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Today is September 19, 2018

Outdoors

Kayaks: Fishing magic

Kayaks: Fishing magic

Fishing boats take on a great many forms. From small johnboats to power-packed bass rigs, all serve well for their intended purpose. But in recent years, one other vessel has entered the fishing scene and generated countless converts, drawn no doubt to the convenience these boats afford. That vessel is the kayak. For much of the fishing offered on thousands of acres of lakes and other thousands of mile of streams, kayaks can be a top choice.

Kayaks come in a variety of persuasions. There are the tiny units used in that thrilling pursuit of whitewater. Bobbing along and through rapids like a leaf caught in the current, these things are quite marvelous. But their strong point is that whitewater, not the fishing scene —though they could be pressed into service for such I suppose. Move up in kayak size, say 10- or 12-footers, even longer, and you are entering a category that gives fishing a breath of fresh air.  

Why are kayaks becoming a preferred means of getting around fishing waters? The reasons are many. For one, they are lightweight. No need for a trailer or outboard. Just put a rack on top of a car or SUV or throw the boat in the bed of a pickup and you are set to go.  And if there is no launch ramp near the fishing spot, no worries. Simply slide the kayak down the bank. That lack of weight makes such chores fairly easy.

There is also the matter of water depth. Kayaks float in water so shallow that a big, heavy boat would be grounded. Not the kayak. It will glide along in a few inches of water. This permits the angler to fish the shallows and/or navigate these to get to rich fishing areas that are isolated by those shallows or even debris such as downed trees. This element of the kayak is a definite plus.

Additionally, that weight factor and shallow draft enhance the actual getting around. Kayaks demand little propulsion to push them forward or backward. Very little if any tugging or hard paddling is required. The smallest paddle stroke will send a kayak scooting.

Some may conclude that kayaks are extremely unstable and turn over with so little as a whisper. While it is true that kayaks are not made for walking around in like a bass boat, they are reasonable stable—particularly those larger ones most suitable for fishing. The primary reason for this is the low center of gravity. Generally speaking, the user sits on a seat that rests on the bottom of the boat. This puts the greatest weight at water level, and that somewhat mitigates that wobbly, teetering sensation and real threat of capsizing. Regardless, always wear a personal floatation device while using any boat! That is pretty much a legal requirement and is certainly a wise practice. Never neglect this obvious precaution.

So, if you have decided that you might like a kayak and try it on the fishing waters, where do you start in the decision making of what to get? First may be price. Kayaks can run from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand.  That aside, there are several other points to look at before a purchase.

Do you want a one- or two-person boat? There is no turning back after getting a one-person unit. It is for one person! And a two-person is best balanced and maneuvered with two people. Simple conclusions. Still, a two-person can be handled fairly well by one if some type ballast is put in the unused compartment, say with something like a loaded ice chest. Not ideal, but it can help. I do this regularly with my canoe, a craft built for two and featuring as many seats.

How will you use the kayak? Since this piece is about fishing from that craft, it is logical to assume that the kayak will be used for that most of the time. If so, you’ll need some storage space. Most boats come with a dry compartment or two and may even have a flat deck with some type tie-downs. These are essential for fishing gear. And maybe even a rod holder or two. You may be able to add some of these extras aftermarket if the boat doesn’t come so equipped, but be sure this is feasible.

Then there is the matter of propulsion. You’ll need a kayak paddle. Don’t bother with the one-blade version common to other boats. Get a paddle specifically designed for kayaks. These will have a blade on each end for the proper this-side-that-side paddling method. Otherwise, the kayak, being as responsive as it is, will tend to spin too far to the right or left while you are changing sides with a one-blade paddle.

And if funds allow, some manufacturers produce kayaks that are pushed along by fins, these propelled with pedals much like a bicycle. The only issue with this is that the fins obviously go below the water’s surface and might impede travel through shallows. Fins can, however, be put in one position that puts them close to the boat’s bottom, allowing poling or paddling through that skinny water. Pedaling rather than paddling is a true boost to the angler. But expect to pay a sizable amount for these units.

Is it time to try a kayak? You bet. A new fishing experience awaits.

Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. His newest book is “Rambling Through Pleasant Memories.” Order from Amazon.com or Kinton’s website: www.tonykinton.com.

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