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Why Fish From a Kayak

By Jerry White

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Paddling.Net.

Working a quiet spot on the lake. © Jacob Boling

Ask ten different people and you’ll likely get ten different answers. But all will agree that for them, paddle fishing is the only way to go. I’ll attempt to focus on just a few reasons why many people have chosen to embrace this sport.

LOCATION, LOCATION:
If you can get to the shore then you have a place to launch a kayak. No need to wait in line at a public ramp adjacent to deep water. Most fishing kayaks will float in 6" of water while holding up to 350 pounds of cargo. Not only does that make it easier to get on the water, but usually these places aren’t accessible to conventional boats, either by law (designated as a "No Motor Zone") or by nature itself — motor boats simply can’t go that shallow.

Once you’re on the water other opportunities will become clear. See that tiny opening in the tree line over there? Point your bow through there and you may be rewarded by entering a protected cove loaded with fish that are convinced that they’re completely alone. These days I like to think of the fish as "locals" in a tourist town — they know the good places to eat, know how to get away from the crowds, and that’s where you’ll find them. In that respect, kayak anglers are ahead of the game before they ever make that first cast.

ELMER FUDD WAS RIGHT:
"Be vewwy vewwy quiet …". OK, he was hunting wabbits, but he was certainly on to something. 100 fishing kayaks on the water make the same sound as a flats boat while it’s still sitting on the trailer — silence. As more and more people are drawn to the water for recreation, fish become more wary. And just like us, they seek peace and quiet where they can. At first it can be a bit unnerving as you paddle across a grass flat in search of fish only to see evidence that you’ve ran right over the place where the fish were. But they never heard you coming. That tell tale poof of mud says it all. Bad news — that fish is long gone. Good news — others are waiting for you.

Humans are never content where they are — they're always trying to find ways to obtain what is currently out of reach.

LESS IS MORE:
We all lead crowded lives — we all long for less complicated times — we all wish there was something we could do about it. It’s refreshing to know that even in these hectic times, we are still in control of some things. Kayak fishing begs you to get back to basics, to scale down, to simplify. The fishing kayaks of today offer a myriad of storage solutions, so there are few limitations as to what you can’t take with you. But you don’t need much. A rod, some lures, something to hold the fish after you catch it. Simple enough, right ? I’m a marine "buy"ologist. If it has anything to do with my "marine" hobby of kayak fishing I’m likely to "buy" it. I always take more gear than I need, simply because I can. But I do find that with each trip, I take less and less. It’s less to load, less to get in the way while on the water, less to clean and put away when I get back home. By taking less I find that not only do I get better at using a select group of lures, but I also build confidence in using them. People that feel they will be successful usually are.

GOLF, WITHOUT THE PROFANITY AND FUNNY SHOES:
Kayak fishing, like golf, is a solitary sport that is often played by those in a group. And, as in golf, members of the group don’t physically play against each other. Not long ago I watched an interview of a golfer who had recently competed in a tournament with Tiger Woods, which Tiger won. The golfer was asked how it felt to be beaten by Tiger, again. The golfer informed the reporter that he’d never been beaten by Tiger Woods (… the crowd got quiet). He went on to say that Tiger had played the same course, only better, thus yielding a lower score. So Tiger didn’t really beat "him", Tiger beat the course.

Silently navigating to the perfect spot. © Mark Deming

In kayak fishing you’re the captain, the first mate, the navigator, you’re it. As in golf, you can envision where the fish are as if it was the pin sticking up on a distant green (in kayak fishing you can use a GPS if you like, it’s not cheating like it would be on the PGA circuit). You plot your course based on the hazards around you (you still want to stay out of the sand). You choose your rod/reel/lure as you would a golf club. As you approach the spot where the fish should be, you calculate that cast as if you were sizing up a birdie putt at the Masters. Too hard and in to the rough you go — too soft and you’ll never get it to the target — gotta watch the wind — gotta watch the current — gotta be quiet. But at the end of the day, whether you catch fish or not, it will always be the result of your efforts and your abilities to overcome obstacles. But always remember — unlike golf, being in the water is a good thing, and extra (paddle) strokes don’t count against you.

ONE SMALL STEP FOR MAN:
The easiest way to fish is to walk up to the bank and cast away. However, humans are never content where they are — they’re always trying to find ways to obtain what is currently out of reach. So, in this case, fisherman will wade in to the water. They wade until it’s too deep to be safe or comfortable. They’re still not content though, because they still need to move forward. The kayak offers a relatively inexpensive solution. Most fishing kayaks are of the "sit on top" variety, which makes it easy to get in and get out. The fisherman that’s accustomed to wading can still do that, only now he has a means to cover more area. He may get where he’s going only to cast back at where he’s been. At least now, he has that option.

A perfect cast; a perfect day on the water. © Jacob Boling

PEACE OF MIND:
When was the last time you saw a painting of a busy highway in a dentist’s office? Not likely. How about on your PC, is your background wallpaper a picture of a smoky factory? I doubt it. We all want to wrap ourselves in peaceful surroundings. Many find that being on the water is the most peaceful place on Earth — I agree. Everything that lives will cease to do so without water. Fishing, as a form of recreation, is meant to be very relaxing. Kayaking itself enables you to paddle away from those worries and concerns that are on the shore. No road signs, no horns, no phones (other than your cell phone, of course). It’s a way to put some distance between you and whatever you need distance from, quietly and effortlessly. Fishing as you do it is simply a bonus to that. And, "catching" takes it up another level.

I have a number of reasons why I kayak fish, but this is probably the main one. And, I happen to be in the best, most content portion of my life (so far). For me, I guess I’m not running from anything, but running toward something. That something being a chance to breathe some non-recycled air, listen to the birds, look for any signs of non-human life, fin or feather, erase the thoughts from the previous week, and collect my thoughts for the next one. It’s a good time to pay attention. After giving all week long it’s a good time to be the sponge and take some back in. It’s also a good time to listen to an old friend. I often find myself talking to God when I’m in the car, stuck in traffic, Seems I choose to speak my mind at the loudest part of my day, because I trust that He can hear me. But, God talks to me when I’m on the water, very softly. Like I say, this is a good time to soak it all in, and a good time to pay attention.

… OR IS IT TO CATCH FISH?
Yes, there are those that simply enjoy what they tell everyone they’re doing, "kayak fishing". And, as this sport grows and manufacturers continue to cater to this crowd, kayak fisherman are being very successful. Recently here in Florida, there was a redfish tournament, where each team consisted of 2 anglers, each team could submit only 2 legal fish (each fish not to exceed 27"), total combined weight determined the winning team. All teams were in conventional bay and flats boats, with the exception of 1 team — they were in kayaks.

$500,000 worth of boats and trailers at the ramp, and the guys who won picked their boats up by hand and walked home past all of us.

You know where this story is going, but humor me — I love telling this story. All contestants had to launch from the same ramp at the same time. Reportedly, some teams motored as far as 40 miles away to predetermined GPS coordinates in search of the 2 winning fish. The kayak team waited for the initial wakes to clear, and then paddled to a secluded area about 1/2 mile from the launch. They could see and hear the motorized mayhem but due to the shallow draft of their kayaks, they had the area to themselves. Yes, they won. When it was more beneficial to get out and wade, they did. The power boats brought their live catch back to the weigh-in in special live wells — these guys simply put the fish on a conventional stringer and towed them back to be entered into the record books, and then released. This victory certainly created a buzz in the powerboat crowd as well as in the paddle angling community. However, one of the other contestants summed it up best, when he said, "… but, it was a heck of a sight … $500,000 worth of boats and trailers at the ramp, and the guys who won picked their boats up by hand and walked home past all of us …".

If you’re the competitive sort, it doesn’t get much better than this. Many attribute this win to luck. But luck is sometimes seen as the place where preparation and opportunity meet. So maybe on this day it took a plastic vessel to get them there. But, it’s almost not fair. I can see numerous advantages that paddle anglers have over their fossil fuel fired counterparts. But, that will just have to be our little secret. I can trust you, right?

So there you have it, just a few reasons why thousands have come to love this sport of kayak fishing, the numbers are growing, and show no signs of slowing down. There are a host of other reasons too, including spending time with your family on the water, teaching your children a little about conservation, and even getting some exercise. Whatever your reason may be, rest assured you are not part of a fad — kayak fishing is here to stay.

I’ll close with some words from a wise man. It would seem he was way ahead of his time.

See you on the water…

"Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." - Henry David Thoreau