Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A true kayak angler is hooked for life by a plastic boat

The author shows show a fine snook he caught from his NuCanoe Frontier while fishing on Sarasota Bay.
You're either a kayak angler or you're not.

There's really no in between.

From my experience, I've determined there are two types of kayak anglers: 1. Those who truly love the sport and recognize it as an effective way to stalk and catch fish; 2. Those who would rather fish from a boat but can't afford one (yet).

I'm among those in No. 1. I've owned boats, but can guarantee I'll never own another boat unless I'm physically unable to fish from a kayak down the road.

If you fall into the second category, you're really not a kayak angler. You're in transition.

I'm convinced that fishing from a kayak gives you the best opportunity to be catch fish. If the fish don't know you're there, you're ahead of the game.

Think about it for a second. A boat displaces water. That displaced water is transmitted out in the form of pressure waves. And those waves are warning signals to the fish. In addition, the fish can hear outboard-motor noise and electric trolling motors.

I'm not saying that powerboats are ineffective platforms from which to fish. I just believe that kayaks are much more stealthy and allow you to sneak up on fish.

In addition, you can get into areas that are unreachable by boat.

Gasparilla Sound is about 45 minutes south of my home in Sarasota, Fla. During winter, tides get extremely low around the new and full moons -- particularly if we have northeast winds. I can launch my kayak, paddle to Whidden Creek and have the area to myself until the tide turns and allows the bigger powerboats to enter. On occasion, I've fished four hours or more before seeing the first powerboat.

Catching fish is the prime reason I fish from a kayak. And let me advise you my production has gone up significantly since I made the conversion.

I first began kayak fishing in 1986. That was when you could hit your favorite body of water, paddle to your spot and never see another kayak. A lot has changed since the early days.

Today, kayaks are plentiful. I rarely make a trip without seeing other kayak anglers.

And there have been  multitudes of changes in the industry over the years. The biggest and best change has been the advent of the "fishing" kayak.

As you might imagine, people began kayak fishing out of whatever kayak was available. Typically, it was a sit-inside kayak (SIK). They're fine, but rather confining.

The manufacturers realized there was a whole new world out there and began producing sit-ontop kayaks (SOT). They were more open, more comfortable and better suited for fishing. They offered space for tackle and other gear.

And, as you might expect, the sit-ontops have evolved over the years.

Today, there's a veritable armada of choices in fishing kayaks.

I own a fleet of NuCanoe Frontiers. They're 12-foot boats that I feel are the best on the market when it comes to fishing. I love their simplicity, openness and stability.  With the NuCanoe's track system, you can add accessories to suit your needs.

The NuCanoe Frontiers is perfect for fly fishing. The open cockpit is the ultimate stripping basket. In addition, you can stand up to cast, which only serves lengthen your cast.

The Frontiers is 41 inches wide. That makes the boat the most stable in the industry. I've had clients in their 70s stand up and fish.

I've had people question the speed of the NuCanoe Frontier, implying that it's slow.  First, most of those questioning have never paddled one ("I've heard it's slow.").  Second, it paddles very easily. I've never had a problem keeping up with anyone.

In the fastest fishing kayak, you can consistently paddle 3.5 miles per hour. What's the big deal about speed anyway?

Standing up in a kayak is imperative for me. I carry a 9 1/2-foot push pole which I often use to slowly traverse a flat or edge to look for fish. I've found many hot spots by polling.

In fact, I found the mother lode of "gator" spotted seatrout by poling an edge in Sarasota a couple of years. While poling that edge, I looked down and saw what appeared to be a school of large snook lying on the sand bottom. But they turned out to be hefty trout.

I left (I'm sure they know I was there) and returned a couple of hours later. I caught and released a dozen trout from 4 to 6 pounds.

I've fished that area many times since and done pretty well. My best morning was when the smallest trout I landed weighed 6 pounds and the largest slightly more than 9!

I have a powerboat friend who rarely does much in that area. I'm sure the fish know of his presence long before he gets into casting range.

Of course, the biggest secret is to be on fish. If you're fishing where there are fish, you have a good shot at catching them.

Last summer, Vinny Caruso of Bradenton and I spent several weeks fishing southern Tampa Bay around Joe Island. The pattern remained steady from May to October. On almost every trip, we're drift off the western tip of Joe Island until we caught a fish and then anchor. We'd often catch good numbers of snook, spotted seatrout, redfish, bluefish and jack crevalle.

Kayaks are excellent platforms from which to "sight-fish." However, it's not sight-fishing in the traditional sense. Because you're not elevated, it's tough to see more than 15 or 20 feet.

What I like to do is anchor on the edges of sand holes or sand bars and cast to fish as they swim off the grass and into the open areas.

I've done it all in my kayaks: saltwater bays, estuaries, rivers, lakes. And I've caught fish all over the state.

All I need is a place to launch and a place to park.

I'm footloose and fancy free.

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