By Kelly Baughman
Kayak fishing is one of the biggest trends in fishing these days, and for good reason. Not only is kayak fishing affordable for nearly everyone, it allows anglers access to areas that traditional fishing vessels are not able to navigate. Not to mention the rush of hooking up with a big game fish while standing on a small piece of plastic that virtual puts you in the water with the fish.
Kayak fishing enthusiast and Pensacola native, Kevin Frost, said that kayak fishing has changed his world. “I was initially looking for a hobby that my wife and I could enjoy together. I bought a used tandem kayak, and we tried taking it out to fish together. We both loved it,” he said.
From there Frost said his passion for the sport ignited.
“I’ve found it to be more challenging than fishing from a regular boat or the beach. On a kayak, you are at the mercy of the wind, current, and quite honestly….the fish. I’ve hooked into King Mackerel and sharks before that have pulled me at least a half a mile or more” he recalled.
In addition to the wind, current, and wildlife factors, kayak anglers need to learn special skills like casting and paddling one handed. Experienced kayak anglers cast one handed the majority of the time, with either bait casting or spinning tackle, so it’s important to gear up accordingly. Practice locking the shaft of your paddle along a forearm, which anchors it along your arm, and allows you to use it more like a canoe paddle. This is an imperative skill when fighting a fish with one hand and trying to avoid hitting obstacles like docks and waves with the other.
Your equipment is just as important as your skill level. Without the right equipment, you could be left dead in the water…not a place you want to be in the open Gulf.
Fishing kayaks are designed differently from other types of recreational kayaks. For example, when you look at a fishing kayak and a touring kayak side by side, you’ll immediately notice that the fishing kayak is shorter and wider than a touring kayak. This design provides fishing kayaks with a higher degree of lateral stability and reduced chance of capsizing, which are very important when you’re out in the choppy emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Selecting a kayak in a bright color like red, blue, or yellow is a good idea to make you clearly visible to other passing vessels, Coastguard members, and others in your fishing circle. When choosing the right kayak, consider things like transportability, storage space, and maintenance level. It might even be a good idea to search for a place where you can rent a kayak to give it a try before you buy.
A tracking and navigational system is one of the most important pieces of fishing equipment you’ll be carrying when you go kayak fishing in the open waters, especially when you go off-shore kayak fishing. When out in open waters far away from the sight of land, it’s easy to lose yours bearings and get turned around. A navigational system will help you get back on track and can even save your life in the event of an emergency situation by sending out a beacon for rescuers to find you.
Now that you’re equipped and ready to go, what can you expect to catch once out on the water?
If fishing inshore, look for redfish and speckled trout. These types of fish usually hang out around structures like docks, boats, and grass beds, so try casting towards those. Speckled trout love underwater lights, so look for areas that are well lit or places that provide them for the best fishing experience.
If fishing offshore, get ready for adrenaline pumping excitement and the thrill of catching big pelagic fish like cobia, Mahi, King Mackerel, red snapper, sharks, and more. Frost recently hooked up with a 24 pound red snapper while open water kayak fishing, and said, “It was a great fight. It’s exhausting when you hook up with a big one on a kayak, but there’s no bigger rush.”
Frost has won four saltwater kayak tournaments, including the 2018 King of the Island Offshore Slam that won him a trip to Panama, cash, and entry into the World Kayak Fishing Championships. The 2019 King of the Island Kayak Fishing Tournament will take place on Pensacola Beach this October 5th, 2019, and Frost said he plans to compete to defend his title.
For more information on the King of the Island Kayak Fishing Tournament, visit www.kingoftheislandpensacola.com or stay tuned to Perdido Key Live for more updates and information about local events like kayak fishing and more.