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Beginners Guide to Kayak Fishing

Kayaks were originally built by the Inuit people over 4000 years ago for fishing and hunting on inland and coastal waters and the word 'kayak' literally means 'hunters boat'. Traditionally, these would have been built using a skin-on-frame construction which comprises of a wooden framework with a stitched-on watertight skin. Due to vast improvements in materials technology and manufacturing capabilities most recreational kayaks are now made from plastic or composite materials such as fiberglass or carbon-fiber.

There are 2 main types of kayak: 'Sit Inside' (SINK) and 'Sit On Top' (SOT). With a sit-inside kayak, the paddler sits in the cockpit with his or her legs under the deck. With a sit-on-top kayak, the hull is sealed and the paddler literally sits on top. SOT kayaks are often described as being unsinkable since unless the hull is breached there is no way for water to get inside. For sea fishing, these sealed hull SOT kayaks are by far the most popular as they allow the paddler to enter and exit the water more easily, are generally wider and more stable and require less training than a traditional sit-inside kayak. SOT kayaks can be more easily rigged for fishing and are often sold pre-rigged (with rod holders etc ..) for this purpose.

A word on safety . Be sure to receive proper training before taking to the water on your kayak. A local club will be able to help you. Never enter the water without taking the necessary precautions including checking local weather and sea conditions and always ensure that you have told someone where you are going and when you are expected to return. You should also consider informing the coastguard of your plans prior to entering the water and of course upon your return.

When choosing a kayak you will ideally need to visit a dealer where you can try a few different models and use their expertise in selecting a kayak that is best suited to your size and ability. You should expect to pay around £ 400 to £ 600 for a brand new entry-level SOT Kayak. Kayak lengths range from about 8 to 16 feet but for stability and comfort a 13 foot kayak would normally be the minimum length for sea fishing. In addition to your kayak you will need a paddle, a seat, suitable clothing and some basic safety equipment. Again your dealer will be able to advise what's best here and many dealers will offer a competitively priced package deal containing all of the basic essentials.

As far as tackle is concerned, the best advice for beginners is to start simple. You can use either a baited hook or a lure to catch fish and the method of fishing is different depending on which you choose. When fishing with a baited hook, you will generally drop your hook over the side, allow it to sink to the bottom and wait for a fish to bite. This is a very tranquil way to fish and requires a lot of patience. For this type of fishing you will need the following:

  • A kayak rod or a short, lightweight boat fishing rod
  • A suitable boat reel with line
  • A rig or trace (this is a length of line that includes a hook or arrangement of hooks)
  • A weight
  • Some bait (mackerel, squid, lugworm etc)

Fishing with a lure is somewhat more dynamic as the fisherman is now required to keep the lure moving in a realistic fashion to fool the fish into thinking that it is a real food source. One very popular method of fishing that works very well from a kayak is 'jigging' with a soft lure. The term 'jigging' simply describes the action of jerking a lure up and down in the water to try to mimic the natural behavior of a live fish. To jig with a soft lure you will need the following:

  • A kayak rod or a short, lightweight boat fishing rod
  • A suitable boat reel with line
  • A jig-head (this is a specially shaped weighted hook designed for use with a soft lure)
  • Some fluorocarbon line (any mono line will do but fluorocarbon is essentially invisible under water)
  • A soft plastic lure

Tie a 4 foot length of fluorocarbon line to your main line and then tie your jig head to the end of this. This will provide you with a virtually invisible, abrasion resistant leader that will help to avoid scaring the fish.

Many dealers now offer complete kayak fishing kits containing everything you need in one simple purchase and this can often be the cheapest and easiest way to get started.

If you're thinking about having a go at kayak fishing do not be afraid to ask questions on one of the many forums. Most people that use forums are willing to share their knowledge. In return, be sure to post your own experiences of kayak fishing and help other people with advice when you can. Always be mindful of safety and above all HAVE FUN!

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