For a testosterone-fueled offshore angler in the Florida Keys, fishing from a kayak is admittedly a tough sell. It’s just too far to travel with paddle power. But for the nearshore and inshore angler, a kayak offers myriad advantages. Some are obvious; many are not. Let’s explore some of those advantages now…
We’ll start at your pocketbook. The cost of a small skiff, a trailer to transport it, and a small, dependable outboard engine (all used) will get into your wallet for around 3 or 4 grand. And then there’s engine upkeep. $$$. Trailer tires, bearings, lights. $$$. Fuel. $$. If you want to go with a super sweet skiff with lots of accoutrements, you’ll be well into 5 figures before you can say “bilge pump”. Motor boats are expensive to buy and expensive to maintain. Doubly so in salt water. And if you happen to be married, you’ll need to be quite crafty to get the spouse’s approval for all of these expenses. Fishing is supposed to be fun, and this doesn’t sound like fun at all! On the other hand, a solid, seaworthy, BRAND NEW fishing kayak will set you back about $1500. Go with a used one and you can trim your cost to half that. Upkeep? A few bucks to replace a broken buckle or bungee cord every few years is about it. You get the idea. Kayak fishing is easy on the wallet.
Many of you know my favorite type of fishing is sight fishing in shallow water. This requires stealth, and a kayak is super stealthy! I’ve many times been so close to permit and bonefish that I simply tossed my offering with an underhanded lob and watched the fish inhale it within 10 feet of the kayak. The fish never knew I was there. It’s almost unfair! And this stealth also transfers to other members of the animal kingdom. Dolphins, manatee, turtles, birds and more are much less concerned about me when I’m in a kayak, making wildlife encounters and photography much more common and productive.
In a kayak, you are the captain of your little vessel, you make all the decisions, and you own all the successes (and failures) of your fishing adventures. No waiting for your buddy at the dock, only to find out he has to cancel. No listening to him (or her) whine about their problems all day. No compromising or arguing about where to fish, how to fish, or what to target. And poling a flats skiff by yourself (without the counter weight of an angler on the bow), then trying to execute the moves necessary to quietly get your offering to the fish in the short window of time available is almost impossible. But in a kayak, with a bit of practice, you really can do it on your own.
Kayaks are eco-friendly. There’s no fuel, no exhaust blowing into the water, no oil leaks, and maybe most importantly, kayaks don’t destroy our beautiful, lush grass flats here in the Keys. The propeller scars from motorized vessels, so prevalent around the deeper channels, take years to repair themselves, and in areas of strong current, they sometimes never grow back.
Kayaking in the Keys is wonderful exercise. Much like bicycling around the islands, you can make it as easy or as challenging as you’d like. You don’t need to be in Olympic condition to enjoy a few hours on the water. Plus the fresh air and sunshine will make you feel great!
To be fair to the motorized folk, yak fishing has limitations, with the main one being limited range. Which means you have to be very thoughtful when pick your location to fish. You can’t drop the motor and run 10 miles to catch a favorable tide on a distant flat or patch reef. And if weather threatens the day’s proceedings, you need to have a plan B, since you aren’t going to outrun anything at a cruising speed of 3 to 4 knots.
But maybe the best part of all - kayak fishing is FUN! Even smaller fish seem bigger from a kayak. And bigger fish will blow your mind, turning your yak in circles, towing you around, and giving you an incredible sense of accomplishment, knowing you did it solo with no engine necessary. Now get that paddle moving and get out there!
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