Hooked on Kayak Fishing

Posted August 4th, 2008

Many kayaking enthusiasts have discovered the special joys of fishing the waters of northern New England. Not only is kayak fishing a fun activity, but it allows you to sneak up on fish in shallow locales not easily accessed by motorized craft. Whether you are just starting out or have been fishing all your life, there is always something new to learn and more angling fun to be had.
Kayak fishing is attracting kayakers who may never have fished before and anglers who may never have paddled a kayak. Today’s kayak anglers take advantage of sophisticated fishing gear to add a new dimension to both activities.
All the major kayak manufacturers have jumped on the fishing bandwagon, adding “angler” models to their boat lines. The most popular kayaks for fishing purposes are molded from polyethylene, due to their durability and relatively low cost.
The twin hull (catamaran) kayaks that have recently come on the market are stable enough to provide for both paddling and fishing in a standing position. This technological development also addresses ergonomic problems that are associated with sitting for long hours without being able to change position and frees kayakers from the need to sacrifice speed for stability.
Properly setting up a fishing kayak allows an angler to enjoy the sport to its fullest. There’s an understandable satisfaction to be found in hooking into a fish and having everything you need right at your fingertips.
I find a rudder invaluable when paddling against winds or currents. Despite the potential for snagging my fishing line on the rudder, the benefit of increased efficiency when weather and water conditions worsen far outweighs the negatives for installing a rudder.
I recommend bungee lashings, or “bungee trees” as they’re commonly called. These serve as a paddle holder so you can stow your paddle in an instant when you feel a strike on the line.
Kayak fishing involves bottom fishing, trolling, casting, and jigging. I do little bottom fishing or casting from my fishing kayak as I really enjoy the constant movement that trolling offers. For bottom fishing, casting, and jigging, all you need is a floating platform from which to deploy your line. It’s a good idea to get a drift chute that significantly reduces your kayak’s movement, while engaging in any stationary fishing method.
For trolling, my rod holders are set up in the front of the cockpit. I prefer being able to watch the tip of my pole when I’m trolling, because frequently small fish will shred the bait. When a big fish does hit, the transition from paddling to setting the hook involves one quick move as I place the paddle in the bow lashing and immediately grab my fishing rod. I always have a gaff or landing net onboard.
Umbagog Lake straddles the Maine-New Hampshire border. It is a shallow lake with average depths of about 15 feet. Prominent fish species found here include smallmouth bass, brook trout, brown trout, pickerel, yellow perch, and smelt.
The 58-mile-long Sheepscot River rises in the hills around West Montville, ME, widens into Sheepscot Pond, then glides over rocks and gravel through the countryside to the picturesque village of Coopers Mills. The Sheepscot is one of the few remaining rivers with remnant populations of native Atlantic salmon. These and other anadromous fish, including striped bass, return from the sea to spawn in the river’s gravel bottom.
In the spring, kayaks blossom in the Sheepscot alongside wildflowers. As the river, full of melting snow, races to the ocean, rapids appear. Residents and visitors alike use the Sheepscot for bass and trout fishing.
New Hampshire’s Pemigewasset River, or Pemi, is a beautiful cold-water trout fishery. Its headwaters begin in Franconia Notch State Park and flow south for some 70 miles to where it joins the Winnipesaukee River to form the Merrimack River. The Pemi is home to brook trout. Atlantic salmon are often released into the Pemi between Bristol and Manchester. Below Livermore Falls, the river is known for great bass fishing.
Lake Carmi, in Lake Carmi State Park (460 Marsh Farm Road, Enosburg Falls, VT), with a 1,375-acre surface area, supports a good-sized population of northern pike and walleyes. Kayaks can be rented in the park.
Native Americans have been fishing from kayaks for centuries, but kayak fishing, as a sport, has taken off in New England (and beyond) only in the past several years. It has gained in popularity as gas prices have soared and recreational anglers have discovered its appeal. In a kayak, an angler can launch in six inches of water without a boat ramp, and then paddle miles of coastline and shallow inlets where big boats can’t go. Because kayaks are shallow water running and ultra-quiet fishing platforms, an angler can venture into areas where you oftentimes will find fish with their backs out of the water, making for easy casting.
Maximize your fishing opportunities by doing what kayaks do best—fast surface trolling. Sometimes the slight fuss of a kayak moving through water brings curious fish up close.
With the popularity of kayak fishing increasing as steadily as New England gas prices, such fishing is an alternative form of angling, which increasing numbers of anglers are turning to for a serene day on the water.
Many anglers have discovered that fishing from a kayak is more effective than fishing from a motorized boat in places where fish have become all too accustomed to the buzz of an outboard motor. A kayak costs far less than a new skiff does; there are virtually an unlimited number of places from which to launch a kayak; kayaks are equally at home on a lake or river; spouses are often far more agreeable to a tandem kayak fishing trip if it doubles as a form of exercise rather than an excuse for beer drinking; and, most importantly, in many fishing situations, a kayak provides the one thing no other craft can—easy access to many fish species.
Enjoy, but remember to always reel up when you’ve got dicey water ahead. When it comes to kayak fishing, the kayaking always comes first!

Mary Syrett

Mary Syrett is a freelance writer and photographer who grew up in Rutland. She regularly goes kayak fishing in southern Vermont. You can reach her at msyrett@earthlink.net.