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Kayak Fishing

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On: Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 3:16PM | By: Lee Clymer

In the days of whaling there was an experience known to those adventurous types known as a “Nantucket Sleigh Ride”. This harrowing experience was derived from harpooning a whale from a small boat, lashing the harpoon line to the bow, and hanging on as the tonnage angrily blasted through the water with the crew in tow. When the whale was finally tired and the crew’s adrenaline rush had subsided, the whale would be finished off with a lance.

In Florida, the closest we can get to that salt water rush is with a large snook or tarpon and a rod and reel while fishing from a kayak. The thrill and danger is far less but still pretty doggone rewarding if you can latch into a fish large enough.

Whether you ever get that level of thrill or not, fishing from a kayak is still pretty rewarding. Cruising quietly along, inches off the water, with the popping of fish tails, and the slight slapping of the water against the hull can be calming and exciting in the same minute.

The advantages of a kayak to a fisherman is patently obvious. They’re quiet, you don’t need a motor or a ramp, and there’s no motor to assault the olfactory receptors, and that’s just the beginning. A kayak will get you into the skinnies where the big boys lie waiting in the mangroves. I’m talking about inches of draft. Small inches of draft, like two to three, depending on your weight and how much tackle you’re carrying. It will get you through that extremely shallow trench and over to where the redfish are scarfing down crabs and finger mullet.

My fish-killing kayak weapon of choice is a sit atop Aquaterra Prism. It’s long, maneuverable, and just the right weight to slide quietly for a decent distance with each stroke of the paddle. It also handles chop pretty well without much noise because the weight lets it punch through nicely. It’s also got the width to be stable. I’ve even taken it through small surf without much trouble. It’ll also get you to that shallow wading area you’ve also wanted to try but that deep draft boat of yours won’t let you get to.

They load onto a deck nicely and are quite towable as well, within reason. Tow it there, step off the stern and paddle it to that honey hole.

Kayaks don’t need a trailer either. Just a couple of soft racks, presuming you don’t have built-in racks like those on an SUV, a bit of lashing rope, and you’re off and running. Well, off and fishing.

All those little roadside canals you’ve wanted to explore are right there at your paddle tips. Find a good place to park and slip into the water.

Kayaks of today vary in propulsion from the traditional paddle to motor mounts for trolling motors. Although I don’t own one, the pedal version is one of my favorites. It allows for casting while underway. They come with rudders as that give the feel of locking onto a course. Of course, there are ruddered versions of kayaks without pedals. The pedal models are truly convenient in more than one aspect because they allow you get the paddle out of the way while fishing, and also to have some power with a fish on. The ability to switch between pedals and paddles gives the different body parts rest as needed. The only downside to the pedals is they increase the draft but they can always be locked in the up position in the real skinny water, and you can resort to the paddles as needed.

Besides fish, lanyards are a kayaker’s best friend. Lash off everything. You won’t always be in shallow water, and sometimes when things happen quickly you just need to be able to drop everything to get to that fish or in case of some type of emergency. Use them liberally but don’t make them so long they overlap and get tangled. With a little time on the water, you’ll learn what works and quickly get it down where things should be and are convenient to grab.

By the way, I find a long surfer’s leash tied off to the kayak works great in case you wind up in the water. They are quick release, and they keep the boat close at hand if you go overboard. Keep in mind kayaks are heavy enough to drag you through the water in current. With that in mind, a life jacket is not just required, but necessary. I don’t leave the shore without it. Neither should you, boat leash or not.

A couple of other important little gadgets are a signaling device, such as a whistle or a light, and an anchor. The first two are required. The latter is just smart.

Extra water and foul weather gear should be carried also as a minimum. Extra food, a VHF, a properly protected cell phone, and a spare paddle are also smart.

If you’re going to fish for any length of time check the weather and tides. This isn’t just so you won’t get caught in bad weather, but to make your day last. Use the wind and tides to get back home, going against winds and tide first.

Lastly, if you’ve never used a kayak, I highly recommend a kayaking course. The shop where you buy your kayak might even provide one free. If you’re fighting the kayak, you’re not fishing. Rent one first if you have questions about whether you’re going to enjoy it, but I bet turning into a silent fishing ninja might just be the most enjoyable choice you’ve ever made.

There are few things more enjoyable than paddling into the dawn silence knowing you can slide quietly right into Mr. Tarpon’s dining room and offer him breakfast. The kayak gets you there and the rest is up to you.


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