Spring is upon us! And the summer months, with their corresponding lighter winds, are just ahead, meaning the shallow water opportunities for a kayak angler are more numerous than during the often blustery winter months. As a guide, I get to hear a lot of the same questions and concerns from my anglers, many of whom are fairly new to saltwater fishing. Let’s address some of these now.
WHERE DO I FISH (MACRO)?
With so much water around us, the choice of where to fish can seem daunting! And, with the range limitations of paddle power, it’s critically important to launch your kayak in a favorable area. Generally, I prefer areas that are not subject to heavy boat traffic, a short distance (1/4 mile or so) from deeper water, and a depth of 1 to 3 feet with good tide flow. (An exception would be tarpon, which are usually deeper.) Understand that part of the challenge and fun of this type of fishing is finding the fish, and ocean fish move around a lot. A little time spent on Google Earth can help immensely in planning your trip. Look for flats that are very shallow or exposed at low tide, and 3 to 4 feet deep at high tide. If you can find an area on the map that has several of these types of flats in close proximity, then you can spend more of the favorable tide flow fishing instead of paddling to distant flats.
WHERE DO I FISH (MICRO)?
It’s common for anglers to get hung up on “spots”. But realize that any “spot” can be great today and crummy tomorrow, or vice versa. Furthermore, a spot can be great at 10 a.m. and lifeless by noon. It could have too little water right now, or too much water to look through. Again, I like to stay in 1 to 3 feet of depth, with decent current. And when you find an active spot, try to analyze why it’s good. Take note of the pathways the fish are traveling. A lot of general fishing knowledge is applicable here. For example, fish will many times congregate on the down current side of a flat, shoal, or point, facing the current, letting prey items sweep down towards them. Notice the bottom vegetation, or lack thereof. A healthy flat will have a nice array of sponge growth, along with large patches of mature turtle grass, denoting good tidal flow. A particularly good sign is the presence of larger sharks, stingrays, and baitfish. This usually means permit and bonefish are nearby. And if the flat seems lifeless, it’s probably better to move on.
WHEN DO I FISH?
Sunrise and sunset can be magical times. But the number one factor in flats fishing is the tide. The areas accessible to kayak fishers in the Keys are best fished during the incoming tide, in my opinion. Starting your fishing at low incoming water should give you a solid 5 hours of good flow and the right depth to see targets.
I’VE HOOKED A NICE-SIZED FISH, NOW WHAT DO I DO?
Anglers new to the salt are usually surprised at the strength and speed of our gamefish. Even a relatively routine 5-pound bonefish will easily pull your kayak around, and a 30-pound shark or 40-pound tarpon will give you quite a ride. When these fish are freshly hooked and dumping your spool, your first thought is that you’re outmatched by your quarry. Relax, and enjoy the tussle! When the fish surges away, let them run. But as soon as they stop to catch their breath, get busy regaining line. This back and forth can go on for several minutes, and it’s one of the true joys of pursuing these gamefish. Enjoy it! Understand that many times you aren’t really pulling the fish to you, but rather you’re pulling yourself toward the fish. Fun, huh?! If the fish gets at an uncomfortable angle (e.g., over your shoulder, or behind you), simply pull the rod tip low and towards the bow of your kayak, and the tension on the line will rotate the kayak around to where you are facing the fish again. This may be necessary several times before you land your prize specimen.
Summertime is an awesome time to go kayak fishing in our gorgeous waters, so get out there and get busy! And if you need the assistance of a professional, ring, text, or email to set up a trip with me and we’ll make some memories together!
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