Kayak Fishing from a Sea Kayak - trip report E-mail
Friday, 09 October 2009 09:32


sea kayak

Photo: two sea kayakers arrive at Block Island, Rhode Island after making the crossing from Port Judith during the late fall bluefish and striped bass migration. Note coldwater gear and the pair of fishing rods strapped to the foredeck of the kayak to the right. Click on the photo to enlarge.

To fish from a sea kayak you'll need a couple of basic pieces of gear, first of which is a rod and reel or a simple handline.

For overnight trips or to remote areas such as Baja or the isolated stretches of the Pacific Northwest, a handline is probably a better choice.

There's several reasons why.

A handline takes up very little room in a kayak, isn't delicate, and can be stored easily out of the way in a hatch should the weather roughen. Unlike rods and reels, handlines (basically a wooden shuttle around which you wrap a hundred yards or so of dacron line), are simplicity in and of themselves. There's nothing mechanical on them to break or that might need repair. Their ease of storage is especially useful, as even the shortest saltwater fishing rods (about 5'10") usually have to be broken down into fragile sections that don't always fit easily into a hatch, and which moreover have delicate ceramic line guides.

The two concerns of paddlers who haven't fished from a kayak before are how to land a fish and whether a fish can capsize the boat. There's also some deep mythology about sea kayakers getting taken on Nantucket sleigh rides by ocean fish.

The latter can't happen. Many pelagic sportfish are large and strong enough to tow a kayak ten or fifteen feet or so, or to pull it sideways, but the only fish truly large enough to tow a kayak any time or distance are the larger species found in the waters off Florida and California and, in late fall, New England. There's marlin, black-tip shark, sailfish, and bluefin tuna, etc. However these species require such specialized gear and heavy line that one caught by a casual angler would simply break the line. And that would be the end of it.

The picture below, of Massachusetts fisherman Mark Stephens, shows a typical sea kayak fishing hookup, in this case a bluefish in late October off the tidal rip north of Block Island, Rhode Island.

trip report


Because Mark is right-handed, he typically trolls from the port (left) side of his boat so he can hold the rod with his right, or stronger hand, come time to land the fish.

As you can see, he's twisted in the cockpit to follow the bluefish while in typical regression to the norm the fish runs off at low angles from the boat. Mark needs only brace his kayak with his knees, beneath the foredeck, to stabilize the kayak with his hips, to prevent being capsized.

Landing bluefish is a matter of tiring the fish, reeling it in close to the gunwale, then grabbing the bluefish by the tail, whereupon Mark will quickly cut and bleed his catch.

Cutting and bleeding catch serves two purposes. It kills the fish quickly, a safety concern with bluefish whose jaws are strong and teeth are sharp. Bleeding fish drains the blood which can otherwise oxidize and spoil the fish after a few hours in the hatch. Bleeding catch increases the fish's shelf life prior to refrigeration by four or five hours, and makes fillets more appealing in appearance.

Photo: Fillets taken from a fish that was cut and bled immediately after catch. A series of dotted reddish but not brown lines running through the fillet is characteristic of fish that were bled. As they cook, these fillets will gain a lovely white color and butter-like texture.

good meal after fishing

 

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