyed in on a very specific spot of the structure. In this case it could be a point where the bottom structure changes, or the kelp angles differently than the rest of the bed causing more bait to be pushed in by the current. In a boat, if you anchor just off the spot, and then move ¼ mile down, you’ll likely never know the fish were even there. Now on a kayak you’re going to work that entire stretch of kelp and quickly figure out where the fish are holding and not holding.
Kevin Nakada of Sea Samurai guide service worked every square inch of some of his rockpiles to come home with this nice pair of goats.
Reading the conditions
When I’m in a kayak, I feel like I’m much more in tune with what’s happening around me. I hear every baitfish that breaks the surface of the water. When I’m paddling through the kelp, I can see schools of senioritas and smelt, and see how they’re acting (casually cruising vs. balled up and skittish). Water temps, current direction and clarity are all really easy to notice when you’re sitting just inches above the surface. These all help dictate what color and size swimbait I want to throw, what size leadhead I want to get it to the right depth, where to cast it, and how to present it to get that bite. Since I’ve become so much more aware of these things from fishing on a kayak, I now pay much closer attention to them when I’m on the boat as well.
Kevin Nakada of Sea Samurai guide service bent on a nice yellowtail with another strapped down to the back deck.
Launch at the spot
While kayaks are much slower than powerboats, you’ve usually got a shorter ride to the spot since you have the ability to launch nearly anywhere. This is where ‘yaks with lots of storage really shine. On my Ocean Kayak Trident I can easily store 4 or 5, 8-foot rods with reels mounted inside the hull. Without the fear of losing them if I roll in the surf, I can launch at just about any beach that I can access. There are several spots that I frequently fish that are a 15+-mile run from the nearest marina, but only a ½ mile paddle from the beach. From the time I pull up to the launch, I’m unloaded and fishing within 30 minutes. That means more time in the water. Another cool thing is that since your max speed is about 4mph, you can troll from spot to spot. I know lots of guys that have picked up fish doing this that would be easily missed by a powerboat running full speed from one spot to the next.
With several spots closer to the harbor, I had this whole stretch of prime kelp and rocky structure to myself on a Saturday in August. And I only had to paddle 100 yards from the launch.
It all falls on you…
One of the things where people struggle when getting into fishing off a kayak is that everything falls back on you. You’re the captain, the deckhand, and the angler. Not only is it your job to catch the fish, but you’ve got to be able to find them as well. In addition to that, the safety factor is a little more important on a kayak. Sure, you’re usually fishing within a mile of shore, but with only a paddle (or pedals) to power you, you’ve got to keep an eye on the wind and weather. Paddling into 15 knots of headwind is not an easy or fun task. But with a little research and preparation those situations can be easily avoided. “Nothing is more rewarding than catching your own trophies from start until finish. Finding the fish on your own, making the decision that either makes it or breaks it, and finally stretching your arms in front of the camera. Its what kayak anglers live for!” said Kevin Nakada, Owner of Sea Samurai Guide Service.
More time on the water
The best fishing related purchase I’ve ever made, hands down, was my kayak. Sure, the initial expense can be a bit expensive (there are some great used options out there if you’re looking to save some money) but once you get your kayak and a few basic accessories, you can fish for virtually free. With gas prices up over $4 per gallon and sport boat fares getting higher every season, getting out on the boat can be very costly. With a kayak, your only expenses to fish are gas to the launch, some snacks, and possibly parking fees depending on where you go. You don’t even need a truck… most kayaks can go on any pretty much any sedan or SUV with a roof rack. You’ve also got minimal prep work before going out, and just a quick rinse with the hose for clean up. A kayak session is far from a full day’s commitment, and you can sneak one in even if you’ve only got a few hours to kill.
If you’re looking to try out kayak fishing, most shops that sell kayaks offer rentals as well. Some stores offer fully tricked out fishing kayaks, while others offer just the basics. Keep it simple for the first time, and stick to just a rod, a handful of plastics and weedless leadheads, and maybe some frozen squid.
If you want to take it a step further, there are several kayak-fishing guides specializing in everything from trout in the Eastern Sierras to La Jolla homeguards. These guys will not only get you started on the right foot, but can also help you improve your fishing game no matter what type of platform you usually fish from. They can also provide most of the gear needed for a session before you decide if you want to commit to buying your own kayak or not. This is by no means an all-inclusive list of guides, but should be a great place to start.
Kevin Nakada, San Diego Sea Samurai Guide Service
Wade Harness, San Diego- [email protected]
Jim Salazar, South Bay Los Angeles Saba Slayer Guide Service
Rob Witherill, Eastern Sierras (Mammoth) Mammoth Kayaks
No more excuses! Get out on the water, try something new, and have some fun!