15 May Selecting a Northeast Saltwater Fishing Kayak
Considering Kayak Fishing?
At one time or another most every shore bound angler has considered getting a saltwater fishing kayak. The most common reason is when the frustration of watching bass or albies blitz just outside of casting range becomes just too much. Or your curiosity about a delicious flat, rock pile or island that you can see; but not access motivates you to investigate kayak fishing. For others it’s their strong desire to fish away from the crowds and the reduced the fishing pressure that the effort brings. Different anglers use different access devices to enhance their fishing experience; be it flats boots, waders, wet suit, kayak or a power boat. Fact is many of the best fisherman we see in the Saltwater Edge make regular use of a kayak. A yak allows you access a great deal of water of “tweener” water that you can not reach in a wet suit or a small center console. Whether you enjoy plugging, sight fishing the flats or trolling a tube n’ worm, a kayak is versatile enough to meet most all of your angling needs.
Selecting a Northeast Saltwater Fishing Kayak
There are pages upon pages of information about the kayak design features of length, weight and hull design as it relates to the benefits of speed, safety and stability and the functional application be it touring, whitewater or recreational. While you could go fishing out of most any kayak you would soon realize some styles are far better suited for the northeast salt than others. Our goal here is to share our experience as it relates to what to look for in a northeast saltwater fishing kayak.
Form Follows Function
Let’s start with a definition of northeast saltwater kayak fishing in terms of sea condition. Certainly in the spring the water is colder and the action is focused in upper bays and salt ponds. These sheltered environments make for the easiest paddling. As the season progresses the fish and therefore your kayak will spend more of their time in boulder fields and drop offs some off which will be along the ocean front with a constant swell and often requiring a surf launch. Later in the summer who can resist chasing albies and bones? Kayak fisherman are not “burdened” by engine noise and the sea conditions are typically quite moderate. As the fall progresses the surf builds and safe operation of a kayak is an increasing concern. Clearly, the northeast saltwater kayak fisherman has more variety to deal with in terms of sea condition that his fellow yakkers down south or in freshwater.
The first choice is between conventional sit inside kayaks (SIK) or sit-on-top (SOT) models.
In general, SIK anglers argue that they offer more protection from the elements as well as a lower, more stable seating position. Certainly the beginner is going to feel more confident given the stable ride in a SIK because it is closer to the water line. The trade offs are not insignificant for SIK style in the northeast salt. There is less visibility because you are lower in the water. Dramatically less dry storage because your legs occupy much of the storage area. With regard to safety, because it is more clumsy to get in and out of the condition needed for a safe launch become limited to sheltered locations and this could potentially be far from your desired fishing location. In the event you capsize a SIK it is quite a task to pump out the water and get back in. This is less of a challenge in protected waters like lakes and all the more formidable in standard northeast sea conditions.
SOT’s on the other hand take a bit more getting used to because of the higher center of gravity; but once you are up the learning curve you will enjoy copious storage and launch flexibility which you will value in the long term. The easiest way to get up the learning curve is to start in more protected waters and as you become more comfortable graduate to more open water. Because the SOT have an open deck rather than an enclosed one, there is little risk of being trapped in the boat if it tips over. With a SOT kayak there is no need to practice Eskimo rolls or wet exits and in our rough seas conditions this is an important consideration. In most every case the SOT will be heavier than a similar size and shape SIK, This is something to consider if you plan on moving your boat a lot. Anything much more that 80 lbs becomes quite a challenge to get on the roof of your car, It is safe to say the majority of serious northeast saltwater kayak fisherman use a SOT for the ease of getting on and off, the substantial storage, launch versatility, improved visibility and the surface area available to accessorize.
There is a separate class of kayaks that are generally SOT’s that have a method of propulsion in addition to a paddle. Pedal powered fins and propellers as well as battery powered motors similar to trolling motors have become available over the last few years. Generally these designs help you cover more water as there propulsion in either case (battery or legs) is more efficient than your arms. Hands free operation increases fishing time as well. These boats are heavier and more expensive than traditional kayaks.
Other Important Considerations
Whatever style of kayak you choose there are two additional considerations in choosing a fishing kayak. The first is the method of construction. Rotational molding uses high temperature to melt polyethylene powder in a closed rotating metal mold “roto mold” to produce a complete kayak hull and deck as on unit. This method produces benefits that influence weight, strength and durability. The other method is to create to halves and melt them together. The result is a boat that is not as durable or as water proof this method is standard in most “big box store” kayaks. If you plan to transport your northeast saltwater kayak, fish a variety of water from sand to boulder fields, launch in the surf and drag to the waters edge. Durability will be a factor. Another often overlooked option to consider is a rudder. Rudders are very useful features on a fishing kayak in that they helps you maintain your drift without using your paddle. Not all models are available with a rudder. Rudder kits are often available after market; but getting a yak with the rudder as original equipment is a good idea.
At The Time of Purchase Think About…
There are three items outside of kayak design that have a major effect on your fishing pleasure. Your seat, paddle and personal flotation device (PFD). Since these are items you will select when you initially equip your kayak it is important to consider them at time of purchase. You will be in the seat for hours on end, so get a comfortable seat with plenty of back support and cushioning. The innovations in kayak seat design the last few years have been remarkable. A customer joked about bringing the seat to watch their kids soccer games since it is so comfortable. When selecting a paddle be sure and consider the relationship between the height of the angler and the width of the kayak. The goal is a powerful stroke with little or no rocking side to side. Optimizing paddle length and weight will maximize the efficiency of each paddle stroke and minimize fatigue. Obviously, you should be in your seat wearing your PFD as they will have to work in combination. Most fishing designs locate the flotation in areas where it will not impede casting. Achieving a comfortable seated position is very important to maximizing your time on the water.
In another article we will discuss the laundry list of other accessories that the kayak fisherman will find useful as they become more experienced.
At The Saltwater Edge we are ready to provide the information you need to select a fishing kayak for the northeast salt as well as stocking the products you need to turn your current kayak into a fishing machine. We have demo boats available from Jackson Kayak including the Cuda, Big Rig and Kraken and Old Town Predator series. Call today to arrange an “on the water” demo.