by Tyler Hicks, October 06, 2017
Temperatures are dropping and the leaves are changing color so it would seem an unlikely time to be thinking about getting into kayak fishing. Yet there really isn't a better time to be thinking about making your first fishing kayak purchase. Kayak retailers will be looking to clear out retail space for the holidays and make way for 2018 models. This usually means good discounts for the savvy shopper. Additionally, folks will likewise be looking to sell their used kayaks either because they upgraded to next year's model or need some space in the garage before going into the winter. Either way you can save yourself a lot of money by shopping around or be willing to drive a little distance to score a good deal.
Of course, this begs the question. Is kayak fishing the right sport for me? The answer depends on a lot of factors. They are many compelling reasons why you should try kayak fishing but I'll admit right away it isn't for everyone. Yet I should immediately dispel the idea that kayaks limit what species you can target. Outside of tuna I can't think of a single species of fish that isn't targeted annually by kayak anglers in the Pacific Northwest. I managed over 50 species of fish/shellfish in the kayak in one year with everything from King Salmon, to Lingcod, to Spot Shrimp.
If you ask ten kayak anglers why they started kayak fishing you'll get ten very different answers. Ask a hundred kayak anglers and you'll start to see a few patterns emerge. These are some of the most common reason I hear.
You can easily spend several thousand dollars on a fishing kayak, rigging, and safety gear. I am not going to sit here and argue that kayak angling is "the most cost effective" means of fishing because it isn't. However, it can be done on the cheap without greatly compromising efficacy. If you are looking for a simple 10' kayak to paddle around your local lake for bass or trout then you easily could get a kayak, paddle, and PFD and be on the water for well under a $1000. However, if you are looking for something to troll for salmon, kokanee, or go offshore for bottomfish then you should expect to spend around $2000+ after everything is said and done. My primary fishing 13' pedal powered Hobie Revolution kayak with gear tracs, rod holders, fishfinder, safety gear, and other upgrades easily cost me $3000.
You might be thinking I am not making much of a good argument right now. The money saving aspect of kayak angling actually comes after the purchase. You don't have to pay to register the boat, you don't need to buy a trailer, you save on gas costs not towing a large boat or fueling an inefficient motor, you can skirt launch fees by using less improved launches and swim beaches, and you don't need to have a large vehicle to transport your fishing vessel. Lastly, you can only fit so much tackle on a kayak so you by necessity have to approach kayak fishing with a minimalist approach. That really hasn't worked for me, don't look at my garage as an example of minimalism, but it does for others. Over time these savings will free up financial resources you can apply elsewhere in life or use to fund extended fishing adventures on your new plastic toy.
Second to cost, a lot of kayak anglers love how quiet and peaceful kayak fishing is. When I'm out fishing in my kayak on the Columbia River for Kings in the kayak I can hear the conversations of powerboat anglers clearly as they shout over their motors. Once away from the crowd all I can hear is the whoosh of water alongside the kayak. There really is nothing more relaxing than fishing from the kayak on some isolated patch of water on this planet with only the sounds of nature around me.
There are certainly many places a kayak can't go. You won't see many kayak anglers on the tuna grounds 30 miles offshore and you won't find too many of us on shallow fast flowing rivers. However, there really are not too many places we can't go. One of the great perks of kayak angling is that barring any cliffs or thick vegetation most water access sites are potential boat launches. No long wait at the boat launch, no boat launch drama, you can take your time getting on and off the water. Additionally, there are numerous lakes in the Pacific Northwest with combustion motor restrictions that are ideal kayak angling waters. Lastly, many areas due to shallow water depths or narrow channels are simply unreachable by powerboat anglers are easy targets for kayak anglers.
The mental health benefits of fishing are not something most of you need convincing of. However, most of us could use a little more physical activity in our lives. Kayak fishing provides a great source of exercise. The surest way to catch more fish is to live a long healthy life.
When I fished with my dad we weren't allowed to make a lot of noise in the boat. A quiet boat caught more fish. That might not be true for all fish species but it is almost certainly true for a lot of them. I know from experience and observing behavior of Kokanee schools in response to a kayak passing overhead versus a powerboat with an outboard that the fish scatter in response to a motor and hardly budge due to the kayak. I can confidently claim the stealth of my kayak has contributed greatly to my angling success on everything from trout to bass to salmon.
To me there is nothing more fun than fishing from a kayak. Powerful fish like salmon and sturgeon make for a thrilling ride as they tow you kayak around. However, even catching smaller fish from the kayak is fun. While most days fish are literally jumping in the kayak you will have poor days of fishing from the kayak. A bad day kayak fishing is still a great day of kayaking.
There are many other reasons you might take up kayak fishing. However, there are also a few good reasons not to. Out of fairness I've highlighted the major reasons below.
Most modern fishing kayak are wide and very stable. The kayak fishing market is dominated by sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks that will not take on water when flipped. With practice an angler can learn to flip the kayak back over and get back in the kayak without much effort. However, kayak fishing is a much more intimate experience with the water than powerboat angling. At some point you are going to end up in the water. If you don't like wearing a PFD or can't swim it may not be for you.
Kayak fishing does demand a certain level of physical fitness. Innovations in propulsion technology have opened up the sport to those with physical limitations. For example, pedal powered kayaks are great options for those with shoulder or elbow injuries and paddle craft work well for those with bad knees. You should at a minimum be able to pull yourself back in your kayak should you fall out. More important is knowing your own limitations and behaving accordingly is key to your safety. I know big, small, old, and young kayak anglers who all enjoy the sport.
Don't rush into your first kayak fishing purchase. Take your time. Talk to other kayak anglers you know and if you don't know any you'll find plenty of Facebook groups or forums. A fair number are lurking on Northwest Fishing Reports Facebook group. Reach out to us. You won't find a more welcoming and friendly group of anglers out on the water.
"Tyler Hicks is a passionate angler who spends most of his free time pursuing fish from a kayak. He is especially interested in the recruitment and education of new anglers to the sport of kayak fishing." Check out his YouTube channel for helpful videos: Spiltmilt Productions