Fishing from a kayak? You bet.
As the economic downturn of the past few years left some fishermen unable to afford the luxury of a traditional fishing boat, the timing was right for several kayak makers to launch a more affordable foray into the sport. Once the tourism industry learned that kayak rentals could now be expanded into fishing trips, some serious anglers started a series of kayak-only fishing tournaments. The evolution of kayak fishing continues today with more accessories for this growing demographic.
These boats eliminate variables like the need to pay for fuel, taxes and boat ramp fees. Many don’t even need a trailer to transport their kayak. This expanded flexibility is limited when it comes to windy conditions, which are ill suited for kayak fishing, but anglers in the know can locate sheltered waterways to fish regardless of the weather.
Hobie has long-been associated with the water, and their Hobie Cat sailboats were once a mainstay among recreational sailors. Kayak fishing took a giant leap forward when Hobie kayaks introduced their Mirage drive pedal propulsion system. Instead of using a kayak paddle for forward motion, with a blade on each end, the new system works more like a paddleboat.
Expanding on how a centerboard functions in a sailboat, Hobie created the Mirage drive to drop into a slot of the kayaks hull, giving anglers the all important option of hands free movement. Keep the paddle strapped on the side of the boat and use the built-in rudder to steer while under pedal power. An angler must remain seated and stationary for the most part while in a kayak, but there is storage room to bring all the necessary tackle along for a day of fishing.
No matter where you fish, a life vest is a must, and inflatable PFDs are perfect for kayak anglers since they offer less restrictions on movement. Simple design improvements like these PFD’s are adding up to make kayak anglers comfortable for all day fishing.
Some anglers are using their boats for deepwater adventures, but kayaks are best suited to shallow waters – especially where one can get out of the kayak to wade fish.
On a recent trip to fish in Port St. Joe, Fla., we used kayaks to approach a grass flat with stealth, and then pushed the Hobie ‘stake out’ pole into the sand in order to stay properly positioned for multiple casts.
Another day we launched kayaks off the front beach. Paddling one-mile into the tranquil waters of the Gulf of Mexico we targeted offshore bottom fish species over live bottom areas in 60-feet of water. Our party of kayak anglers caught red snapper, gag grouper, false albacore, bull red drum, king mackerel, flounder and triggerfish during this delightful day of ocean angling. Of course, with limited storage room (certainly not enough for a large ice chest), kayak fishing also promotes the ethic of catch and release fishing.
A kayak offers a surprisingly stable platform for fighting a fish, and with the proper sun protection and planning, anglers can stay relatively comfortable for long periods of time. A mile off the beach is no place to exit your kayak, so keeping a weather eye will always be part of any kayak fishing plans. And surfing one’s kayak back onto the beach through the breakers provides another way to exact enjoyment from being in a kayak.
With the popularity of kayak fishing on the rise, even electronics are evolving to join the kayak fishing revolution. With the use of a small portable battery, electronic fish finders can be mounted on just about any kayak to help locate structure and fish. German company Torqeedo makes a battery-powered propeller that can fit into Hobie kayaks as an alternative to their Mirage drive system. Kayaks under power? You bet.
The need for more storage space on a kayak, plus the flexibility to be comfortable standing up, led Hobie to produce the larger Pro Angler kayak. With a wider beam, and length up to 14-feet, this kayak begins to resemble a small boat. An adjustable lounge chair positions the angler to sit up more that lean back, which provides a better angle to observe the surface of the water for bait or other signs of fish. Accessories for the Pro Angler include a livewell, electronics, leaning post and room to strap on a cooler.
It may become hard to predict what is going to be next in the evolution of kayak fishing. Figuring out what to do after bringing any fish to the kayak is always going to be just part of the fun for kayak anglers.
Jeff Dennis is an outdoor writer and photographer who grew up on a creek in Charleston loving the saltwater. He contributes regularly to All At Sea Southeast. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com