Do you enjoy fishing from the shore? Then you’ll love the thrill of getting out on the water in a kayak. Fishing on a kayak allows you to paddle into the shallows and flats where you normally couldn’t reach from the shore. You get to enjoy more of the scenery, and it’s a great way to enjoy nature while you paddle around.
Kayaks allow you to fish in the estuaries, lakes, rivers, dams, and ocean. Freshwater and ocean kayaks are different in design and build, with ocean kayaks having a sleeker, streamlined design for cutting through chop and rougher waters.
However, both models come purpose-built for fishing, with storage space, holders, and many accessories. Paddle out to your favorite fishing spot in your new kayak and enjoy a different approach to the sport you love so much.
This guide to kayak fishing for beginners unpacks everything you need to know about the sport.
- Ocean Vs. River/Lake Kayak Fishing
- Choosing Your Fishing Kayak
- Navigating Your Fishing Kayak – Invest in a GPS and Fishfinder
- Essential Preparations for Planning Your Trip
- Packing for Your Kayak Fishing Trip
- Tips to Mastering Kayak Fishing
- Safety Tips for Ocean and Freshwater Kayaking
Ocean Vs. River/Lake Kayak Fishing
As mentioned, there’s a slight difference in the kayak design for fishing in flat, fresh, or brackish waters, as opposed to ocean-going kayaks. Ocean kayaks often have to break through waves crashing in the impact zone before they reach the calmer waters out the back.
As a result, you need a kayak purpose-built for your favorite type of fishing.
Choosing Your Fishing Kayak
When choosing your fishing kayak, you’ll need to think about the right width and length you need for your specific fishing experience. Your average freshwater kayak will be between 10 to 12-feet in length, and ocean kayaks up to 14 to 16-feet.
The width of the kayak defines its stability on the water. Typically, the shorter the kayak, the wider the body, and the longer the length, the more slender the body. The shorter the kayak, the better the maneuverability. The longer the kayak, the faster the boat and the better it is at cutting through the chop.
- Adjustable Frame Seating System with Two Settings: High for Fishing/Paddling and Reclining for Relaxation | Adjustable Foot Braces | Ready to Fish - 2 Flush Mount Rod Holders | Skeg Wheel for Enhanced Tracking and Easy Transportation
- Stability Strap to Assist with Stand-Up Casting | Tankwell Storage with Bungee Cord Lacing to Secure Loose Items | Two 12-Inch Sections of Universal Track for Accessory Mounting | High Initial Stability Hull Allows for Stand-Up Casting
- Molded-In 28-Inch Ruler to Easily Measure Fish | Integrated 1/4 in.-20 Universal Mount for Waterproof Accessories | Includes Two Paddle Keepers and One Front Paddle Cradle (Paddle not included) | Water Resistant Oval Storage Hatch
- Two Convenient Horizontal Rod Storage Cradles | Transducer Ready - Front Scuppers Designed to Accommodate most Scupper Transducers (not included) | Side Drain Plug to Easily Remove Water from the Hull | Four Comfortable Luggage-Style Handles to Assist in Transport
- Deck Channel Draining System with Eight Self-Bailing Scupper Holes | Comfort Seating Design is Easy to Adjust | Quick-Dry Foam-Back Mesh Seat | Foam-Reinforced Deck Provides Floor Strength and Buoyancy | Rudder Ready - Designed to Accept an Aftermarket Rudder System (not included)
Professional models will use lightweight materials for the hull and sides of the boat. Carbon fiber’s the most expensive material on offer, but you get the strongest, lightest, and most durable option. Fiberglass is another more affordable but durable and lightweight material.
Look for kayaks that come with the accessories you need for your fishing trips. Most dedicated fishing kayaks come with dedicated storage in the bow, with lockable hatches for securing your gear and catch.
When you’re out on the water, it helps if you know where you’re going instead of paddling around blind. A GPS and fishfinder are essential electronics for the modern angler. You can mark out your favorite spots and return to them again without getting lost with a GPS.
The fishfinders tell you the state of life on the bottom, helping you identify the most productive fishing spots. Most kayaks have dedicated clips and holders for these electronics; just make sure you have the waterproof kind.
Plan the Route in Advance
Before you go out on the water, get to know your fishing spot and equipment. Use the GOPS to map out your route and save it on your computer.
Send the route to a friend to let them know where you’re going and what time they can expect you to return. If you don’t show up when expected, they have the option of calling you or notifying the coast guard to launch a search party for you.
Mastering the Kayak – Maneuvers and Posture
When you’re a beginner kayaker, it’s a good idea to get to know your equipment and how to maneuver it in all conditions. If you plan on going out onto the ocean, make sure you master control over the kayak in flat water conditions first.
Going out onto the ocean with no experience when the wind and swell are up to could land you in a lot of trouble.
By far, the most challenging skill involved with learning to kayak is the ocean launch. We could write an entire article based on that subject along. Let’s summarize the key takeaways of the launch from the beach.
Time the waves. They come in sets. Wait for the lull.
When the lull arrives, get onto the boat and start paddling as soon as possible. Don’t delay; the lull won’t last forever.
If you mistime it (which happens a lot), or you don’t make it out before the lull ends, don’t panic. As the wave approaches, lean back to get the nose over the white water. If you capsize, get away from the boat immediately.
The ocean will push the kayak back to shore, and you’ll need the strength to make the swim back.
When you reach your freshwater or ocean fishing spot, using a fishing rod over 6’6″ helps control the fish when it’s on the hook and moving around and under the boat.
Don’t reel the line too far in when landing the fish. Leave at least a rods-length of fishing line from the rod tip to the fish. Practice paddling single-armed for when you have to maneuver and control a fish simultaneously.
Position the paddle handle along your forearm and use the blade to steer the boat as if acting like a rudder. Maintain your head in the centerline of the boat to hold your balance. Where the head leads, the body follows and leaning too far to the side lands you in the drink.
Don’t venture too far from the shoreline if you’re going out onto the ocean. One of the best things about fishing inshore waters is the kayak’s ability to get into the prized flats where you normally can’t reach from the shore.
So, you don’t have to get onto the ocean to have a great time kayak fishing. There are plenty of estuaries, rivers, and lakes to paddle around and enjoy all types of fishing.
Essential Preparations for Planning Your Trip
Check the Local Weather and Fishing Reports
The weather is every angler’s best friend and worst enemy. However, it’s essential that you follow the weather reports daily for at least three to four days before your trip.
Understanding environmental conditions before they arrive means you can avoid days that would have washed out and go on the right days with the best conditions.
Apps like Windy give you an excellent and comprehensive overview of wind and water conditions in your area, anywhere in the world. It’s a reliable forecasting service trusted by watermen around the world.
Packing for Your Kayak Fishing Trip
Start with Safety First
Whether you’re out on the ocean, lake, or river, safety is the most important concern of any kayaker. When you’re prepping your gear, make sure you have your Personal Flotation Device (PFD), flares, whistle, gloves, first aid kit, paddle and rod leash, and emergency kayak repair kit.
Preparing for anything you encounter out on the water is essential if a problem does occur. The last thing you want is to get to your launch and find out you forgot something in your rush to leave in the morning.
Remember the Sunscreen
Skin protection will keep you comfortable on your trip and healthy long-term. Pack bug spray, waterproof sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, a hat, and sunglasses.
Bring Water and Snacks
It’s going to be a long day out on the water. If you’re enjoying your time in the kayak, your trip could be anywhere up to nine hours in the boat.
So, you need sustenance to get you through the day. Paddling, casting, and the surge of adrenaline from catching fish all burn calories.
Keep some energy bars and water on hand. Remember to keep all your trash in a separate bag, and never litter on the water.
Bring an Anchor
Anchors are handy if you’re thinking about fishing a river or a reef out on the ocean. You can drop the anchor and secure it to the bottom, preventing the current from drifting you away.
Most kayak anchors fold away into a compact size for easy storage on board the boat. You can even take along two anchors if you’re thinking about setting yourself up in rough waters.
- Complete PWC anchor kit includes 3.5 lb. anchor, 25' rope and snap hook, marker buoy and storage bag
- Anchor: Folding 3. 5 lb. grapnel anchor, ideally suited for use in coral, rocky, or heavily weeded bottom conditions
- Rope: 25' hollow braid polythene rope with steel snap hook
- Marker Buoy: Durable marine-grade foam
- Storage Bag: Sturdy nylon storage bag with protective padding
Catalog Your Fishing Gear
Ensure you have all your gear in place for the trip the night before your departure. The best time to fish is in the early morning, right at first light.
So, you don’t want to be messing around with your gear in the hours when you’re supposed to be driving to the fishing spot.
Make sure you have your rods ready, your gear packed and in the car, and your kayak strapped to the roof racks. When you wake up in the morning, you can just get into the car and go.
Take an Action Camera
Take your GoPro along for the trip. There are several aftermarket accessories that allow you to position a camera anywhere on the boat. Record your experience and use it to show your friends on social media or start a YouTube channel of your kayaking experiences.
Use Polarized Sunglasses
When the sun strikes the water, the glare is intense. Using regular sunglasses won’t cut it, and the glare will cut right through the protection from your eyewear. Polarized sunglasses cut the glare completely, and they make it easier for your eyes to monitor the water conditions.
Tips to Mastering Kayak Fishing
You’ll need to learn the art of paddling with stealth when you’re fishing the flats. Every small bump and noise you make is likely to scare away any fish. Make sure you pay attention to your movements and don’t make unnecessary noise.
Practice Changing Lures
Learning how to be efficient with your lure changes can distinguish between missing a passing school of fish or hooking up. Plus, it’s a skill you can practice on land to make the most out of your time out on the water.
Learn the Art of Drifting
When you’re fishing, you’ll find that the fish move in schools, and they drift along with the current, feeding in the water column.
When you’re on the river or out on the ocean, learn how to drift over the reef or through the shallows. It’s a better choice than trying to fight the current.
If you are fishing a narrow area or the current is moving too fast, consider dropping anchor to steady the boat. Drift chutes are also an option; they act as an underwater drag net, slowing you down.
Learn the Drag Technique
Fighting fish is one of the biggest thrills you get from fishing in the kayak. If you’re out on the ocean and hook a wahoo, the fish will likely pull the boat along.
You need to know how to position the boat to stay behind the fish. Letting it drag you broadside may result in you capsizing, especially if you hook something big like a swordfish or marlin.
Fishing Up Wind
Fishing upwind is challenging, especially for beginner anglers. Point the rod tip sideways instead of straight up.
Keeping your lure and rod close to the water avoids the high wind speeds. Cast during the lulls in gusts, you’ll find it surprising how much more distance you get.
Safety Tips for Ocean and Freshwater Kayaking
Always Wear Your PFD
Always, always, wear your PFD. IF you experience a capsizing event, you could end up with the kayak hitting you on the head. IF you’re knocked unconscious, the PFD will make the difference between survival and drowning.
Know-How to Enter the Kayak from the Water
Practice getting in and out of the kayak in the water. You can even complete this training in a swimming pool.
Keep the Paddle on a Leash
Attach the paddle to a leash, especially in rivers or out on the ocean. If your paddle drifts away from you, you’ll be dead on the water.
Carry Flares and a Marine Radio in a Dry Bag
Keep a dry bag with emergency flares and a VHF marine radio in a secure spot in the storage hatch. We recommend attaching that bag to a bright, high-viz float to ensure you spot it if it gets away.