By Colin Belle
Regional Hobie Kayak Fishing Team
Kayak Fishing is not new. In fact there is evidence dating back over 4,000 years of kayaks constructed from stitched seal skins stretched over a carefully constructed wooden frame. These vessels were constructed by indigenous people living in Arctic regions who used them to hunt on inland lakes, rivers and the coastal waterways as a means of survival.
Over the past 10 years I have encountered many people who simply could not fathom how or why I would want to fish from a kayak by choice. This question used to confuse me until one day while out fishing I remembered I got involved in this sport somewhat by accident and chance myself.
I will do my best to outline the reasons why I have fallen in love with kayak fishing. How it has become a vital part of my life and a passion that I will continue to introduce to others so they may enjoy the simplicity and excitement of this fast growing sport like I have. Although the longer you fish the more gear you end up having!
In The Beginning
In short I’ve fished my entire life. Literally since I could walk I was probably thinking about fishing, it appeared as though I had it in my blood. You see my grandfather was an avid fisherman and known throughout the area of Huntington, Long Island as being just that, a fisherman. As I grew up I became known as a fisherman also. This only intensified while attending college in the Adirondack Mountains of NY where some of the best fishing on the East Coast can be found. Here I was introduced to whitewater kayaking. It took two years for me to even think about taking a fishing rod with me but I will never forget the day when I did. I was in my Dagger 9’6″ Zydeco, a great boat still made to this day, on an 8 mile float that I had done many times prior. Long story short I caught a bucket load of fish and from that day forward I was a kayak fisherman. In the past 10 years the sport has come a long way and there are now many high performance kayaks on the market specifically designed as a fishing platform. Unlike kayaks of the past sit-on-top kayaks are comfortable, versatile and customizable.
Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Sport
With the continued increase in the popularity of kayak fishing we’ve also seen an increase in the number and the notoriety of kayak fishing tournaments. You now see tournaments with hundreds of entrants. But pulling your fish around all day on a stringer off the side of your kayak and back to a weigh-in station at the end of the day seemed ridiculous, harmful to the fishes health (probably the paddlers too, hah), and just too hard to regulate fairly. And so the CPR style tournament was started by kayak fisherman! Which stands for Catch-Photo-Release, each fish caught will be measured on an approved measuring/bump board, a photo of the length is taken and the fish is immediately returned unharmed in the same location in which it was caught in. Also, you have no motor so there are far less pollutants entering the local waterways and thus contaminating the fish habitats you enjoy so much. To sum things up, less is more.
Kayaking is a great way to get a workout and most people do not realize that you are working your entire upper body including your core, abs and back. I happen to have the Hobie Outback with the Mirage Pedal Drive so I am also lucky enough to get a leg workout while I am kayaking as well. Just being out in the sun and able to enjoy good weather, and sometimes bad weather too, is great for the soul. Being outside so much has afforded me the opportunity to meet some really amazing people while out enjoying what I love to do. Kayak fishing is for the most part a sport of solidarity in that most of the time I am fishing alone or in a small group that is spread out along the course of a river. My most favorite trips are those that include a night of tent camping or even a float trip down a seclude river stopping to fly fish some good eddies and holes. Not only are the best fishing locations usually the hardest to get to but most of them are only accessible by a small human powered watercraft such as a kayak or canoe. This concept also holds true on large lakes with very small inlets that large powerboats cannot even approach with fear of destroying a prop or something worse.
I won’t go into much detail on this because it speaks for itself. But I have always enjoyed trying to capture the moments that I enjoy the most in life and that typically involves very scenic and beautiful locations. Being on a Hobie Outback Kayak has allowed me to get up close and approach wildlife in a very stealthy hands free manner allowing me the opportunity to take some really great photos.
Time to Unwind and Contemplate Life
I work an office job Monday-Friday 45-50 hours a week, sometimes more. Kayak fishing allows me to escape the big city I live in; the sound of cars, emergency vehicles, traffic, and it lets me lose myself inside my own thoughts. This time of solidarity gives me time to contemplate my life. A lot of important life decisions that I have made were thought out and strategized while at the helm of my kayak out on Lake Michigan in large swells, or skillfully paddling around a downed tree on the Kishwaukee River, or on a 9 mile paddle back to the boat launch after a long day on the water. In other words some of the reasons I am a kayak angler have nothing to do with kayaking or fishing but rather what the experience of doing these things allows me to learn about myself and the people I encounter.
I Catch More and Better Fish
Yes, you heard that correctly. In my personal opinion over my kayak fishing career I have been more successful than when I was fishing from a powerboat. Obviously some days this will not be the case but in whole and when looking at all the species I fish for I do better from my kayak. This holds especially true when I am fishing pre-spawn largemouth where the fish are generally in 1-4ft of water marking their territory for bedding sites. My kayak allows me to get into skinny water habitats with ease and stealth to target fish visually like most anglers cannot do with their setup. Also trolling from a kayak has a major advantage over a powerboat in that you have no prop-wash, noise or vibration in the water column. Therefore baitfish and the associated predator species are not spooked as you pass over them or near them which in turn directly results in more hookups and more large fish.
I Fish More Often and Longer
Once you become a Kayak angler you will soon realize that you are able to fish more often and more regularly as well as for a little bit longer each time. Why do I say this? Because it takes less time and effort to get your kayak on your car and into a local water body compared to having to trailer and haul a boat that then uses gasoline. Most states do not require you to even register your kayak and there is hardly any maintenance or upkeep needed to own and use a kayak making them a much more affordable option that mostly anyone can afford, a starter kayak can range from $300-$900. In short you will enjoy fishing more because you will be able to do it more often with less of a headache!
Where I am Today!
Well a lot has happened in the past few years. I moved to Rockford Illinois to start a new career. In my first week here while out paddling on the Rock River I meet a man who owns a kayak store here in Rockford, Paddle and Trail, and was offered a job as a kayak river guide for that summer. It worked out and I was in fact a guide my first summer here, but it was realized soon on that my true passion was to fish. So I was encouraged to apply to the Hobie Kayak Fishing Team and I was accepted. After a year on the team I was promoted to a Regional Hobie Fishing Team Member. Now I travel even more doing demos, instructional classes, seminars and I am even getting into guiding trips on the side. Since moving to this region of the country I have fallen in love with King Salmon Fishing out on Lake Michigan in my Hobie Outback and have even started a fishing group, Midwest Kayak Anglers.
-So are you a Kayak Angler, interested in trying it or maybe thinking about getting a kayak of your own but do not know where to start?
-Then come fish with us at Midwest Kayak Anglers Group and we will get you in some Kayaks to see how you like it!
Trust me you too will fall in love with the simple yet challenging sport of Kayak Fishing!