Becoming popular in the early 2000’s, kayak fishing is an effective way to target popular species and allows you to get into areas that larger craft can’t.
Kayak fishing is a more cost efficient way of getting out on the water. It can be enjoyed by anyone and you don’t need to break the bank to set yourself up. You can fish in almost any location and get to those cracking little fishing holes that boats can’t reach.
With the correct guidance and equipment kayak fishing is an enjoyable and fast growing recreation.
The most essential thing to consider when kayak fishing is safety. Kayaks are small boats that are easily pushed around by the sea conditions and if you’re going to be out in the ocean environment you need to plan for if something goes wrong.
The most important safety items to carry every time you go out kayak fishing are:
Your lifejacket is the single most important item you need when on your kayak. Kayaks are incredibly low to the water and have a much higher capsize risk than larger craft. I always wear mine and quite frankly if you don’t wear one It could be the difference between you coming home.
Never wear a gas inflatable lifejacket onboard a kayak, you are much safer with something that is ready to keep you afloat without needing to pull a cord. If you pull that cord and nothing happens you are out of luck. Hooks and spines can pierce the jacket and the gas bottles need servicing too.
A radio provides the best form of communication out on the water. Channel 16 is a direct lifeline to the Coastguard and to other boats in the area if you happen to get into strife. It is also a popular way to communicate boat to boat.
As a bonus you may hear how the fishing is going around the region on the local working channels. Most radios float and are waterproof, making this better suited than a touchscreen phone (as water on a screen makes it impossible to use)
My PLB is the biggest safety net for my offshore kayak fishing, I would never venture out as far as I do now without one. All my details are registered to the beacon so if I set it off it makes it a whole lot easier for emergency services. The PLB will send a satellite signal to search and rescue telling them I am in this location, and I am in danger come help me! It is a big peace of mind when I am out over 8 kilometres hunting offshore pelagic fish like Albacore Tuna and Kingfish.
Inside my jacket is a pocketknife. This is used in the event I become tangled in rope or fishing line. It’s pretty handy as a backup bait knife too.
All three of these are directly attached to my lifejacket so I can always have them on hand when needed. My phone also comes with me in a waterproof case as a third form of communication, and most of the time I use this to communicate in non-emergency situations.
Other safety items that can help keep you safe while out on the water are:
My kayak is set up with a safety flag for visibility to other boaties, an all-around white light (legal to show for unpowered craft) for early morning and night fishing. Showing one these high above the kayak can be the difference between a nasty incident with a boat under power.
Duct tape is handy for fixing a range of problems like paddle breakage, leaks in the hull or even wrapping around a wound to stop bleeding.
Gloves are always an important part of my kayaking. They provide a barrier between hooks and fish spines. I definitely enjoy the grip when holding onto slippery fish like gurnard. They also make paddling long distances much easier on the hands.
It’s important to be wearing clothing that will enable you to stay warm in the water if you fall out.
During winter a wetsuit or dry suit is definitely a requirement.
But layers of quick drying thermals are necessary in any weather.
A first aid kit sits in behind my seat, as fish spines, hooks and countless other hazards are always going to be a risk, so it pays to be prepared.
The fishing gear you need when fishing off your kayak is very similar to fishing off your boat, except for one thing. Leash all of your gear to the kayak unless you want to lose it overboard! On such a small craft gear goes flying over the side very easily.
So pack all your usual gear including terminal tackle, hook remover, net, pliers, bait knife, scales etc.
What gear you’ll need onboard your kayak
Remember to leash absolutely everything – either to yourself (if it will be needed if you got separated) or the kayak.
All your rods, net, paddle (always) and other important tools should be attached with a bungy or rope.
I recommend use of 1.5m grapnel anchor attached to around 2m of chain and 50m of rope.
I also attach a buoy with a shark clip to keep my anchor a long way behind me to prevent fish swimming around the rope.
Quite often when I am drifting during lure fishing, I find the use of a chute beneficial to slow down my drift. This keeps my line straight and makes it easier to stay over the top of fish.
This isn’t a requirement, but worth the investment into find new spots and working out if there are fish underneath you.
My pod houses my sounder, stores all the fishing gear, food, and tools I may need throughout the day.
Just behind my seat I have an insulated catch bag. The bag holds all my ice, bait, and fish when I decide to take some home. It can fit snapper upwards of 80cm and decent kingfish to over a metre.
Styles of fishing
I take four rods on board with me in order to cover different styles of fishing but really you only need two. Here are some of the styles of fishing I employ on a regular basis aboard my kayak.
When fishing in the upper north island, using soft plastics is spectacular off a small craft like a kayak. I either bring a light jigging rod or softbait rod along with either a 4000 or 5000 size spin reel loaded up with 15lb Hyperglide® 13x Braid.
This is the technique I most often employ when on the water. You can catch such a huge variety of fish when you vary bait types and presentations. I fish with a 6 – 10kg rod and a small high speed reel loaded with 450m of 30lb Inferno Elite Braid. You will often find a Snapper Snatcher® or Snapper Snack® at the pointy end.
This is where I don’t skimp on light gear. When jigging or live-baiting my target is going to be big strong kingfish. These fish are very catchable from a kayak you just need to have the right gear and a bit of luck to land them once hooked. I use a short 5’5” 50lb rod and a jig reel capable of holding 300m of 50lb Rainbow Braid 8x Elite. It also pushes about 15kg of drag when locked up, but I find I can only use about 8kg of it as locking up on a fish in such a small craft creates stability issues.
When I’m out wide I fish for albacore tuna and skipjack tuna with small high speed reels with a good line capacity around 450m. This is to cover the chance of a much larger albacore or yellowfin taking the lure. My rods are rated relatively light at 6-10kg to give more bend to prevent hook pulls.
Where can you go kayak fishing?
Kayaks can launch from almost anywhere. As a personal preference I like to launch in swell under half a metre. But when in competitions this can ramp up to as high as 2m sets.
My rule is to fish whenever the wind is low for the day and that can be from harbours, reefs, sand flats to deep water, and offshore blue water fishing.
What species can you target from a kayak?
- John Dory
- Blue Cod
- Albacore Tuna (offshore)
- Skipjack Tuna