Last issue we looked at the basics of buying a kayak. It covered a number of points, such as intended use, fitting the ‘yak to the paddler, along with storage and accessibility.
This month we continue the storage theme, examining the pitfalls, safety issues and clothing.
Some of the obvious design pitfalls to avoid are hatch openings that are too small. It might look great to have three or four hatches along the boat, but are they all useful? On a kayak four-metres or larger, consider how far forward from your seat you need to reach. Make sure that you can slide forward to the front hatch without impaling yourself on your deck-mounted Scotty or your fish-finder. Once at the forward hatch, is it easy to open? How big is the opening? Most forward deck areas are large, so it makes sense to have a large opening. A small round hatch really defeats the purpose.
Can you reach all the way into the storage area from the hatch opening without becoming unstable? Can you easily store larger items and remove them again? Another consideration is the size of the tank-well area. How deep is it? If it’s shallow, gear is easily washed away by a rogue wave or wake. Is there enough room to carry your anchor, chain and rope, as well as other gear? Is it suitable to cover with an insulated cover or to install an insulated bag for your catch? Is your kayak stable enough for you to comfortably reach around to your tank-well area?
Additional features to look for, or add, are things such as deck bungees and eyelets. These are great for stowing extra bits or securing things. The seat is often optional, but may be pivotal in your comfort. The best seats are adjustable and should have: a high back for good support; enable tensioning so it can be moulded to your most comfortable position; be strong enough to hold you in that position; and easily fold down or be removable when transporting your kayak on the car.
Rudders are features that a lot of people think they need, but do bump up the cost of the kayak considerably. Again, consider your intentions. If you are not heading off to open water for a ten-kilometre trip, then there’s every possibility a rudder would be surplus to requirements.
Deck-mounted rod holders are nice, but again, consider your intentions. If you’re only heading out for a couple of hours to catch dinner, then the likelihood is you’ll use one rod at a time and be holding it. If sitting for a long time and you would like your rod just in front of you, then a central rod holder is ideal – but invest in either a flush-mounted or a removable model. Remember, if you need to move forward to your front hatch, you want to do so without painful obstacles.
As for fish-finders, again, consider your intentions, consider your movements on the kayak, and consider transportation. Great fun though!
Clothing is also important for all-round comfort while kayak fishing. Because you sit on top of your kayak and are exposed to the elements, clothing is important. In summer it’s tempting to strip off, but the sun and water reflection can do some serious harm, so wearing a lightweight UV-protective top is a good option. Neoprene shorts are also far more comfortable than board shorts and swim shorts. They don’t soak up the water, they dry quickly, and are slightly padded for sitting.
The great thing is that kayak fishing doesn’t have to stop in winter. Clothing has developed a long way, so it’s no longer necessary to wear a restricting full-length wetsuit to keep warm. You can purchase long paddle pants and tops that are fleecy lined or made from neoprene coated with an insulating surface. These are of lighter weight and allow more movement, whilst still keeping you cosy and dry. Paddle jackets are also a great investment: wind-proof, waterproof and machine washable. Great.
Safety, safety, safety! Call me a killjoy, but seriously, this must be a priority consideration. You don’t drive without a licence or ignore safety features such as seatbelts, headlights and brakes, so why kayak without taking similar responsibility?
Learn some skills. Learn about getting back on your kayak if you come off, and learn how to brace if a wave or the wake from a passing ferry hits you. Learn how to paddle efficiently so that exhaustion doesn’t put you in danger. You’d be surprised how much more fun the fishing is if you are confident in your kayaking technique and safety skills.
Granted, the traditional fishing kayak is a sit-on-top stable vessel, but when you think about it, what are the most likely reasons to cause you to fall off? Adverse weather, exhaustion and boat wakes. In all these cases you will be attempting to get back on your kayak in less than ideal conditions, accompanied by the added challenge of rods, knives, hooks and other potential obstacles complicating the situation. Knowing what to do could save you.
An approved buoyancy aid is not really negotiable, and in a kayak specialist store there is a large selection of kayak-specific buoyancy aids to choose from. Staff will ensure it’s fitted properly and that you are comfortable. Do not use a boat lifejacket when kayaking. The padded support behind the neck will force you into poor paddling position and you could end up with strains and injuries.
Making sure you can be seen is a sensible safety precaution and a personal responsibility. The best way to achieve this when kayaking, and particularly when kayak fishing (as you may not be in a large group), is to wear brightly-coloured clothing and buoyancy aids, and to ensure the highest point is most visible. A high-vis hat is a great start. Better still, get the kayak fitted with a flag. We do this easily enough by fitting a flat screw base to the stern of your kayak so you can screw on your flag when heading out, then remove it again for transportation. If intending to paddle at dusk, dawn or at night, invest in the flag-and-light combination.
Maritime law requires you to carry at least two forms of emergency communication. These could be any combination of mobile phone, VHF, EPIRB, GPS-tracker and flares. Store these in a suitable dry bag close to hand.
Join a club. It’s never wise to kayak alone, so join a club and gain a network of people to go out with. This is also a great way to learn skills or pass on your knowledge.
I certainly don’t profess to be an experienced fisherman, but I do enjoy going out with my partner or our club whenever I can. My strength is that I do have well over twenty years of kayaking experience and truly believe that getting the right kayak for you, the right paddle length, the right buoyancy aid and some lessons in kayaking will make the fishing so much more enjoyable. It’s really worth considering all of this, and no doubt much I haven’t touched on, in order to get the most value for your investment in this sport.
This article is reproduced with permission of
New Zealand Fishing News
2009 - by Julie Reynolds
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited