Having grown up in the lower mainland and learning to fish the lakes, rivers, and saltwater of British Columbia, I moved to Alberta for my career in 1987. In 2009 I acquired my first fishing kayak, an original Ocean Kayak Trident, and my journey began. With many small lakes (and ponds—yes, in Alberta, some are actually called “ponds”), the kayak offered easy access to unique fisheries. In 2013 our family left for Houston, Texas, where the exposure to kayak fishing was profound. Tournaments are available every weekend and the endless amount of shallow water fishery in the intercoastal waterways is immense. In 2016, we returned to semi-retirement on Vancouver Island, where I realized the sport/hobby is still relatively new. This is the first of a series of articles that will answer some of the fundamental questions about kayak fishing and the opportunities for it in the Pacific Northwest. So why kayak fishing?
Access To All Types Of Water
I’m an avid fisherman. I have my aluminum power boat to hit the fishing grounds, drop some traps, and troll a few tacks. Most of us saltwater fishermen like our powerboats. But what if you could have that same experience from a personally powered watercraft? This is what kayak fishing offers and more. On the ocean, in my kayak I can pretty much go where every other fisherman goes, although it takes a little longer to get there. If you think this isn’t possible, have you ever been to the Hump at Kitty Coleman or French Creek, the Fingers off Neck Point in Nanaimo, or the Wall at Bamfield? That’s us out there offshore! So what about the traps? I don’t know that I will venture into the prawn traps in my kayak but yes, I do have collapsible crab traps that often go out with me.
For those who prefer shore fishing, isn’t it frustrating when the fish are just a little too far out? Not for us kayak fishermen (and yes, we can stand to cast). With the kayaks there are few limitations. Whether it’s shallow near- shore fishing on the flood tide or heading offshore, we can manage it all. Now if freshwater is more to your liking, lake kayaking offers the opportunity to access more water than float tubes or pontoon boats, as well as more lakes than small powerboats, since no boat launch is required. And last, if you like hiking to your secret spot on the river, why not have your own drift boat, aka kayak?
Put in at your favorite spot and spend the whole day fishing the different pools and runs of the river, many of which are inaccessible through walk-and-wade. The opportunities are endless. Now that you’re hooked, here are some of the other benefits.
Kayaks Provide Lower Entry To Costs
With fuel prices on the rise, new tariffs on boats, and the unavoidable annual repair and maintenance, our passion for fishing is not cheap. Kayaks offer a different means of accessing the water while experiencing the great fishing around us. Cost of entry, which I will cover in more detail in another article, can range from $800 to $5,000. After that, your only fuel costs are a few Power Bars and some Gatorade. With kayaks, there are limited repair and maintenance costs, and they are much easier to transport. For less than my annual operating and maintenance cost (boat and trailer) I can own a new kayak (OK, let’s be honest—I have more than one kayak) to last for years to come.
You can use the same gear, same tackle, and same methods you’ve always used. I do have a downrigger on one of my kayaks and troll to 150 ft, but this is not a requirement. The only caveat I put on tackle, especially for first timers, is you may want to use less expensive gear on your kayak as the “gunnels” aren’t as high, and things can go overboard quite quickly (I know from experience).
A New Fishing Experience
If you’re from my generation, you remember the Wide World of Sports introduction: “The Thrill of Victory or the Agony of Defeat.” We have all experienced this fishing. Now imagine this: sitting in the peaceful confines of your own personal watercraft, no other sounds around but nature, lost in your own thoughts … and you hook up! Whether it be a cutty, a bow, or a small-mouth in the freshwater, or a salmon or halibut in the saltwater, each offers a unique experience with stories to last a lifetime.
The Fitness Effect
Having transitioned from a six pack to a “dad bod” over the past few years, any and all exercise is a good thing. Kaya- king is surprisingly easy. The biggest effort is usually unloading and loading up at the end of the day. Whether you choose to paddle, pedal, or other (they make some kayaks with electric motors if you’re so inclined), you can follow your passion and burn some calories at the same time. At the end of the day it’s the best of all worlds. While not a total replacement for my powerboat, my kayak allows
me to fish most of the same waters and experience more of what our coastline offers. The slower, more relaxed paddle or pedal to my spot allows me to observe so much more of our Pacific Northwest’s amazing scenery and nature. As an added bonus, kayaking also offers great quality time with family and friends. The quiet solitude of family paddling can lead to a whole new level of conversation and connection. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Next up: things to consider when buying a kayak. Until then, stay safe on the water and take someone fishing.
If you have questions related to any of the above you can email me at [email protected].