I’ve been asked a few times what advice would I give someone who is just getting into kayak fishing so thought I would write a post to cover my experience. There may be some difference of opinion on the web and there have been some debates on what is regarded as essential safety equipment so this post is purely based on my findings kayak fishing in the North East of England.
Below is a list of essentials to get started in my opinion. I’ll go through some of these in more detail:
Personal Floatation Device
You will need something to help keep you afloat if you fell in. You don’t want anything too bulky that could restrict re-entry if you fell in. A PFD with a few attachment points is a real bonus as you can then attach your safety equipment to it such as your VHF. Two that I own and would recommend are:
The Palm Kaikoura: http://palmequipmenteurope.com/product/kaikoura
Pecheur Life Vest: http://www.pecheur.com/en/gb/buy-life-vest-for-water-angler-92519.html
Drysuit and sensible base layers (this is a definite for winter)
When I initially got into kayak fishing I was of the mindset that a wetsuit would be fine. I come from a surfing and kitesurfing background and use a wetsuit all year round for these sports. However, a few things to note are that you are likely to be out on the water much longer kayak fishing. In addition, you are not ‘in’ the water but on top and very susceptible to wind chill. You also aren’t super active all of the time. For these reasons, a drysuit really is a must during the colder months. You might prefer a wetsuit for the summer months but I found it uncomfortable to paddle in for long periods. When wearing your drysuit, also ensure your wear appropriate layers underneath. Cotton is a no go. It won’t wick away perspiration and will make you end up feeling wet. Always wear base layers that will keep you warm in the water, not sitting on top of the kayak. If you fall in, you may be there for some time. When choosing a drysuit, consider one with a pee zip. If you are going out for a morning or even making a day of it, you don’t want to be paddling back to shore when the fish are feeding just to relief yourself.
I have only owned one drysuit to date. This is the Typhoon PS220 Xtreme Drysuit. I’ve had it a good few years and not had any problems. It isn’t cheap but I love mine. There is a newer model out now so you might be able to pick one up at a good price (link: https://www.typhoon-int.co.uk/products/surface/drysuits/other/100132/ps220-xtreme-drysuit/ )
A knife that can be easily accessed (blunt end)
You need a knife attached to you at all times. If you fall off and get a leash or line wrapped around you this might prevent you getting back on the kayak quickly. In this instance, you would be very glad of having the knife. It also has a load of other uses such as gutting your fish whilst out at sea. Get one with a blunt end and a carrying case that can be clipped or tied on to your PFD. You don’t want to be stabbing yourself accidentally!
You need a method of communicating with land in the event of a real emergency. There are 3 popular options:
– A mobile phone in a waterproof case
– A VHF radio
– A PLB
I carry all three I didn’t start out that way. I initially started with a mobile phone in a waterproof case. This works pretty well although it can be hard to hear people in the wind and in a real emergency when you are in the water this may be made worse.
A VHF is an excellent choice, especially if you get a floating and waterproof one. This can clip straight to your PFD and is very easy to use in the event of an emergency. To use one legally you need to get a VHF licence. I attended a course run by Melvyn Wallhead (web address: http://www.northumbriasailing.co.uk/ ). The VHF I have is a Standard Horizon HX290E which is both floating and waterproof and has 5W of output (link: http://www.standardhorizon.co.uk/product_info.php?cPath=178_174&products_id=100034 )
A personal locator beacon (PLB) is yet another option. There are some advantages and disadvantages to these over the standard VHF. Firstly, once activated a PLB will continue to send its signal whilst a VHF has to be manually operated (unless you have a DSC one). Also, a VHF needs line of sight to send its signal. If you fish in secluded bays around high cliffs you may not be able to reach anyone. A PLB would be an advantage here as it is satellite based so the cliffs will not be a problem. A PLB can also be used in land (i.e. mountaineering) whilst a VHF can only be used at sea and you do not need a license to operate one. A disadvantage to a PLB is that once triggered it cannot be used again without replacing the battery. The battery life is normally 2 years without use (other than testing ) and it is expensive to replace them. The PLB that I is the fast find 220. This is small and fits in my PFD pocket and gives good peace of mind (link: http://www.mcmurdomarine.com/personal-locator-beacon/fastfind-220 )
A small first aid kit.
Keep a small first aid kit stowed in the kayak somewhere. It just makes sense. You never know what might happen and hooks can be nasty!
A kayak! Ideally 12ft+ unless you are going to be fishing very close to shore. I started out with a small 9.5ft Malibu Mini-x. Whilst this was good very close in I soon realised the error in my ways. It was slow to paddle and being so short, it veered with each paddle stroke. In a strong wind it made very little progress. In hindsight I should have waited until I could afford a longer kayak that paddled more efficiently as I soon outgrew the Malibu Mini-x and purchased a Tarpon 120. This kayak suited me very well for a good few years. It paddled much better and I started to explore further off shore. As a new person to the sport, I would look for a good second hand deal. You can often get all of the basic gear for around £600 second hand. A good site to find a deal would be Anglers Afloat. Keep an eye out for a Tarpon 120, Ocean Kayak Trident 13, Ocean Kayak Prowler 13, RTM Abaco, Viking Reload, Viking Profish 400 or Perception Triumph. These are all well-known brands that would be a great platform to get started with.
I would start with 1 rod initially and then move to two once more comfortable. There are loads of rods advertised as ‘kayak fishing’ rods that are simply too short. Don’t get the 3-4ft rods. You want a rod that you can move around the bow of the kayak if you need to. I fish with a few different rods but all are around the 7 to 7.5ft length. Try to get one with a short(ish) butt section. They feel much better on the kayak when there isn’t that much room to manoeuvre. I fish with a variety of different strength rods but a personal favourite of mine for almost all the fishing I do is the Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Kayak rod in the 6/12lb class (http://www.shakespeare-fishing.co.uk/catalogue/rods,20778/ugly-stik-gx2-kayak,8862.html ). I love this rod and would highly recommend it from lure fishing to anchored up bait fishing. It has great sensitivity but has no problem pulling up a big cod in a strong tide.
The reels and line
I fish with multipliers when bait fishing and spinning reels when lure fishing. I like multipliers in the 6000 or 6500 size. The abu 6500 feels a good size to me when paired with the Shakespeare Ugly Stik. I buy the old Abu’s off EBay. The older models that were made in Sweden seem to be much better made than the newer ones. Kayak fishing destroys reels as you will find out. These older models seem to last compared with a number of others I’ve gone through that seize up in no time. I use 30lb braid on my abu’s. I swear by braid. Mono just doesn’t give me the feeling I need to detect the subtle bites and also created too much drag for me when anchored up in a good current. The braid allows me to use much less lead to hold the bottom allowing me to fish with a lighter class of rod that gives me much more sport when I hook up with a good fish.
For lure fishing I use a spinning reel. I’ve been through quite a few due to the harsh conditions they have to go through on the kayak. One that is lasting much longer than the others is the Abu Cardinal 174 SWI. This is around the ‘4000’ size which again, feels good with the rods I use. I use this with 20lb braid. Link: http://www.abugarcia-fishing.co.uk/catalogue/reels,767/cardinal-swi,5061.html
– Leashes, leashes and more leashes. Leash everything down so you don’t lose it!
– An anchor with anchor line fitted to the kayak (unless you want to drift fish all the time)
– A kayak trolley. There is only one in my opinion which is the C-Tug.
– Selection of rigs. Keep it simple. A running ledger will do fine for bait fishing and a shad with weighted jig head for lure fishing.
Steps to becoming a proficient kayak fisherman:
1) At the beginning, go out with company without the fishing gear on a flat calm day. Paddle out a short distance and chuck yourself off. Then practice getting back on to the kayak. This skill is essential. You shouldn’t be heading out to sea with loads of gear aboard if you cannot perform a re-entry. It isn’t difficult but does need practice. This video is great at explaining the steps so watch it a few times and then get out there and try it for yourself.
Once you are confident at re-entries ensure you are happy paddling the kayak. A good paddling technique will see you going further with less energy so it would be worth watching some videos online such as this one:
2) You are now confident at kayak re-entries. It is now time to head out and go fishing. Take just one rod with you and stay fairly close to shore. Go with an experienced kayak fisherman. Enjoy yourself and catch fish.
3) Ideally repeat step 2 a good few times until you are feeling really confident. Then take a couple of rods out. Practice anchoring in a slight current. Anchoring carries risks, especially if you get caught side on to the current so practice in good company. This video shows you how it should be done:
4) Wherever possible, kayak fish with company. Over time you will get to figure out your limits. I do kayak fish on my own quite a bit as do quite a few I know but this comes with time. You need to be very confident in your own abilities before you do this and fishing with company is always going to be safer.
Have any questions? Just add a comment below. I’ll be happy to help.