A Rookie’s Perspective To Kayak Fishing

I was asked to document my experiences as I venture into the world of kayak fishing. Having spent most of my adult life fishing in freshwater on powered boats, venturing into the world of kayak fishing was a totally new experience. I moved to south Georgia back in 2005 and settled in a subdivision with a 225 acre lake surround by cypress trees with a lot of trees in the water as well. The tea colored water seemed ideal for holding bass and other freshwater species I like to fish for.

As time went on, I started dragging the bass boat out less and less. It wasn’t for a lack of desire to fish, but the fact that I couldn’t run the gas motor in the lake and the price of gasoline started impacting the longer trips to fishing spots outside the area. A friend suggested I look into a kayak to satisfy my fishing needs. I sold the bass boat and purchased a Hobie Pro Anger to fish with. The idea of being able to peddle and still hold a rod to cast and retrieve kept me in the same realm as working a trolling motor with a foot control and fishing that I was used to.

Beyond that, it has been a lot different!

Like everyone that buys a kayak to fish from, you have to decide on how to fish from it. Where will your rods go? Do you have to have everything tied down in the event of a tip over? The key I learned in regards to adding to your kayak is to just go out and fish from it before you buy or bolt anything to it. That will give you a feel for where things need to be when you have a fish on and need the net or when you’re in skinny water and need to paddle or just get out and walk the kayak.

I pretty much got the new ride configured for the basics and was asked to go along for some saltwater fishing on the Gulf coast. A co-worker and his buddy were going for a half day of fishing in the Big Bend area of Florida. This was really rookie territory for me! I hardly own any saltwater gear or tackle, but I was willing to learn! I met my co-worker and his buddy at 5:00am and off we went. After making several wrong turns we finally arrived at the bait shop where we were going to buy shrimp to use. It was closed and didn’t open for another 45 minutes. It was decided we would fish artificial baits. I was along to learn and sponge up everything I could, so I went along with whatever they were doing.

We got the kayaks in the water by 7:30am and headed down the estuaries toward the open coast line. The tide was outgoing at the time. As they paddled and I peddled out we could start to see the tops of the crab cages that had been set out. I had a funny feeling that was not a good sign. My co-worker and his buddy had to be back for a birthday party that was at 2:00pm. So that meant we had to be out of the water by 11:30am or so to head back. Absolute low tide that day was around 10:30am. We never saw water deeper than 2 feet and plenty of oyster bars above the surface of the water. The wind was blowing up to 20mph away from land, so I wasn’t keen on heading way out to find deeper water. The trip turned out to be a bust!

Not to be dismayed…I had a friend in the Jacksonville, Florida area offer to take my fishing the intercostal waters there. We would be fishing one of the creek areas on the north side of Jacksonville. Low tide was approximately 10:30am again, but this was a completely different situation and area. John wanted to fish the first 2 hours of the outgoing tide and then fish the incoming tide for a couple of hours. I stopped by the bait shop to pick up shrimp and mud minnows. Hmmm…live bait was something I haven’t used in decades of bass fishing. This would be interesting!

Unlike the gulf trip that was a bust, I was now in water that had a discernible current. I had to learn how to properly use my stake out pole and position the kayak to cast where I needed to cast. We fished using popping corks and bottom rigs for both the shrimp and the minnows. It was a great learning experience and I caught 8 fish! I even managed to get what is called a “slam” in the area. That’s catching a red, a flounder and a trout. The trout and red were caught on shrimp using the popping cork while the flounder was caught slow trolling with a minnow.

At the end of the day as we were packing to leave, I probably had a grin that wouldn’t disappear for a while. I realized that I could fish saltwater in a kayak and be successful! My Jacksonville friend is an experienced kayaker and helped me learn a lot. While a lot of the techniques used in freshwater fishing (i.e. fishing drop offs, points, structure, time of day, etc.) do help, saltwater is a different animal. There are tides to consider, you can’t lip the fish to land them (they have teeth), and bait/rigging can vary from freshwater.

When I bought the Hobie Pro Angler in Jacksonville, I learned about the Jacksonville Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament that is on May 12th. It’s the largest kayak fishing tournament in the world and the money raised goes to a great charity. I entered the tournament right after buying the Hobie. Having this good trip under my belt will alleviate any anxiety I might have had going in “cold turkey” for the tournament. I’ll be fishing the tournament with my friend John again and am sure I’ll have fun regardless of how I finish.

Yes, it appears I’m “hooked” on kayak fishing! I’ll post a report of that experience after the tourney. Tight lines!

Steve Stubbs
USAF (retired)