The sun had nearly completed its nightly descent, trailing a long amber tail across the glassy waters of the Lower Laguna Madre. I took one last look around. About fifty yards to the west I saw the silhouette of an arched rod and happy angler. It had been a good day. Smiling to myself, I decided to paddle over and tell my buddy it was about time to head home.
This is a scene that friends and I have repeated time and again in the clear/green flats of the South Padre Island and Port Isabel area since discovering the effectiveness of fishing from kayaks. Kayak fishing is not only effective, but also affordable and user friendly.
Kayaks Afford Inshore Anglers Stealth When Fishing Saltwater Flats
STEALTH ON THE FLATS
The shallow, clear flats of the Lower Laguna Madre have long been a favorite destination for wade fishing. However, believe it or not, as effective as wade fishing is, fishing from a kayak can be even better.
There is no other craft capable of covering water as shallow and as silently as a kayak. My kayak affords me complete mobility in scant inches of water. Also, I am able to move much more quietly in the kayak than in a boat or wading.
The kayak advantage is never more defined than it is when covering a shallow flat with a soft, muddy bottom. These areas often hold concentrations of fish, but are difficult and tiresome to wade. A kayak on the other hand allows you to skim along these flats in relative comfort and without the fish-spooking splashing and bottom disturbance that often accompanies wading through knee-deep mud.
Kayaking also allows you to avoid common wade-fishing nuisances such as stingrays and jellyfish while still being able to reach the shallow spots normally reserved for wade-fishermen only. Once on the chosen fishing destination, the large amount of storage space on a kayak is a definite advantage over wading belts and shirt pockets. And, if honey-hole number one is not producing, it is a small inconvenience to paddle off in search of more prosperous waters as opposed to being limited to those that can be reached by foot.
Essentially, a kayak combines a boaters ability to cover water, store equipment and avoid painful stingrays with the wade fisherman's ability to fish shallow flats quietly and thoroughly.
WHAT YOU NEED
The most basic and essential piece of equipment is, of course, the kayak itself. There are several manufacturers who offer a wide variety of sizes, styles, colors and options. Some of the more popular models are offered by Wilderness Systems and Ocean Kayaks. Depending on which make and model you decide on, kayaks can run anywhere from $300.00 to $1500.00. For saltwater use the sit-on-top variety is preferable to the enclosed cockpit style that is popular for river riding. These models usually offer more stability and a large roomy cockpit (which is invaluable for tossing small tackle boxes, suntan lotion, etc.). Sit-on-tops are also much easier to get in and out of, as well as more comfortable if you plan to spend any length of time on the water. Usually sit-on-tops will come equipped with either recessed storage areas and straps or waterproof hatches. The type of storage you choose is strictly personal preference.
One glaring weakness to the sit-on-tops is that most models are self-bailing and will generally have a half in or more of water passing through the scupper holes. This means you will get wet, which in the warmer months is actually quite refreshing. For cold weather fishing, it is suggested to wear waders, plug scupper holes or both. The elongated styrofoam cylinders that kids use as pool toys work great as plugs when trimmed to the proper dimensions.
Next, you need to select a paddle. Traditionally, kayakers use double-bladed paddles. However, some fishermen prefer single-blade, canoe-type paddles. The double-bladed paddle gives the user more speed and maneuverability, but can be awkward and clumsy when trying to cast. A short, single-blade model can be easily stored in the cockpit while fishing, but can be tiring to use when paddling substantial distances. Two-piece, double-bladed paddles offer the best of both worlds. They can be used as a double-blade when covering long distances. Once in a fishing area, they can be broken down and used as a single-blade or push-pole for tight quarter maneuvering.
In addition to the kayak and paddle, there are several basic pieces of equipment that are a must on any kayak adventure. First, since you will be fishing, you need to select a rod and reel as well as a reasonable assortment of tackle. While some people opt for mountable rod holders, it is usually easier to lay the rod in the cockpit of the kayak so that it is always available for a quick cast or two. Generally a small assortment of artificial lures ranging from soft-plastics to topwaters in one or two utility boxes will be adequate. Once underway, these can be tossed into the cockpit within arm's reach. Since kayaks are light (usually under 75 lbs.), it is advisable to bring a small drift sock to ensure you maintain a fishable speed while drifting. A small mushroom anchor is often helpful if you plan to fish structure or in case of emergency.
First-aid kits are a must any time you are on the water. Lifejackets should always be worn while kayaking, even in the relatively calm bay waters. Polarized sunglasses, sunscreen and fresh water all help fight the heat. A small compass can be a big help in finding your way home.
KEEP IT SAFE, ENJOYABLE
When packing for a kayak trip, pack light but never sacrifice the essentials for a safe, comfortable trip. Things like a first-aid kit, compass, flashlight, sunscreen and water don't take up much space. However, these items can make all the difference in the world should something go wrong. Before departing alert someone to your plans. Let them know when you plan to leave, when you expect to be back and what area you intend to explore. Check the wind, tides and weather before embarking on your trip, and always wear a lifejacket while on the water.