There has been a huge increase in the popularity of kayak fishing and for me it is very easy to see why. Kayaks facilitate so many different forms of angling and I have truly fallen in love with the method. For me there are many advantages to using a kayak over a boat and what I initially thought of as ‘second best’ had now become firm favourite, so much so that I now rarely fish without a kayak. Transporting the kayak is simple; lift it onto the roof bars and drive to wherever you want to go. They can be launched from almost anywhere and require no fuel, just the effort you put in. They are almost maintenance free and are relatively cheap to repair and modify.
With such a shallow draught they can float in mere inches of water and can get to places that no boats can get near – shallow reefs, reedbeds and marinas are now all accessible. Moving the kayak is a quiet affair and allows the angler to approach fish with stealth. Walking around on the deck of a boat creates a lot of noise under the water and a kayak eliminates a lot of noise that would otherwise spook a wary fish. Fish aside, the kayak also allows you come into incredibly close contact with nature. You sit at the same level as waterfowl and seals often view you as a curiosity. So many sights, sounds and smells of nature are missed on a boat with the sound of the engine drowning it all out or frightening it away altogether.
To get started you do need to make an initial outlay and it can get pretty expensive but the return is most definitely worth the investment. The obvious thing to consider first is a kayak. There is a huge range of kayaks available now and each boasts their own merits. Whatever you do, speak to a reputable dealer and make sure to explain to them exactly what type of waters you will be fishing on. Smaller boats are very well suited to small lakes and rivers, you’ll want something much bigger for open water on big lakes and around the coast. A general rule was that length equals speed and width equals stability but now there are plenty of narrower boats on the market that are remarkably stable. If at all possible try to paddle a couple before buying. The paddle, so often an afterthought, is a really important piece of kit. Try to get the best one you can and make sure that the sizing is appropriate to you, it really does make a difference over the course of a fishing session.
Clothing is the next item to consider and nobody should consider ever going afloat without a personal flotation device. Any other safety gear becomes irrelevant if you sink like a stone before you can use it so make sure the PFD is top of the list. Irish waters are cold most of the year round and the only way around staying dry and warm on a kayak is to wear layered clothing under a drysuit. Fully waterproof and breathable, if you happen to fall in all your clothing will remain dry. Money spent on fishing gear and modifications like echo sounders is entirely up to the intended user. Get leashes for any equipment to be kept on deck. If it’s not tethered down there’s a chance of losing it. A couple of dry bags for cameras and holding things like lunch and a first aid kit are also handy to have.
Some view kayak fishing as a dangerous sport, some view it as something for the super fit. While you don’t need to be very fit to get started, a basic level of fitness would help but whatever you have will soon be built upon once you get started. As for the danger element; it’s true, there are a lot of variables and things that go wrong but if you invest in the appropriate safety gear and familiarise yourself with it use then a lot of the danger is removed.
A VHF radio and some other signalling equipment like flares is the minimum. In addition, having a GPS unit and Personal Location Beacon would be better. Paddling practice and learning vital skills in sheltered water is essential for building confidence on the water. Learning how to self-rescue is of paramount importance. This means learning how to get back up onto the kayak from the water in a sheltered bay or harbour repeatedly until you can do it in your sleep. We never want to come off the kayak at sea but it can and does happen so finding out that you can’t self-rescue when you are two miles out is not exactly ideal. Armed with this knowledge and a little common sense regarding weather and tides, the world is your kayak fishing oyster!
Kayak fishing to me is a day out, an opportunity to get some exercise, some fresh air, some scenery, see some wildlife and if after all that I happen to catch a fish then that is a very welcome bonus. The escapism that kayak fishing offers is unrivalled and the fishing itself can be awesome. When you do hook a fish it really is a battle between just you and the fish. You have to land it in your lap, the whole experience really is exhilarating and nothing gets you closer to the action than kayak fishing does.