The Versatility of Kayaking

Whether you use your yak for fishing, hunting, or family fun, you're doing it right. So let's talk about all that and more.

Many of the techniques used in kayak fishing are essentially the same as those used on other fishing boats. The difference is in the set-up; how each piece of equipment is fitted to the kayak, and how each activity is carried out on such a small craft. Contemporary kayaks can be equipped with after-market fishing accessories such as anchor trolleys, rod holders, electronic fish-finders, and live-bait containers. Kayak anglers target prized gamefish like snook, red drum, seatrout, tarpon, halibut, and cod and also pelagics like amberjacks, tuna, sailfish, wahoo, king mackerel, and even marlin.

While bottom fishing or jigging can be done from small boats, it was long thought that effective trolling required speeds of five to ten knots, a speed well out of the range of someone paddling. However, the discovery that fish can be taken at much slower speeds has increased the popularity of kayak fishing for many types of fish. (Also, pedal yaks get moving pretty fast!)

Another popular method of kayak fishing is softbaiting. This involves weighted jigheads and rubber or plastic soft lures in the shapes of baitfish. Now the predominant method used, it reduces the need for messier and harder to manage live bait on board the kayak. And these days, many anglers launch kayaks from larger boats well offshore to get their thrills fighting a game fish pulling the kayak through open water. Other kayak fisherman move inland to freshwater lakes and rivers, targeting gamefish like largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, trout, muskellunge, and salmon.

Some of the biggest benefits of kayak fishing are the same as those for any other use of a yak: They're easy to use and transport, affordable compared to motorized boats, they’re eco-friendly, and they provide fun and exercise.

When it comes to hunting, using a kayak is nothing new. Like at all.

The first kayaks were created thousands of years ago by the Inuit (formerly and inaccurately known as Eskimos) of the northern Arctic regions. They used driftwood and/or the bones of whales or other large mammals to construct the frame of their kayaks, while animal skin, particularly seal skin, was used to create the hulls.

The main purpose for creating the kayak, which literally translates to hunter’s boat,” was of course for hunting and fishing. The kayak’s stealth capabilities allowed for the hunter to sneak up behind animals on the shoreline and successfully catch their prey, while its reliable stability out on the water made pursuit of fish or aquatic mammals much more successful than hunting on land or ice alone.

By the mid-1800s the kayak became increasingly popular around the globe, with a number of Europeans taking a keen interest in these time-tested little boats. 19th Century Germans and Frenchmen in particular took to kayaking for sport. In 1931, a man named Adolf Anderle became the first person to kayak down the Salzachofen Gorge, now called the birthplace of modern-day white-water kayaking.

Kayak races were introduced during the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936. and today, with kayaking a worldwide phenomenon, more than 10 white water kayaking events are featured in the Olympics during every summer games.

But you don't have to be an Olympian to have fun in a yak.

When you go kayaking, bring a friend, or better yet, bring the kids along. With some planning and organization, you can create a rewarding and exciting family yak experience that's not too stressful, either. Just remember to start small and keep stress levels down by ruling out surprises—except, of course, those of discovery.

Family Kayak Trip Planning Tips:

  • Choose places with lots of variety, from bays and beaches to harbors to islands.
  • Know what you are getting into. Study tides, currents, and boat traffic with the kids ahead of time. When these conditions are encountered, your kids will be proud to call them out and you'll feel safer together.
  • Know to the best of your ability where bathroom breaks will be. This is especially important with young children.
  • Try your local paddling association to find a kid-friendly paddling destination, as well as your state's parks commission or park service websites.