Fishing Florida by Kayak E-mail
Friday, 09 October 2009 04:29

Bonefish, redfish, snook, tarpon, sea trout, sharks, jacks, snapper, grouper, barracuda, sheepshead, tripletail, flounder, etc. etc. etc.what do all these species have in common? Yes, they are all indigenous to Florida's prolific inshore waterways, but more importantly, they can all be successfully targeted and captured from a kayak. Plus, these popular species can be caught anyway you prefer to fish; lures, plastics, trolling, drifting, dead bait, live bait, even on fly. Sure, you may get surprised and might even experience a little fear at times, but the thrill of catching these great game fish out of a kayak is simply amazing!

So what do you need to get started in the fastest growing segment of the sport-fishing industry? For those of you who are not already active inshore anglers, head straight to your local tackle shop and purchase a 7'6" spinning rod matched to a 12 lb. class spinning reel. Along with the basic terminal tackle, you'll also need some small jigs and a handful of soft-plastic lures. This will be enough to get you started. The next requirement, of course, is an appropriate kayak. While nearly any kayak is suitable for fishing, there are some simple guidelines you should consider before jumping in feet first:

  1. Model - when it comes to 'Sit-on-Top' versus 'Sit-Inside' kayaks, you will want the sit-on-top, as sit-inside models are more appropriate for touring and are not designed for fishing. Sit-on-top kayaks also have built-in scuppers for water drainage - a nice feature when it gets a bit choppy.

  2. Length - kayaks are manufactured in lengths ranging from 9-feet to 16-feet. As a rule, the longer the kayak, the better it tracks in the water. You'll find that shorter kayaks tend to wiggle when paddled. While a rudder will help alleviate this problem, longer kayaks are more user-friendly for both experienced and novice anglers. If you are just getting started consider something in the 12- to 16-foot range.

  3. Storage - this is one of many very important aspects to kayak fishing. Due to the basic design of the boat, there is obviously a limited amount of storage space on a kayak. You must carefully consider what gear is absolutely necessary including a required life jacket, fishing rod(s) and assorted tackle, along with your personal needs like refreshments, cell phone, etc. After the first trip or two, kayak anglers quickly realize that limited storage space must be utilized very wisely.

  4. Transportation - most kayaks are transported to and from either on a roof rack, or in the back of a pickup truck. If you are using a roof rack, you must secure the kayak with at least two belly straps and front and rear straps. The front and rear straps are NOT optional.

  5. Accessories - the primary accessory, of course, is a paddle. Without it, you have no means of propulsion. Paddles range from about $50 for a basic version to $500 for an ultra-lightweight carbon-fiber model. In addition, there are plenty of add-ons to consider such as depth-finders, GPS, a baitwell, extra rod-holders, cooler and more.
  6. Point of Purchase - you may be tentative in getting started and not fully comfortable with investing $1,000 for a high-end 'yak. Try browsing the classified ads,, and/or eBay. There is always a deal to be found somewhere. For around $300, you should be able to pick up a pre-owned kayak with a PFD, paddle and maybe even a seat. Once you know that you're serious about the sport, your local kayak dealer is the only place to go.

Safety First!

While kayak fishing makes for an exciting pastime, it could potentially be very dangerous. Becoming lost in the backcountry, getting sunburn or dehydrated, drowning, trauma, getting injured, all could be a serious threat so be smart and don't become a statistic. Whenever possible, use the buddy system and go kayak fishing with a friend. At the very least, inform someone on dry land where you are going and when you will be back - sort of like a brief float plan. Apply plenty of sunscreen, drink ample non-alcoholic fluids, and be extra careful when unhooking fish. Safety MUST be your first priority when kayak fishing.

Where to Kayak Fish?

Now that you have your kayak rigged and ready, all your gear in order and your safety plan in place, you'll need to know precisely where to go to catch the big ones.

Fortunately, there are literally hundreds of accessible waterways to kayak fish in Florida with opportunities to capture the whole gamut of resident and visiting shallow-water species. Basically, any inshore waterway with access - which may consist of nothing more than a small shoreline - provides an ideal location to take advantage of kayak fishing. Of course, all of the fishing principles such as tidal stage, proper bait and lure presentation, and weather and water conditions all need to be evaluated and considered. Kayak fishing is still about fishing. It does, however, allow for a very stealthy approach on thriving inshore flats such as those found in Biscayne Bay, the Indian River Lagoon system, the Everglades and Pine Island Sound.

Personal Preferences.

I fish a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 160i. This is a 16-foot boat that paddles and tracks very well.

Generally, the water is very shallow in the areas where you'll be kayak fishing so like me, you will end up using a short, specially-designed push-pole just as much as your paddle. The short push-pole also doubles as a stake-out stick so you can maintain your position. Nevertheless, to experience angling success, you must be super quiet and cast with extreme care. Scoring in a kayak is all about stealth and accuracy!

I generally fish light 10 lb. class outfits with a variety of artificial lures and recommend you do the same. Since it can be a bit challenging to re-rig in a hurry, I typically bring two or three outfits, each rigged and ready with a slightly different presentation. A good idea is a top-water plug, a sub-surface bait, and a soft plastic on a weighted jighead. This basic trio will allow you to cover the entire water column and help you zero in on the activity.

When I plan to fish live bait, I tow a boogie board (short, foam surf board) with the center cut out. This hole is where I place a plastic tub about 24" round and 10" deep with a bunch of drilled holes for water flow. This set-up works extremely well in locales like Tarpon Bay, Flamingo and Chokoloskee. These are just three of my favorite retreats with mirror-like water and wading birds of every size, shape and color providing plenty of entertainment between explosive surface strikes.

What I especially enjoy about kayak fishing is when you are surrounded by such natural beauty in such pristine environments, your mind, body and soul filter out everything except what is going on directly in front of and around you. It's easy to forget that you have to pay close attention to your position and that you must remain far enough away from the shoreline so you don't drift through your fishing area and potentially spook the intended quarry. While you are managing your boat, don't forget to remain focused on your casting, and always keep tabs on the tide. The last you want is to access an extremely shallow cove during a falling tide only to find out the hard way that your exit route is now high and dry.

In conclusion, kayak fishing is an awesome way to fish almost any inshore body of water and catch almost any shallow-water species. Plus, a kayak provides access to many fisheries which you simply can't reach by even the shallowest draft skiffs, such as Florida's "no-motor-zones." Kayak fishing is quiet, shallow-water flats-fishing at its very best where stealth and skill pay big dividends. With fuel prices hovering close to $4.00 a gallon, fishing from a kayak provides the perfect alternative for a great day on the water, not to mention a great source of cardiac exercise. Plus, it won't take you long to realize that being so close to the water on a one-on-one basis with nature, puts you in touch with the surrounding environment and provides a much slower perspective on the water. Just remember to be safe, have fun and share your stories, because kayak fishing is addictive!

LunaSea - "The Famous"

Make-sense kayak accessories:

The latest kayaks are designed for hands-free operation. Hobie Cat, a leading manufacturer, has recently introduced a patented, revolutionary new propulsion system dubbed, MirageDrive. This is where paddling meets pedaling and brings a whole new level of speed and fun to kayak fishing. By simply operating a pair of pedals like you would on a bicycle, kayakers are propelled to their favorite 'honey hole.' Going the extra step and adding a pair of 'turbo fins' to your MirageDrive increases efficiency and speed while reducing fatigue.

Hand-held GPS systems and fish-finders are also worth their weight in precious medals. While you may not be ready to invest in these items right out of the gate, experienced kayak anglers will tell you that they don't know how they ever managed without them.

Finally, backrests are a must! Available in various sizes, shapes and configurations, a backrest with padded seat will alleviate the lower back strain associated with sitting in a confined area for hours on end. Most are constructed of thermo-molded foam, and are adjustable for optimum comfort and support - not to mention a dryer ride.

Anatomy of a kayak: Kayaks, like all boats, have a few basic components; a bow, a stern, a cockpit which provides a place to sit and a method of propulsion (manpower). Aside from these basic features, kayaks can vary wildly. Some kayaks are quite wide (24- to 30-inches) and typically offer good stability. Some kayaks are very narrow (21- to 23-inches) and seem to tip at the slightest wake. Short, stable kayaks can safely carry you, a cooler and all of your fishing gear. Long kayaks are designed with sleek hulls, slicing through the water with minimal effort.

The straight-up scoop on design and performance:

  • Short, wide kayaks are typically slow, but quite stable in calm water.

  • Long, narrow kayaks are fast, but can be somewhat 'tippy.'

  • Short kayaks turn faster than long kayaks.

  • No single kayak design is ideal for every situation.

  • Before purchasing a kayak, try and rent the exact model and experiment with the kayak in a variety of conditions.

Kayak Lingo

  1. Grab loop - Used to carry the kayak when it's out of the water.
  2. Bulkheads - Bulkheads are internal walls that stop water from entering the bow and stern areas on kayaks. Should the kayak cockpit flood with water, the air trapped in the front and back will keep the kayak afloat.
  3. Hatches - Openings that allow entry into the storage compartments of the kayak.
  4. Deck lines - Bungie cord lines crisscrossing the deck. Useful for securing essentials.
  5. Cockpit - The area where you sit.
  6. Rudder - When lowered, a devise that aids in tracking and steering



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