10 Tips for Kayak Fishing

When you combine two beloved sports like fishing and kayaking, you can be sure to enjoy your adventures. Kayaking is an interactive, engaging, and inexpensive way to go fishing, but you have to make sure you have all the proper gear and learn a few techniques before heading out on the water. If you are planning a kayak fishing trip, have a look at these ten tips for kayak fishing to help you make the most out of your next adventure.

10 Tips for Kayak Fishing

Credit: commons.wikimedia.org
Kayak Fishing on Bear Creek Lake with Jim Shank



    1. Selecting Your Kayak

When it comes time to choosing the fishing kayak that is right for you, it can become overwhelming due to the amount of options on the market. 

Before you purchase your kayak, ask yourself these questions:

  • What type of water will I be kayaking on most?

  • What will be my largest target?

  • Will I want to have the ability to do fly fishing?

  • How will I transport and store the kayak?

  • Do I need to consider stability, comfort, ease of use, or storage?



When you know the answers to these questions, you will be able to narrow down your choices to select the perfect fishing kayak for you.



    2. Pole Position

Keeping your fishing pole in the right position can prevent losing your catch or flipping your kayak. When you are out on the water, you should have the kayak facing into the wind- this will save you energy from fighting to keep your kayak in line. Fishing with the wind will also help move you along the water. Using the wind to your advantage is very important when you are kayak fishing.

In addition to using the wind, you should also bear in mind the following:

  • Choose to begin fishing in an area so you are upwind of where you would like to go next.

  • Plan on casting your line downwind 90% of the time.

  • Your kayak should be anchored at least a full cast away from your first intended downwind target. Cast in this area.

  • Pull in your anchor, drift, and re-anchor it again after you have drifted to the next intended casting area.

  • Keep making your way downwind until you no longer have any viable shallow-water fishing areas. (Or when you have caught enough fish!)

  • Move the kayak sideways to the next good spot.



    3. Dressing to Swim

When you are preparing for a kayak fishing trip, you should always dress with the expectation of swimming. This will prepare you for the dreaded kayak flip should it happen. Ensure that you are wearing a Personal Floatation Device (or PFD) in addition to any clothing that is suitable to being worn in water. You should also put any items that cannot get wet in water proof bags.



    4. Rigging to Flip

Rigging a kayak to flip simply means that you should have everything in your kayak secured or prepared in the event the kayak flips. 

Before you launch the kayak, check the following:

  • Are all your rods secured?

  • Do your paddles float or do you have a leash for them?

  • Are any non-water proof items stowed away in a water proof bag?

  • Are any items that cannot float secured or stored safely?



    5. Staying Centered

Out on the water, you should remember this general rule: ‘Where your head goes, your body follows’. If you keep your head looking straight and have a good posture, your body (and therefore your kayak) will stay straight in the direction you wish to go. When you keep yourself upright and keep your head facing straight, you will have an easier time staying on and directing the kayak no matter how much it rolls.

Although it can take time to master this simple trick, it will soon become second nature every time you are in your kayak.



    6. Reeling In a Catch

After all your patience and scouting the perfect fishing spot, eventually, something will bite. When you feel that tug on your line, you will want to reel it in as fast as you can so you can actually make that catch you’ve been waiting for. 

When the moment comes, make sure you have success by:

  • Straddling for Stability- If you feel that your kayak is leaning too much, simply lower both of your legs into the water. This will center your gravity and ensure that the kayak does not tip no matter how big the fish is.

  • Facing the Fish- Once you begin to reel the fish in, prepare for a fight. Keep the tip of your fishing rod facing the bow of the kayak to prevent the fish from going in circles around the stern. This will also assist in swinging the kayak around to face the fish and keeping clear of the line by using the fish’s own energy.



    7. Kayak Angling Skills

Fishing in a kayak takes some amount of skill as well as technique. Skills needed for a successful trip range from paddling, reeling in your line, balance and control, and steering the kayak just to name a few. Various water types and weather conditions also play a part in how skillful and prepared you should be.

A few major points to keep in mind when you are out on the water include:

  • Paddle position- When the paddle is not in use, it should lie flat horizontally across your lap. Kayakers are always on the move, so this gives you easy access to your paddle when you need it. It is also important to practice paddling with one hand.

  • Drifting- In general, you will be able to locate more fish when the kayak is drifting. You will be able to control the direction of the drift and paddle at a minimum rate. While your kayak will never be fully straight when you are drifting, you can easily correct this by placing your paddle in the water to direct the kayak where you want it to go.

  • Length of the Line- When you are casting out your line, you should always, (and this means always), have the length of your line match the length of your rod. If you throw out too much or too little, you will have a harder time reeling in your catch. With the rod’s length of line you will be able to grab the line to help reel in the fish or grab your bait while at the same time working with the slack in the line.



    8. Transporting Your Kayak

One reason fishing with a kayak is so popular is due to the fact that it does not need to have a trailer. The ease of portability is attractive to many fishermen. Not to mention, kayaks can often take you to more remote and hard to reach fishing spots. 

When you need to get your kayak to the launch site, you can use several different techniques which include:

  • Having an inflatable kayak

  • Using a van or truck

  • Rigging your kayak to a rack on top of your vehicle

  • Carrying your kayak- with the help of another person

  • Using a cart that has all terrain wheels that can stand up to mud or sand



    9. Handling Fish

While releasing your fish is considered one of the best ways to handle them, you will need to know what to do when you do want to keep your catch. If you do end up keeping a few, you should practice conservation of the species by taking only what you would need for dinner.



Any fish that are caught with the intention to keep will need to be stored. Smaller fish can be stored in a cooler with some ice, while medium sized fish will need to be stored in a fish bag also containing ice. Larger fish can be wrapped in a towel or netting and strapped to the deck of the kayak. It is also a good idea to carry a burlap sack to help keep the fish wet and it reduces the amount of fish slime.



Using a fish stringer is also an option, but it can attract unwanted attention from sharks (if you are in salt water) or alligators (if you are in their fresh water regions). If you decide to use a fish stringer, just make sure it has a quick release system if the shark or alligator decides they want that fish more than you do.





    10. Safety First

Kayak fishing is a fun sport that can also be dangerous at times. Always remember to keep safety first and follow these general rules:

general rules

  • Let someone know where you are going and how long you intend to be gone.

  • Fish with a friend.

  • Check the weather ahead of time for the entire duration of your trip and plan accordingly.

  • If there are signs of lightning, get the kayak (and yourself) of the water as soon as possible. When you paddle to shore make sure your paddles are not upright so they do not act as lightning rods. Once you are on shore, stay low and reduce your contact with the ground by getting into your car as soon as possible.

  • In the event of fog, stay off larger waters or stay close to the shore. This will prevent you from going in circles or getting struck by a larger boat.

  • Avoid exposure to the elements by wearing proper clothing and bringing spare clothes. Hypothermia is a threat, even if it is not cold. In contrast, make sure to also protect yourself from sunburn by wearing protective clothing and sunscreen.

  • Watch out for sharp teeth and hooks when you have reeled in your catch.



Kayak fishing can be a relaxing and fun way to spend a day or weekend. If you are new to the sport and would like to see some of the skills demonstrated, please refer to the following video. Even if you are not new to the sport, you might end up learning something new.


Now that you are aware of some kayak fishing tips and techniques, you can enjoy your kayaking fishing trips even more. With practice and diligence, and of course time, you will become a skilled kayak fisherman who is a formidable foe for any fish lurking in the waters.

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