Fish From a Kayak, a Canoe, or a Portable Boat?

This article is mainly for anglers who fish in the northern regions of the United States, Canada, as well as in colder regions in other parts of the world. To these people, we also recommend reading this broad range, comparative Wavewalk review »

1. What’s the Problem?

For decades, the problem that anglers faced was choosing between different types of boats, all of which come with advantages and disadvantages –

Big motorboats are stable enough, and comfortable to fish from, but they don’t come cheap, and they take a lot of space on your driveway, or your backyard. Most importantly, they limit launching to boat ramps, and the most critical problem with them is that they work only with a motor, be it an outboard gas engine or an electric trolling motor, and their crew is prevented from paddling them effectively. This problem means that even if a big boat has a shallow draft, it is to going in water that’s not very shallow, and where aquatic vegetation is not abundant, and that’s too bad for bass anglers and anglers who go after other fish species that can be found in these productive waters.
In addition, an increasing number of attractive  fisheries are now closed to motorboats, and if an angler wants to fish in them, they need to use human powered propulsion.

Big motorboats include bass boats, large-size Jon boats, skiffs, to name a few, and a broad range of other types of boats.

Portable boats are neither as stable as full fledged motorboats, nor very comfortable to fish from, but they’re usually less expensive. Their smaller size and independence from transportation by trailer saves their owners plenty of space on their driveway, or backyard, which is convenient.
Being trailer-free also means freedom from the absolute need to launch in boat ramps, which is another advantage.
But a portable boat is still a boat, namely a vessel that’s not designed for paddling, whether in a kayaking or a canoeing mode. The operator or crew of such boats may be able to paddle them over small distances, in case of necessity, but overall, the range of paddling for common portable boats is limited.
Being small and not very stable also limits these boats’ comfort for crews of more than one person, and anglers who fish out of them know they need to be particularly careful in their movements, in order to avoid doing anything that could destabilize their boat.
Generally speaking, portable boats are suitable for fishing smaller bodies of water and other protected fishing grounds.

Portable boats include inflatable boats, folding boats, small-size Jon boats, and small dinghies.

Canoes and Fishing Kayaks are not stable enough to allow for worry-free fishing, and to say that they are uncomfortable would be an understatement. In fact, most people who try fishing out of kayaks give up the experiment due to physical problems ranging from back pain and leg numbness to excessive fatigue.
Storing a canoe or a kayak is convenient, and so is transporting and launching it. In general, canoes and kayaks are more stealthy than bigger boats.
However, in the real world, motorizing canoes and fishing kayaks is limited to less powerful electric motors, and this fact coupled with their instability limits their use to ponds, small lakes, slow moving rivers and well protected waters. The last thing you want is to fish out of is a canoe or a kayak on a big lake when the wind starts to blow, and white caps appear over the waves. Powerful, fast tidal currents are unwelcoming too for these small and under-powered vessels.

2. A Perfect Solution?

Perfection depends on the angler’s requirements, and anglers who practice a large variety of fishing styles in various types of fisheries and lack storage space at home put severe constraints on their search, and finding a perfect boat would be harder and perhaps impossible for them.
Some of the more important factors for choosing a boat are the crew size – solo, tandem or more, the type of water, range of travel, etc.
But there are near-perfect solutions, namely boats that more versatile and can deliver higher performance when important factors are considered. These near-perfect solutions are the Wavewalk 700 and the new Series 4 (S4) from this company.
These two patented twin-hull (catamaran) craft are similar in many ways, which are their ultra light weight (even by comparison to some fishing kayaks), extreme portability (both are car-toppers), unrivaled stability for their size, high level of comfort, and the high performance they offer in both motorized and human powered modes. Both are also well suited for solo and tandem crews.
The differences between them are mainly qualitative –
The 700 paddles better than the S4, and the S4 can be outfitted with a more powerful outboard motor and be driven at higher speeds as well as in tougher waters.
The 700 is lighter than the S4, and the S4 can take a heavier payload.
Both offer full comfort and stability to anglers who fish standing up, but the S4 features a stand-up casting platform at the bow, which is typical to skiffs and large-size Jon boats.
Since this article discusses fishing kayaks, it would be inappropriate to mention the world’s best ultralight fishing kayak, which is the Wavewalk 500.

The following collection of online videos (playlist) shows the 500 and 700 driven with outboard motors of various size, and electric motors:

 

 

The following video is a preview of the new S4 –

The S4 is offered in three colors – White, for anglers who fish blue water, Light Gray, for anglers who fish smaller bodies of water, and Mud Brown (dark brown) for anglers who are into stealth and camouflage.

Motorized Fishing Kayak or Versatile Personal Microskiff?

Northern anglers are not particularly fond of kayaks, to say the least. Due to climatic conditions, the idea of fishing out of a kayak is even less appealing to them then it is for southern anglers.

Northern anglers fish out of motorboats, period, and the overwhelming majority of them would not even consider fishing out of a kayak, because they perceive kayaks to be unstable, uncomfortable, wet, lacking sufficient dry storage, and not offering enough range of travel.  This is true for all fishing kayaks out there, whether SOT, sit-in, or hybrid (canoe-kayak), and it’s not true when W fishing kayaks are concerned, especially if you outfit one with a lightweight outboard gas motor.

But northern anglers don’t know much about the fundamental differences between W kayaks and other types of kayaks, and although a growing number of them are starting to use W kayaks, with or without a motor, the majority is still totally committed to traditional motorboats: skiffs, Jon boats,  bass boats, dinghies, etc.

But owning a fishing motorboat doesn’t come cheap, and handling one isn’t easy either. To begin with, you need to transport the boat with a trailer, and you need room to store the boat and the trailer. Then, you can launch only from boat ramps, and that might not be the most convenient thing to do. These boats don’t lend themselves to human powered propulsion, except maybe the smaller skiffs (a.k.a. ‘microskiff) that offer poling in shallow water. As far as mobility goes, bigger and heavier boats don’t travel well in shallow water, fast streams, seaweed infested water, or near rocky beaches… and obviously – you can’t use them in no-motor zones (NMZ).

A motorized W fishing kayak provides solutions to all the above problems, except the psychological and cultural one of its name: Kayak… For this reason, Wavewalk created the Personal Micro Skiff concept and website, which present the noticeable advantages that Northern anglers have to gain from using this craft for fishing: www.microskiff.us

And this is the demo video presenting this new fishing micro skiff:

Night Fishing in the Stand Up Fly Fishing Kayak, Florida

It was too windy to fish in the river so I stayed in the lagoon by where my friend lets me keep my “W” kayak on his floating dock. I had been out in the morning about 7:30 AM and caught a small snook about 14 inches – a beautiful fish and since I got him on a small foam rubber “gurgler” fly it was fun to see a fish take that surface fly less than a foot from the mangroves in about eight inches of water. It took a little while reviving him in the water before releasing him before I could go looking for his big brother.

Fished until about noon got a couple of hook ups but nothing came to the boat.

I went back just about 7 PM and staked out at the corner of a nice grass flat in the lagoon next to the mangrove creek that feeds in from the Indian River.

It was low incoming tide one of the best times for the bigger fish to get in close to the flat in about four to five feet of water, they slip up on the grass flat and raid the little mullet fingerlings and grass shrimp and can dash back into the deeper water for cover.

So I fished different flies and different sides of the flat for about an hour… fifteen minutes after sunset I was making my “last cast” for the night and bang a freight train hits my fly about thirty five feet from the kayak I am standing on my platform on top of the center tunnel and all the line starts to shoot out of my striping basket and (for once it is not tangled up) whiz all the line is out of the basket probably 125 feet or so and I am on the reel and it is buzzing. First time I am down to my backing line it is still going out to open water in the lagoon

(not back to the mangroves like sneaky snook usually do). So I let him go

I mean he is too big and hot to horse in with an eight weight and 10 lb

tippet. Three good runs, a couple of tries for the mangroves and 15 minutes later I have him in the boat.

snook caught in kayak night fly fishing, Florida

26″ snook WOW the first really nice fish I have ever caught out of the “W” and it was a beauty it took me almost 10 minutes to revive him pushing him through the water next to the boat.

But finally he swam off before I was eaten to death by Florida mosquito’s it was almost dark but I was as high as a tree frog just paddling back to the dock whistling Dixie.

I have caught a few smallish fish in the lagoon but started to think that all the nice ones are in the river.

Oh yeah all you northern woodsman who are wondering why I released a five pound snook instead of eating him, there is a limit here we call “slot” fish, 28″ to 32″ inches if they are in the slot then they are keepers but he was a little shy of the slot. And after one of the best battles I have had on fly since my Trinity river steelhead days, I figured he deserved a second chance anyway.

snook caught in kayak night fly fishing, Florida

I love my “W”… when that fish was on I was thinking he went 360 degrees around the boat did three really long runs and in general made 15 minutes feel like about three. I honestly don’t think there is any chance that this old man could have landed that fish in any other kayak but the Wavewalk fishing kayak. I mean I fish with a friend who has five kayaks SOT and Sit in type and he is an athlete, but I have seen how little room to

move and how cramped it is and if your line snags on anything when you have a big fish on a fly (even just for a moment) it is good by fish.

Ted, Florida

Watch fishing kayak videos >

Florida Stand Up Fly Fishing Kayak Review: High and Dry

This is a fishing kayak review recently contributed by a kayak fly fisherman from Florida:

I bought my Wavewalk a couple of months ago after driving up to Palm Coast Florida and meeting with Gene Andrews of “High and Dry Kayaks“. Gene is one of the most accommodating and genuine people I have meet in a very long time. He met with me at a boat ramp where he showed me how to launch the “W” without getting your feet wet.

And the demo went on from there and he let me paddle his yellow boat and I stood up my first time in less than five minutes.

I fly fish on the Indian River Lagoon in South East Florida where I live and the “W” fit my needs almost perfect, but at 64 years old I wanted more stability and such a higher vantage point when I needed it.

It really makes it a one man fishing machine and I absolutely love it.

I had labored over my decision to buy a stand up fishing Kayak for months reviewing almost everything including the [build-in outriggers kayak] line of boats that are sold at our local fly shop here in Stuart Florida.

I knew I wanted the stability of “W” and I wanted to be able to take a passenger on occasion.

I’m going to outfit my W kayak with the cockpit hooks and bungee as I don’t think there is a better more affordable way to keep my boat dry will it is sitting on the floating dock waiting for me to use it. Plus I love the idea that I can deploy it when caught out here in our rather numerous summer rain storms and hide under it until it lets up.

I paddle the boat standing on the platform, and use it that way a lot in the back creeks and small mangrove lagoons.

Thanks,

Ted

Pictures of my “W” outfitted with a leaning post and outrigger pontoon system:

fly fishing kayak with high standing platform for sight fishing

paddling a stand up fly fishing kayak with passenger on board

Read article and discussion about Ted’s stand up fly fishing kayak with outriggers >