A Guide to Kayak fishing for beginners

A Guide to Kayak fishing for beginners

This article, “A Guide to Kayak Fishing for Beginners. It is about getting anglers on the water in a kayak. There are several considerations including water being fished, size, weight, and propulsion type. Kayak fishing is gaining in popularity. There are several factors for this increase. Kayaks are relatively inexpensive to buy and operate. They are lees work than larger boats. Finally, kayaks are quiet, giving anglers a more serene experience.

kayak fishing for beginners

“My name is Kelly, a West Texas gal that has fished since she could walk. I began as a bank cat fisherman with my family and was hooked on bass when I snagged my first one off my Ranger boat in college. I moved to Austin TX in 2014 and was suddenly surrounded by abundant fishing opportunities. It didn’t take long to jump into a kayak and begin learning the ropes. Since then, it’s been my biggest passion beyond my kids and I get on the water as much as possible.

“What is the hardest thing about kayak fishing? Finding other ladies to fish with! One of my goals is to encourage other women to enter the sport and hit the water with confidence. Kayak fishing can help bring busy moms and other women much needed stress relief, physical activity and cardio, as well as a whole lot of fun and camaraderie.

kayak fishing for beginners

Kayak fishing for beginners, what to look for in a kayak

“A kayak will open up a whole new world of fishing opportunities for you. For me, bank stomping is almost a thing of the past, but I do still on occasion. Once you have a kayak for fishing, you’ll never look back. But first – it’s important you get the right one for you! For women, the right kayak may be slightly different than for men. Here are some things to consider, from my female perspective.

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Kayak weight is an important factor

“Will you be loading it yourself most of the time? How much weight can you lift? For me – I prefer to stay under 70 pounds and not over 80. Some kayaks can weigh much more! I paddle a Diablo Amigo which weighs 75 lbs, is 12’8” long, and 37.5” wide. 75 lbs is pushing it for loading on top of a roof rack (for me). Keep in mind that after a long day on the water, even 70 lbs will feel more like 100+. Keep it light enough that you can easily lift one end up from the floor to your shoulders.

a guide to kayak fishing

“When looking at kayaks, ask a sales associate to lay one down flat for you on the sales floor if it’s not already. Then actually try lifting one end. You’ll be surprised how heavy some of them can seem. If you struggle to get it more than a foot off the ground, look for a lighter one.

Sit-in kayak or sit-on-top kayak?

“For fishing, I recommend a sit-on-top, not sit-in. I started out with a small 10’ Pelican sit-in. It was great for small lakes and I caught many bass in it. However, I quickly learned that one bad wave can sink you quickly. This happened when I was playing around on the beach going beyond the breakers. As I came back in, a huge wave came and rolled me. As you can imagine, it quickly filled with water and was stuck in the surf under water.

“Luckily for me, a very strong guy that looked like he could’ve been a sumo wrestler happened to be chilling on the beach nearby. Miraculously, he came to my rescue and pulled the kayak out of the water. It was tough lifting for even him!

beginners kayak fishing

“For fishing, always go with a sit-on-top kayak so that you don’t have to worry about a large wave overtaking you. Yes – learn from my mistakes! This is especially critical if you plan to ever venture beyond the breakers on the coast with your kayak. Even big lakes on windy days can pose a threat.

Kayak stability factors

“The older you are, the more stable kayak I recommend. More narrow kayaks will be less stable and wider kayaks will be more stable. However, you will always trade off some speed for stability. I’m 41 and I like to be able to stand and stretch and fish as opposed to sitting all day, which is why I went with one that is over 3’ wide.

fishing in a kayak

“However, if you have a need for speed and don’t mind sitting all day, go for something skinnier that will cut through the water easier. There are quite a few great and stable kayaks on the market these days. Look for one that features a pull-up leash. Those are there specifically for being able to stand and fish. Find your balance!

Kayak rod holders

“When investing in a fishing kayak, be sure it has, at minimum, a spot for two rods to be securely placed. Most fishing kayaks will come with two rod holders behind the seats. However, some will not as they have room for a fishing crate behind the seat. People typically will have fishing rod holders installed on the crate. But keep this in mind – either your kayak needs to be stable enough for you to stand, turn and grab the rod, or you need to be flexible enough to twist in your seat to access the rods.

“Some kayaks now offer swivel seats – so that is another option for being sure you can access your rods. I do highly recommend having gear track installed on your kayak with an extra rod holder that rests near your seat. That rod holder should be reserved for placing your rod in after landing a fish, which keeps you from dropping your rod in the water when removing, measuring, and releasing a fish. (Personal experience)

 Seating on kayaks

“Test the seat out before you buy! I cannot say this enough. Being in the kayak fishing world, I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve heard about people’s backs hurting after fishing all day due to the seat not being comfortable. When looking at and testing the seat, keep in mind that typically you want the seat to sit lower for paddling, as that helps you go faster. Paddling from up higher can be more challenging.

kayak fishing for beginners

“Some kayaks come with seats that adjust from a higher to lower position, and vice versa. Some even swivel! But I also have at least one friend that literally got a small lawn party chair for his kayak and it works fine too. Just make sure the seat is comfortable enough to sit in for hours.

Pedal or paddle the kayak?

“That is the question of the century. Basically, you’ll pay more money for a pedal drive. A pedal drive can serve you well if you’re a serious fisherman because it allows you to hold your position in varying conditions while working your bait. With only paddles, it’s a lot more challenging to hold your position and work your bait, unless you’re able to anchor.

“However, bass fishermen and women are constantly moving and working the water looking for the fish – so pedal drives have a huge advantage when it comes to tournament fishing. Plus, a pedal drive will get you to your honey hole a lot quicker. I’ve been to some places where a pedal drive won’t get you anywhere because it’s either too shallow or there’s too much hydrilla that the pedals get hung in.

bass fishing in a kayak

“Paddle only kayaks definitely have their place! Bay fishing in low tide is one of those times I wouldn’t use a pedal drive, as the water can be super shallow. I’m talking inches.

Just consider where you’ll be doing most of your fishing and if you prefer your hands free all the time or not. Just be ready to pay more for a pedal drive if you go that route.

Kayak fishing for beginners, transporting and storing

“You can’t talk about getting a fishing kayak without talking about how you will transport your kayak. You can buy a roof rack for just about any small car or SUV. I personally have Thule bars installed on mine and they work great for loading a basic kayak on. Most sporting goods stores sell kayak racks as well as cradles that you can add to “cradle” your kayak(s).

“A trailer is another great option. My father bought me a small utility trailer from Lowes, and I had it custom welded with crossbars to load two Diablo Amigos on with lots of storage space underneath. This option can run up to $1,000 unless you can find a good used trailer for cheap. A utility trailer can cost anywhere from $400-$900 depending on size, quality, and location.

“You can expect custom welding to run you $200 – $400 more. But I have to say, it is well worth the money as I can’t imagine being without this trailer now. Plus, there is no way I would be able to load two Diablo Amigos on top of my car. The fact that storage and camping boxes slide right underneath the kayaks is icing on the cake!

Kayak carts

“Another great investment I made was a C-Tug cart, which helps me get my kayak to the water without dragging it and scraping the bottom. Of course, you don’t need a cart if you are backing right up to the water. But mine has paid off in many instances, especially if you’re fishing alone and don’t have help getting your kayak to the water.

trailer for fishing kayaks

“There are many different kayak carts available and you may want to check prices. If you go with a heavier kayak, a cart is pretty much a must have to get your kayak transported around without damaging the bottom. But if your kayak is lighter, you just might can do without one – especially if you mostly back right up to the water.

Kayak fishing for beginners, safety equipment

“Otherwise known as your personal floatation device, this is an absolute must or you simply do not need to be on the water. You can buy a traditional PFD/lifejacket which can come with all kinds of cool pockets and clips, or an auto-inflate. Auto-inflate will automatically inflate when immersed in water. They work, I’ve accidentally tested mine.

“For lakes and still water, I recommend the auto-inflate as it is smaller, less bulky, and more comfortable honestly. But for moving water like river fishing or going beyond the breakers, I’d always wear a traditional PFD. They are more heavy duty and not subject to puncture holes like an auto-inflate. Additionally, when the auto-inflate life vest deploys, it will cost you $20 to re-arm it every time. On a river or going beyond the breakers, you’re likely to take a spill eventually. Kayaks must have a whistle, and a 360 light for night time kayak fishing, and for late evening and super early morning.

Kayak storage

“Storage , that is a good consideration. Where will that huge thing go?! I keep mine on the trailer in the garage. And when I travel I lock them up to the trailer with a cable lock, a few of them. Some people get chains and also run through a scupper and wrap around the trailer. The more locked down the better. Sometimes when staying in hotel rooms, I just drag them into the room with me.

Time to go kayak fishing!

“Hopefully you’re ready to jump on a kayak and chase some fins! I hope this article on kayak fishing for beginners will help you get started! Texas is a great place to do just that, with year-round fishing opportunities and so many species to choose from.

Bottom fishing from a kayak in northern California

The subject of this article is bottom fishing northern California. The rugged coast line of California from San Francisco north offers anglers the opportunity to catch a wide variety of bottom fish. Know locally as “groundfish”, these are species such as rockfish and lingcod. They live and feed in the bottom structure.

kayak fishing

The water in the Pacific Ocean gets deep fairly quickly off of the northern California coast. There is also quite a bit of rocky structure that holds fish. The best spots are underwater “humps” that rise up from deeper water to around 75 feet deep. The best area along the coast is from Bodega Bay to Crescent City. The most popular launches for kayakers are Fort Ross, Albion River and Shelter Cove.

Many anglers access this great fishing from shore using kayaks. Amanda Brannon is our correspondent who is familiar with this type of fishing. She is relatively new to this type of fishing, but quickly became enamored with it.

Bottom fishing northern California, tackle and baits

Most anglers opt for light to medium conventional tackle for this type of fishing. There are a couple of reasons for this. Casting is seldom required, most fishing is done vertically. Conventional tackle is also better for winching large, strong fish up off the bottom. Shimano Trevala 7 foot jigging rod, Shimano Calcutta 400B reel, and 25 pound P-Line Original co-polymer line.

kayak fishing for rockfish

Some anglers use braid to shock leader when bottom fishing northern California. Rockfish and lingcod have sharp teeth and the jagged bottom requires this. Most anglers use 50 pound braid to a 20 pound flourocarbon leader. Anglers can then fish with lures or bait. Jigs are the top artificial lure while squid and anchovies are the best natural baits.

A jig and a swim bait is a great combination for this style of fishing. Amanda’s “go to” combo is a 4 oz Pitbull Tackle Shad Jig Head with a 6.5” Senorita Big Hammer Swimbait slathered in Pro-Cure Squid Super-Gel. She has caught a bunch of fishing using these and there is less mess and hassle with these versus live or cut bait when fishing from a kayak.

California bottom fish identification

Fish identification and current fishing regulations need to be taken into consideration. Many of these species are similar in shape, size, and sometimes color. Here are a couple of links that will help anglers identify the species caught and obey the current laws. RESOURCES and California Department of fish and wildlife.

kayak fishing for beginners

Amanda was introduced to bottom fishing northern California just a few years ago. She found both the kayaking and fishing to be very exciting. She shares her story with other anglers here on the Fishing Ladies site.

Amanda’s introduction to bottom fishing northern California

“July 8 2016, it was before sunrise and the first time I had ever driven the famous tourist Highway 1 route. As we began our trek north along the Sonoma coastline, I felt my stomach begin to flutter with excitement in anticipation for what I could not see to the west of me just beyond the cliffs. As the sun began to rise and cast shadows on the heavy fog bank that was still lingering from the night before, I begin to start questioning my commitment to go rock fishing for the first time.

“My sights were fixed on waves crashing onto boulders just offshore from the beach, the ocean disappearing into the fog into no man’s land and then there was the thought of whales, sea lions, seals and the horror stories of the Great White sharks. If I was fishing from a boat, I knew I would have a chance to get back to shore safely. But, I wasn’t going to be in a boat, I was going to be in a 14-foot kayak!

Safety concerns when bottom fishing northern California

“After making it to our launch destination, Matthew, now my husband but at the time boyfriend, went over all safety precautions with me. The water temperatures in Northern California are cold year-round. A dry suit or wet suit is recommended for safety when fishing out of a kayak. On my first trip out I rented a wet suit from a local dive shop.

“A PFD (personal floatation device) is worn at all times. A whistle, light and flag for the kayak, marine radio and a first aid kit are all in our kayaks and more importantly we know how to use them. Don’t get yourself into an emergency situation and then not know how to use something.

lingcod in a kayak

“Matthew went over the launch technique with me several times; wait for the wave to come in, hop in the boat and then go. If you don’t, the waves will roll the kayak over. Once you are in you immediately start paddling to get out over the rolling beach waves. My first launch wasn’t perfect and to be honest, to this day I still feel more comfortable with him helping me launch.

“Once the paddle out began my stomach flutters started to settle and I was excited to get to our fishing spot. After paddling about half a mile off the shoreline we started using our depth finders to look for rocky bottoms in 75-100 feet of water. Once we found the structure we were looking for, we would drop our line, let it sink all the way to the bottom, reel it up a turn or two and wait.

Bottom fishing northern California for rockfish and lingcod

“Oh boy, when the first fish hit my line I squealed like a little kid in excitement! I had no clue what I was going to be reeling up, which turned out to be a decent lingcod. We caught a decent number of fish but the 7-foot swells ended up forcing us off the water.

“On each trip we took out I became more and more independent on the water and not

afraid to handle fishing. There are over 90 different species of rockfish that inhabit the Pacific coast of California. Of course, I only caught a handful or two of those species. My favorite species to catch are lingcod and vermillion rockfish.

“My first trip out led to my obsession for rockfishing along the coast of Northern California. I caught some amazing fish out there and captured even more amazing memories on the water with my husband. Our journey has taken us back to the east coast for now, where we are chasing redfish and continuing to fish for bass! Until we get back out there, I will have to reminisce and live vicariously through our west coast friends the Baumbach’s who now share the same obsession.”

In closing, this article, “A Guide to Kayak Fishing for Beginners” will help anglers catch some of these delicious fish species.

Jim Klopfer

Capt Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. He grew up in Maryland, fishing the Chesapeake Bay waters. Capt Jim has been creating an writing articles about fishing for decades, contributing to many regional and national publications. He also lives part time in the North Carolina mountains where he fishes for trout and other species. Capt Jim Klopfer is a wel rounded angler with 50 years fishing experience, and he loves to share what he has learned with other anglers!

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