Anyone that has ever been out on a fishing kayak will know that it is one of the most enjoyable methods of fishing.
You feel like you are at one with the elements. You are sitting on the surface with nothing but a couple of centimeters of plastic between you and the water.
You are able to move around with more stealth than any other boat on the water, you can get to places that are completely inaccessible from the shore or that you wouldn’t dream of bringing a boat into.
I’m sure that we all started out fishing from the shore, perched on top of a rocky outcrop somewhere thinking that if only I could get to that bay over there I would have access to virgin grounds; or all of the fish are just beyond my casting range, if only I could get out to where the fish are holding.
Kayaks open up so many more options for your fishing.
You are however more exposed to the weather and sea conditions than at any other type of fishing.
With a little bit of forward planning though you can get the best from your sport and enjoy all that it can offer you.
In this article I hope to examine some of the main issues that affect a kayak angler and how with a little bit of preparation to can overcome them.
The Most Important Steps For A Perfect Fishing Trip With Your Kayak
How Is The Weather?
One of the first issues that affect a kayaker is the weather. Strong winds can have two main effects on a yakker.
If the wind is blowing “on shore” i.e. from the sea towards the land, the conditions can create rough seas which at best make yakking uncomfortable and at worst downright dangerous.
Exactly where you draw the line depends very much on the yakker and their experience levels.
What one person classifies as good conditions, another may deem to be unsafe, it comes down to person choice and people should be conscious that they do not want to caught out in weather where they do not feel comfortable or safe in conditions that are well beyond their experience range.
As your experience levels grow, you will be better able to handle some rougher weather but do not feel pressured into going out in conditions that you know are beyond your capabilities.
On the other hand, “off shore” winds i.e. blowing off the land, are equally or more dangerous to the yakker. From the shore, conditions may look ideal, but once away from the shelter of the shore the conditions may be completely different.
An offshore wind has the potential to push you away from the coast, out into rougher seas where you are then faced with the issue of trying to battle the winds as you seek shelter again.
Other weather conditions that you need to consider when planning your session are the elements.
Bright warm sunny days carry the risk of dehydration, heat stroke and sunburn.
Yakkers should always bring a bottle of water with them when planning their trip; this will help you overcome issue like dehydration (a problem even on cold days due to the exertion involved) and heat stroke.
Cold days require consideration of the effects of hypothermia. We will look at appropriate clothing later in the article.
Remember though that the weather you experience before you get on the water may change several times during the day.
How Are Tidal Conditions And Currents?
Tidal conditions and currents can be a yakker’s best friend or worst enemy, depending on how well they plan their session.
Generally speaking when the tide is flooding currents in the region will run in a certain direction, and dropping tides run in the opposite direction; this varies with the area you are in and is subject to local variations.
For example on the East Coast flooding tides run north and a dropping tide runs south.
The strength of the currents varies depending on size of the tidal ranges, which are available in tide tables.
The bigger the height of the tide the more water movement and therefore the stronger the currents.
When planning their trip, a kayak angler needs to consider the direction that the currents will be running.
For instance, if you want to fish a certain mark on the East Coast for two hours either side of high water, then you would have to launch south of the mark, allowing the flooding tide to carry you north to the mark and the dropping tide to return you to your launch site.
Currents can be subject to sudden and often invisible variations, depending on the local topography.
If an area shallows quite quickly or the sea funnels through a narrow, then the currents will increase.
Predicting conditions exactly will be difficult, but with some advance knowledge and skills, you can play it conservatively until you can evaluate the reality at close quarters.
Get the currents wrong and you will know all about it, on one of my first sessions I did just that, I launched at Bray head and headed south on a dropping tide, got to my fishing grounds and anchored up, when it came to heading home I was now paddling against the tide and a journey that took 15 mins on the way out took 55 mins on the way back!
In areas where there are current tables, you will have a good idea of the direction and speed of the currents in the shipping channels. There may also be back eddies behind obstructions.
No excursion planning would be complete without checking your charts. These are an invaluable tool in preparing for any session. They not only give you details of obvious things like depths but also of currents and hazards such as rocks that expose as the tide drops, shipping lanes and so on. This is in my view point an essential piece of information to use for planning your session.
From an angling perspective they offer invaluable information like bottom composition which allows you make an educated guess as to what species might be in a certain area. This requires you to draw on your own knowledge and experiences but gives you a head start before you hit the water as it allows you to target specific species rather than just fish and hope.
Prepare The Launch Site
One of your major considerations that may be easily overlooked for your session is the launch site.
As mentioned earlier, currents at your launch site is an important consideration before you ever get near the water.
Other considerations need to be factored into your plan for the launch site for your session.
Unless you have a trolley you are going to want to be able to park somewhere next to the water.
You will want somewhere that allows you to have easy access to the water, no point trying to launch somewhere that you cannot step out of the yak onto dry land at the end of the session.
For inexperience yakkers, selecting a launch site that is sheltered from surf can be the difference between getting out and not.
With some experience you can learn how to deal with surf, but its best to avoid surf if you are only getting started.
Your clothing considerations need to be one of your main considerations before leaving the shore.
Remember that once out on the water, you are stuck with what you have with you.
As mentioned earlier, heat stroke, dehydration, sunburn hyperthermia (overheating) and hypothermia (cooling of the body core) are real dangers when yakking.
A membrane dry suit, whilst expensive is the best all round option for yakking. They do not provide heat insulation in themselves but keep you dry and keep the wind off of you, which in itself makes a huge effect. They can be dressed up underneath to provide a layering effect which in cold weather provides an essential function.
A hat is an essential no matter what the weather, in warmer weather a baseball hat is ideal as it keeps the sun off your head and keeps you cool, while in the winter a wolly hat is a must in planning your trip as so much heat is lost through the head.
Another essential regardless of the weather is Polaroid sunglasses. These prevent you from getting sun blindness as the reflection of the sun on the water magnifies the effect of the sun.
One element that cannot be over emphasised in preparing for getting afloat is practice, practice, practice capsize drills until you are confident that you can get back into the yak in the event that you go overboard.
What ever you do, where ever you go, when ever you go there. STAY SAFE.
Always tell someone you plan, where your going, when you plan on getting back, how to contact you.
See you on the water at some stage