11 Essential Saltwater Kayak Fishing Tips For Newbies
By: Joe Simonds on May 10, 2016
Whatever you want to call someone that is new to saltwater kayak fishing, this blog post will help you have a better experience out fishing in your yak.
Well, it’s jammed packed full of the top 11 saltwater kayak fishing tips that some of the most advanced kayak anglers said they wished they knew when they first started kayak fishing.
But don’t think this post is only for beginners…
Even many of you seasoned kayak anglers can learn a thing or two from these tips and I’m certain you seasoned yak anglers will be nodding your head in agreement with these tips.
Saltwater Kayak Fishing Tip #1
“Don’t Go Cheap On Your Paddle”
When you start kayak fishing, you will be surprised at how much ground you end up covering in your kayak.
And you will also be surprised at how important a good paddle is when you have to cover a lot of ground…
After talking to many seasoned saltwater kayak anglers, most of them give the following advice:
- Don’t worry about getting the nicest kayak day one. You can always upgrade your kayak down the road. However, it is wise to invest in a good paddle.
- You can always take the paddle with you when you upgrade your yak down the road.
Not only will a nice paddle help you in terms of speed and efficiency, but it can even help out your hands/arms in terms of fatigue. Also, a good kayak paddle can help reduce the number of blisters you get on your hands during a long session of paddling.
Don’t go cheap on the paddle!
Saltwater Kayak Fishing Tip #2
This lesson always seemed to be learned at the worst time while kayak fishing…
Here is a story that might sound familiar to some of you veteran kayak anglers that have experienced mosquitos the hard way…
You’ve located a really cool hidden trail in the mangroves…
You lower your rods down, you duck down, you pull yourself through the opening, and Pa-POW… uncharted new skinny water for you to fish!
You see some swirls in front of you, and you start to notice mullet in the water and small crabs in the mangrove roots.
This is a dream come true for any saltwater kayak angler in Florida.
Or is it?
All of a sudden, you feel the bite on your neck…
Then your hand…
Before you know it, you are covered with blasted mosquitos, and they are unbearable without any bug protection.
Don’t learn this the hard way and have to leave an amazing fishing spot due to pesky insects. Put a bottle of insect repellent in your kayak and keep it there.
You will be glad you did.
Saltwater Kayak Fishing Tip #3
“Waterproof Camera with Mount”
Many times the kayak angler finds himself or herself out there all alone on the water.
And that’s not a bad thing by any means.
In fact, it’s one of the pros of kayak fishing because you can do it without the help of other people (however, we highly recommend going kayak fishing with a partner in the beginning).
But nothing is worse than catching a trophy fish and having no way to take a picture to show your friends and family.
And let’s be honest with each other, if there is no picture or no witness, the catch might as well have not even happened…
So make sure to always take a waterproof camera (preferably something like a GoPro with the wireless remote that you can have handy at all times) and have a mount where you can position the camera while sitting down.
Then, when you land a lunker out in the yak, you can have the camera rolling and pull out as many screenshots and footage to show off to your friends as you need.
Don’t be the angler that tries to take selfies with his or her cell phone and ends up dropping it in the water when the fish starts shaking!
Saltwater Kayak Fishing Tip #4
“Anchor, Push Pin, or Power Pole”
Ask a seasoned kayak angler to tell you their first “sleigh ride” story, and they will probably have an epic tale about how a large fish literally pulled them in the kayak while they fought it (sometimes miles).
And if they were fishing in skinny water, they might even have a tale or two about a fish pulling them right into the mangroves (I have heard of numerous anglers that have had their rods snap while getting pushed into the mangroves while fighting a fish).
Then there is the wind…
The wind can be one of your worst enemies while kayak fishing.
Not only does it make it tough to paddle into the wind, but when fighting a fish, the wind can play a critical role as well.
Make sure to always have either an anchor, a push pin, or some sort of “power pole” to help you hold your ground while out kayak fishing.
There are numerous ways to rig up a kayak with an anchor from a simple “dumbell anchor” like this…
All the way to elaborate pully systems like this from Dizzy Big Fish:
And one of the more popular methods today is the kayak power pole.
Just like a boat power pole but smaller (and slightly more affordable).
Just know that there will be many moments while kayak fishing where you will use something like an anchor, push pin or power pole, so don’t go cheap on this one either.
And on a windy day, you will be glad you paid for it!
Saltwater Kayak Fishing Tip #5
Sunscreen & Sun Protection Clothing
Start taking notice of the top kayak anglers on Facebook and Instagram.
One trend you will continue to see is that more and more of them are covered up and protecting themselves against the sun’s harmful rays.
Because kayak fishing isn’t like being in a boat with a nice T-top, cover or cabin… there is nothing between you and the sun…
And when you combine that direct exposure with the fact you are close to the water’s reflective surface, it only takes a short kayak session to do some serious sun damage to your skin.
So here is what many of the top kayak anglers would recommend today in terms of sun protection:
- A lightweight, breathable, sun protection hat (like this Salt Strong Performance Fishing hat)
- 50+ UPF Rated long-sleeve microfiber performance fishing shirt (like this top-selling, high-quality shirt from Salt Strong)
- Either a fishing neck/face buff (like this 50+ UPF sun neck/face gaiter from Salt Strong)
- Or a hoodie to cover your neck and ears (like this 50+ UPF Sun-Rated Hoodie from Salt Strong)
- Fishing pants (like these “convertible” fishing pants from Columbia)
- Waterproof Sunscreen with Zinc Oxide
- Chapstick with Zinc Oxide (like this 30 SFP with zinc from Dr. Dan’s)
- Polarized Sunglasses are a MUST!
Saltwater Kayak Fishing Tip #6
Proper Fish Handling Gear
I can still recall my very first saltwater kayak fishing trip and what went wrong…
After a short paddle out to a grass flat, I was casting my DOA lure and POW!
But after a few quick runs, I realized the fish was a jack…
After finally getting it to the side of the yak, I quickly saw that the jack had completely swallowed my lure and hook.
The worst part was I completely forgot to bring any pliers!
Fortunately, I had some nail cutters on me to cut the line. The jack did swim away fine, but it would have been a much easier operation if I had the right tools.
Just glad it wasn’t a catfish!
At any rate, here is a list of the proper fishing handling equipment you should have with you at all times while kayak fishing:
- Fish Grip (aka Boga Grip or Lip Grip) to hold the fish
- Line cutters
- Gloves (optional)
- Stringer (optional if you plan on keeping your fish to eat)
Here is a short video of kayak angler Nick Lytle showing how to properly handle fish while kayaking.
Saltwater Kayak Fishing Tip #7
Plenty Of Liquids
It’s one thing to have a boat full of fish after a long day of kayak fishing, but if you run out of water and get dehydrated, no amount of fish is going to quench your thirst.
And last time I checked, you can’t drink a fish (but don’t tell that to Nick “BrookFieldAngler” Doumel in the picture above).
So do yourself a favor and bring plenty of liquids…
- Bring water
- Bring Gatorade
- Or anything else that you can throw in your yak (or place in a small cooler on your kayak).
You’ll be glad you did, especially on an especially hot day (or windy day when you are paddling or peddling like crazy).
And if you are kayaking with a friend, make sure they have enough water as well. There is nothing worse than going out fishing with someone that ends up drinking all of your liquids!
Saltwater Kayak Fishing Tip #8
“No Bananas On Board The Kayak”
The #1 Rule on any fishing vessel is to not carry around bananas.
And just because you see this kayak angler above with a banana in his mouth while holding some stripers, what you don’t see is all of the bad luck he had afterward… just kidding, I don’t know anything about this guy’s trip.
But why take a chance with bad luck bananas on board your kayak?
It’s just not worth the risk!
Especially if you are kayak fishing by yourself.
If you need to know more about why bananas are considered bad luck while fishing, click here to see the top blog on bad luck bananas.
Saltwater Kayak Fishing Tip #9
Must-Have Safety Gear
If you only take one thing away from this blog post, please let it be this safety piece.
If you don’t have a safe trip while out kayak fishing, then all of the other tips in this blog are somewhat irrelevant… and who cares about catching a fish if you have a serious safety issue.
To prevent and prepare for any emergency problem while kayak fishing, here is a comprehensive list of everything top kayak anglers have listed as must have on board your kayak:
- Life Vest (aka PFD, aka Personal Flotational Device): In some states, wearing a PFD while kayak fishing is mandatory (and it should be everywhere). Regardless of how great of a swimmer you are, emergencies do happen, and everyone should wear a PFD while kayak fishing (especially if fishing alone).
- Cutting tool (to cut line if it gets wrapped around you, to cut anchor line if there is an emergency, etc.)
- VHF Radio (if going offshore)
- Whistle or some other sounding device
- Water Weld (putty that welds any holes or cracks even while wet) – you can see it here on Amazon
- Fishing Rod Leash (especially if you are offshore going after big fish)
- Paddle Leash
- Headlamp (if fishing after dark)
- Some sort of elevated light when you are kayaking at night or early in the morning (like this Hobie light and safety flag combo)
- Small first aid kit (you will be surprised how many different ways there are to puncture your skin while out fishing)
And the best advice… don’t ever go kayak fishing alone when you first start out. Go with a friend or find someone with some experience that doesn’t mind if you tag along.
Finally, ALWAYS give a loved one your “Float Plan” (aka exactly where you plan on fishing, where you are launching your yak, how far you will be going, and how long you will be gone).
Saltwater Kayak Fishing Tip #10
I’m not sure where you plan on kayak fishing, but if your weather is anything like Florida’s weather, you can count on some random rain (and sometimes lightning) storms coming out of nowhere.
Many of these random storms get pretty nasty.
And if you kayak fish enough, there will be a day when you get caught in some rain (or a ton of it like Erik did above).
Either way, it’s not like you are in a high powered inshore boat with a 300 horsepower engine to outrun a storm headed your way…
So when you do get caught in between a rain storm and land, you will be certainly glad you have some rain gear. It won’t fix all of your problems, but it certainly will make the ride back in to the launch more bearable.
Note: To see the wild video of Erik trying to outrun this lighting storm, click here now.
Saltwater Kayak Fishing Tip #11
Earlier in the safety section, we mentioned ALWAYS having a “Float Plan”, which basically let’s a loved one know where you are fishing and what your plan is in case of an emergency (like you not showing up for dinner).
But it’s also important to point out that any good fishing trip needs a plan!
Don’t just show up to the kayak launch and make a wild guess on where you should try fishing.
Spend some time with maps (like Google or Bing), check out what the tides are doing, and even get on some forums or check out local fishing reports to see what (and where) people are using to catch certain fish.
Moreover, have a plan on exactly what kind of fish you will be targeting.
It always shocks me when I ask someone what they are fishing for and they say, “Anything that will bite…”. And although I realize there is some humor to it, many times the anglers that say it have no idea what they are targeting.
How can you target something if you don’t know what it is, where it hangs out, and what it likes to eat!
Have a plan!
And then have a backup plan in case Plan A is a bust (because it will happen often).
If you need help targeting inshore fish like redfish, snook, and trout, I highly recommend you read “The Inshore Manifesto”.
It’s completely free and has 3 breakthroughs that any inshore angler can benefit from.
Click here to read it now.
Saltwater kayak fishing can be incredibly fun, but just like any type of fishing, there are certain tips that can significantly increase your chances of an enjoyable trip.
Most important of them all, is taking the proper safety precautions while out on the yak.
If you fish enough from a kayak, the unexpected will eventually happen…
Whether it be a rogue rainstorm, a big fish wrapping you up and flipping you out of the kayak, or simply a hot, windy day that drains you and leaves you out of fluids, just know something will eventually happen.
Stay safe out there, have fun, wet a line and get your friends and your kids out on the water.
Did we miss any must-know saltwater kayak fishing tips?
Let us know in the comments.
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