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Sight Fishing from a Paddle Craft

Decrease your noise, increase your vision, improve your sight fishing.

Inflatable standup paddleboard is a sight fishing problem solver for traveling anglers.

By Peter Hinck

Sight fishing from a paddle craft is fishing and hunting rolled together. Having a paddle hit the side of your kayak as you put it down will send the fish south of the border before you can even get a cast off. Go over your kayak and look at what you can do to make it as silent as possible. Do your homework and find a kayak that does not have a lot of hull slap. Having your scupper in will help cut down on the hull noise. Make sure that your tackle box does not rattle and that rods are secured in a way where they don’t rattle or bang against the kayak or each other. Have a spot for pliers and grips where they are accessible without laying them on the deck. Take an 8-inch piece of pool noodle, then cut a slit in it so you can hold it down with a bungee. This is great for keeping used lures out of the way and quiet.

When stalking fish, paddle slowly and keep a sharp eye on the water. When paddling along the shoreline, stay out as far as you can and still be with in casting distance of your target. When you spot a fish, stake out or softly drop an anchor over the side. This will allow you to cast without drifting out of casting range and will keep you from being pulled into the mangroves after you hook up. On the flats, pay attention to the current and wind direction. Fish will be facing the current waiting for bait to be swept by for an easy meal.

Find a kayak that you are comfortable standing in—most of these, you’ll find, will be 30 inches or wider and 12 to 14 feet in length. Having a clean, flat deck is a helpful. Wider may be better for standing but could make it a hard and long paddle if you have to cover a lot of water. If you are making a short trip to your favorite flats, a short, wide kayak may be your best bet. If you will be paddling over a distance, choosing a longer, narrower kayak will get you there faster. Water testing is the best way to find a kayak for your fishing situation. One budget kayak suitable for standing is the Native Redfish, with its simple, clean design. The new kayaks with raised seats allow you get up from sitting to standing more easily and you can’t beat the comfort level of the new seats. Native Slayer, Jackson Cuda, Old Town Predator and Hobie Pro Angler are some popular choices. Hybrid canoe-kayaks like the Native Ultimate have been favorites of sight fishermen for years.

Hunting for marsh redfish on an Old Town Predator 13, a wide, stable kayak.

Paddleboards are the ultimate sight-fishing machines, with some caveats. These minimalist craft are efficient to paddle from a standing position. The difference in height as you paddle allows you to spot fish that you would miss paddling from the seated position of a kayak. Paddle slowly and keep an eye on the water for flashes, tails or shadows of fish. Once you spot your fish, you can quickly transition from paddling to fishing. Have a paddle clip on your belt or cooler so you don’t have to bend over to put it down and have the rod in a holder that is easily reached. It is important that you go from paddling to fishing with a slow and smooth movement. Dropping down fast to put down your paddle and pick up your rod could send the fish to another flat. Have a small anchor on a short line ready on the side of the board that you can easily kick over the side with your foot when you hook up. This will help keep the fish from taking you into the mangroves.

Not all paddle boards are suited for fishing. Boards designed for fishing are extremely quiet and cut into a chop with little to no hull slap. Boards from Dragonfly have a shallow-water fin that allows you to float in 3 inches of water. The 13.5 Dragonfly Paddle Board, Bote HD Paddle Board and Engel Paddle fishing boards are some good paddle board choices. Strap on a cooler and you have a seat with storage. Attach rod holders and paddle clips to the cooler and you are ready to fish. Add a pushpole to your board and you will be able to move more quickly in shallow water than you could with a paddle. A pushpole also is an asset when you are moving into a strong headwind. FS

First Published Florida Sportsman February 2014