Stand up paddle boarding has risen in popularity so much — being the single fastest-growing water sport in recent times — precisely because SUP is exciting in the freedom and flexibility that it offers.
As anglers began to discover the power of stand up paddle boarding, they were able to explore brand new waters, especially shallow estuaries, with ease and without spooking the fish.
Enter a brand new sport, one that combines stand up paddle boarding with fishing — SUP fishing, the latest craze.
You may be an experienced angler who’s got wind of the fact that people are going fishing on stand up paddle boards, and you’d like to experience this fishing revolution for yourself. You may also be a newer or seasoned paddle boarder who would like to try new activities with your SUP, and think fishing sounds like fun.
Finally, it is, of course, possible that you don’t have much or even any experience with either SUP or fishing. That’ll place you at a disadvantage as you get into SUP fishing, but you, too, will get there in the end.
The only question is — how? How do you get started with SUP fishing? What kind of gear will you need for a fruitful SUP fishing tip? Where should you go fishing on a SUP? What else do you need to know to stay safe, have fun, and wind up with a good catch?
This guide is entirely devoted to getting you ready for your very first SUP fishing trip. Words can never be a substitute for real-life experience, but they can at least prepare you to dive right in.
- What Is SUP Fishing?
- What’s the Best Paddle Board for SUP Fishing?
- What Gear Do You Need to Go SUP Fishing?
- How to Get Started with SUP Fishing: Some Pro Tips to Keep in Mind
- How to Get Started with SUP Fishing: Some Final Words
What Is SUP Fishing?
SUP fishing — which can most simply be defined as fishing on a stand up paddle board — is an extremely active fishing method that requires anglers to stay on their toes the entire time and truly immerses anglers in the hunting experience.
SUP fishing is fast becoming a big phenomenon in the fishing world for many great reasons. Some of them probably explain why you’re interested in trying SUP fishing out, too:
- Fishing from a SUP allows anglers to reach waters that would be extremely tricky, if not impossible, to get to by boat.
- SUP fishing is wonderful for anglers who like to try out new spots often — unlike larger boats, and even kayaks, inflatable stand up paddle boards can be deflated to be transported in a compact carry bag. Excited about trying out a far-away fishing spot? No problem! Simply put your SUP in your car, drive to your destination, and inflate your iSUP.
- Traditional boats cause a significant amount of water displacement. This leads fish to become spooked, hindering the success of your fishing trip. Your paddle will displace the water some, but your stand up paddle board will effortlessly glide through the water. This ultimately means that your catch can be much more bountiful if you use a SUP to go fishing.
- What’s more, anglers who are exploring the waters from a stand up paddle board have the advantage of a very nice top-down view that actually allows them to see where the fish are. Again, that means you’ll bring more fish home!
- Fishing on a SUP is comfortable. Stand up paddle boarding feels natural once you master the basics, and unlike in a kayak, you will not be stuck in one position the whole time. You will have lots of room to cast your rod and retrieve it.
- Stand up paddle boarding is a great workout, and since SUP fishing is an active fishing method, you’ll be building strength, stamina, and cardiovascular health while you’re doing it. You will also improve your balance and become more flexible. That’s to say, SUP fishing offers all the same health benefits that stand up paddle boarding minus the fishing does.
- SUP fishing is a lot of fun. There’s no doubt that that counts as one of its top benefits!
What’s the Best Paddle Board for SUP Fishing?
What’s kind of stand up paddle board do you need to go SUP fishing? There is, fortunately, no one right answer to this important question — and yes, that does mean that, if you already own a stand up paddle board, you can probably use it to explore SUP fishing.
Having said that, anglers who are getting ready to invest in a brand new paddle board with the specific purpose of taking it fishing should definitely consider the pros and cons of each option.
- Inflatable SUPs, also called iSUPs, have emerged as the clear winner in the SUP popularity contest. That’s because iSUPs are versatile, great for beginners, very durable, and, perhaps above all, because iSUPs are also easy to store and transport. Once deflated, an inflatable SUP becomes compact, and that means you can easily take your iSUP anywhere you want. Anglers often choose inflatable SUPs for all of these reasons.
- Rigid SUPs, also called traditional SUPs, hard boards, or solid SUPs are not inflatable. This makes these stand up paddle boards heavier, harder to store, and harder to transport. It also means that they dent more easily, shortening their lifespan. Anglers may choose a rigid SUP because these boards offer more stability and perform better when it comes to sheer speed. If you are hoping to track groups of fish, a rigid SUP may be the best option for you.
- Surf paddle boarders are shorter and less wide, making them supremely maneuverable. They don’t come with much storage space, a major disadvantage if you are going SUP fishing.
Whatever SUP you choose for SUP fishing, you’ll thank yourself later if it is wider and comes equipped with plenty of storage space and bungee ties. You want to be able to store a cooler on your fishing SUP so that you can get the fish you catch safely back onto shore.
Not sure about your preferences yet? We would warmly recommend that you take full advantage of any SUP rental companies you may have access to. That way, you can try a few different options before you commit to buying your own stand up paddle board — rather than having to rely on outside recommendations, you will have valuable first-hand experience to fall back on.
Most SUPs will ship with a paddle, but if you are picky — and you should be if you want to catch a lot of fish — it is also good to consider going with a premium paddle, made of fiberglass or carbon fiber. Your paddling experiences will be a lot smoother, which may in turn translate to more fish.
What Gear Do You Need to Go SUP Fishing?
Spoiler alert: The list of essential gear you need to make your SUP fishing trip a success is longer than you may like it to be. That’s partially why we recommended that you go with a wider and longer stand up paddle board.
The list of gear you should bring is, in fact, so long that we’ll divide it into separate sections.
The Gear You Need to Make Your SUP Fishing Trip as Safe as Possible
Here’s a look at the SUP fishing gear that will make your adventure safer — and we’d recommend that you take it very seriously, especially if you are a great swimmer and an experienced angler but are new to stand up paddle boarding.
- A SUP leash. The USCG may not require you to wear one, but that doesn’t mean that the leash does not play an essential role in keeping you safe. When you fall off your stand up paddle board — and we guarantee you that it’ll happen, whether in calmer or choppier waters — the SUP will immediately begin to move away from your location if you aren’t wearing a SUP leash. That SUP isn’t just essential to your safety, it probably also packs valuable gear that includes the cellphone you’d use to call for help. Wear a leash. Even if you don’t feel like it.
- A personal flotation device. Assuming you’re over 13, you have a lot of options, including traditional life vests and belts. You don’t even have to be wearing a PFD all the time, but carrying it onboard your SUP is 100 percent recommended.
- A rescue whistle to make use of if you get into trouble.
- A cellphone, and a dry bag to keep it safe, in case you need to call for help. Where that’s not possible, a two-way radio is another option.
- A GPS, map, and compass fall into the category of personal safety, but they’re also simply going to help you get to where you are going, and return to base once your SUP fishing trip comes to a close.
- A very small and customized first aid kit may come in handy. That can be as simple as some band aids to help you out if you cut yourself while SUP fishing, and an extra dose of any prescription meds you may be taking if you find yourself on the water longer than you planned. It depends on your situation. Don’t pack more than you will realistically need, because that’ll rob you of valuable deck space.
The clothes you wear while SUP fishing also fall under this category, because they can help to keep you safe. In warmer weather, a rash guard (to prevent sunburn), swimwear, water shoes, and a basic hat are what you’ll want to go with.
In cooler weather and cooler water, go with a neoprene top and shorts for your SUP fishing trip, or choose a wet suit if you prefer. You will also want warmer socks and a warm hat. In either case, make sure that your clothing is bright. If you get into trouble, this will render you more visible to a rescue team.
Sun screen and bug repellent will keep you comfortable and safe while SUP fishing. Don’t forget about those, either.
The final safety consideration to keep in mind is that it is absolutely essential that you pack all the water you will need to drink during your SUP fishing trip.
Other Essential SUP Fishing Gear You Shouldn’t Forget About
Does that sound like a lot already? We’re not even nearing the end of the stuff you should carry on your SUP when you’re going fishing. You should also take:
- Some food or snacks.
- A dry bag to keep your personal belongings dry.
- A flashlight of some kind, especially if you will be fishing very early on the morning or after dark.
- Some lip balm.
- A guide book, where relevant.
- You’ll definitely want to bring a waterproof camera, like a Go Pro, on your first-ever SUP fishing trip — you’ll want to share and remember later!
- A paddle holder — you will not be paddling and fishing at the same time, and are going to need somewhere to store your paddle.
- Fins for your stand up paddle board.
- A good all-purpose knife.
Fishing Gear You’ll Need for Your SUP Fishing Trip
Not all the fishing gear you need for SUP fishing is unique to this fishing technique — so we’ll leave the obvious stuff, like rods, reels, lines, tackles, and bait out of it.
It’s good to keep in mind that SUP fishing provides an entirely different experience than fishing from the shore or fishing from a larger fishing vessel, though. What do you need to make your SUP fishing trip awesome?
- A fishing cooler is an absolute must, of course, and if you are a seasoned angler you already know that. You will need some place to store the fish you catch, so that you’ll be able to enjoy those fish later on. If you get a hard shell fishing cooler, however, you’re saving yourself a bunch of valuable deck space — that hard shell fishing cooler also happens to make for a very solid seat. This is great for folks who prefer to go back to basics.
- A SUP fishing anchor. Anglers will need something to keep their stand up paddle board in one location as they wait for the fish to bite. Thankfully, there is quite a wide variety of SUP fishing anchors on the market, suitable for different kinds of fish and fishing, including salt water fishing.
- A SUP rod holder. Just like you need a paddle holder for your SUP to keep your paddle in place while you fish, you will need a rod holder to secure your fishing rod as you paddle. Some of these come with locks that completely secure your rod, while others don’t. Some are universal, while other SUP rod holders are designed for specific rods. SUP rod holders can have suction systems or vacuum systems to attach to the paddle board.
- Some people will want dedicated SUP fishing seats, which does complicate matters but adds comfort for those long trips.
- Stabilizers add balance to your SUP and allow you to carry more stuff. Whether you explore the possibility of adding them is a matter of personal choice.
How to Get Started with SUP Fishing: Some Pro Tips to Keep in Mind
Going SUP fishing for the first time? That’s exciting, but also always a little daunting. Accept that, no matter the kind of relevant experience you may be bringing to the table, you’ll have to perfect your technique and develop your personal preferences over time.
Think of your first SUP fishing trip as a test drive, and primarily expect to have fun and to learn, rather than hauling a bunch of fish home for dinner. Having said that, here are some tips to make the experience more fruitful.
- Get Your SUP Set Up
Attach all your extras, like paddle holders, rod holders, and other mounts to your stand up paddle board before you launch. Test that everything is attached securely and that your SUP can remain stable with you on it.
- Check the Weather First
You will want the weather conditions to be optimal for your first SUP fishing trip, so make sure that you look at the most accurate possible weather forecast, rather than just the current conditions.
- Don’t Overpack
In your wish to be prepared, you may be tempted to overpack. Don’t. Always check your SUP’s weight limit first, and ensure that it’s not exceeded when you and your gear are both onboard. Account for the weight of the fish you hope to be catching, too.
An efficient SUP fishing setup includes all the essentials, but it does not aim to turn your SUP into a skiff. Seriously, don’t overdo it — and definitely don’t invest in cool auxiliary gear that you may actually hate before you get a feel for what SUP fishing is really like.
- If You’re in Shallow Water, Feel Free to Wade
Done right, this can cause less displacement, and therefore spook the fish a lot less, than paddling. Your stand up paddle board essentially functions as a rather advanced packing mule in this case. Climb onto your paddle board once you reach slightly deeper waters, find the right spot to go fishing, and then get your SUP setup for the long haul.
- Never Lose Sight of Your Safety
No matter how excited you are, or how annoying you find that leash, remain situationally aware at all times and make your safety your number one priority. Are you brand new to stand up paddle boarding? Then this tip includes more than carrying a communication device, a personal flotation device, wearing your leash, and keeping an eye on the weather conditions.
It’ll also include getting comfortable with paddle boarding and all its ins and outs before you try SUP fishing. That’s because, even though SUP fishing is a more stationary activity than long-distance paddling, the extra gear you carry means that SUP fishing takes more skill.
If you’re not feeling all that confident, going SUP fishing with a friend
- Have Fun
You may be interested in SUP fishing because you are an avid angler and you’re looking for a great catch, but you may not get what you came for right away.
As long as you keep all the other tips in mind, and you stay safe, fun is the one thing you’re basically guaranteed to get from the SUP fishing experience. Take everything in. Learn something. Enjoy yourself. Have fun.
- Look Up Great Local (Or Not So Local) SUP Fishing Spots
You’ll want fishing spots that are proven to be great fishing spots, but that aren’t too crowded. The internet is full of great guides, but local social media groups dedicated to anglers are often the best way to find overlooked gems.
How to Get Started with SUP Fishing: Some Final Words
You’ve made it all the way to the end of this guide, and if you’re already fairly good at stand up paddle boarding and at fishing, combining these two amazing sports and hobbies will feel entirely natural to you. SUP fishing will still be a bit of an adjustment, but you’ll get it soon enough — and you will have lots of fun.
People who are new to either sport will, on the other hand, want to get some hands-on practice in first. If you can paddle board, but you’ve never fished before, learn the basics of fishing before you fish on a SUP. If you’re an angler who’s never tried paddle boarding yet, the opposite holds true — at the very least, get to know your SUP and put your emerging paddling skills to the test before you go SUP fishing.
Either way, start small. Quite literally test the waters as you explore SUP fishing, and tell yourself you’ll be OK even if you don’t catch anything impressive during that first trip. Your experience and skill will build over time, and you’ll totally be hooked on SUP fishing before you know it!