Kayak fishing has exploded in popularity in the last decade and continues to build steam to this day. One of the most looming questions from power boaters is, “Why is kayak fishing so popular?” The boat is smaller, the storage is smaller, the speed is slower, and you have to go alone. These are the most common gripes I hear from anti-kayak people that cannot see the appeal of fishing from a kayak. It’s hard for them to understand that less can actually be more. I have narrowed it down to four basic reasons that you should give kayak fishing a shot. They are cost, conservation, portability, and health & wellness.
I’m going to start with cost because money is something almost everyone understands. I looked into several brands and models of bass boats and my average cost was anywhere between 20-50 thousand dollars. The average pricing that you will find in the fishing kayak market is between 800-2500 dollars. The cost of the vessel itself is enough to at least make you want to consider taking a kayak for a spin. We can also look at fuel costs. The average fuel tank size that I found on the bass boats I looked at was about 30 gallons. If you take the national average gas price from 2015, then you are looking at about $72 per tank. My kayak usually cost me about $1.75 in a cup coffee to get it going in the morning. I’m not even throwing in the costs associated with registering the boat and trailer, winterizing, storing, etc. With costs differentials like this there is absolute justification to make the switch from bass boat to kayak to at least see if its something you might be into. As for bank fisherman these costs have to be far less intimidating for anyone that is looking to get on the water without the money or headache of buying a boat.
Conservation is a topic that I think all fisherman and outdoors men can rally behind. We all want our waterways to be plentiful and bountiful for our children and their children.Kayak fishing in general is one of the truest forms of conservationism. We all have human powered vessels, we largely practice catch and release, and we do nothing to disturb or disrupt the environment or ecosystems. I ran across a study called The Effects of Motorized Watercraft of Aquatic Ecosystems performed by the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Water Chemistry Program. I do not want to get into quoting the entire study but in a nutshell they have found evidence that bass boats and jet skis can and do have detrimental effects on waterways. Not only have they discovered that exhaust emissions can pollute water but also sediment disturbance and large wakes add to shoreline erosion. All of these factors contribute to the dissolution of our fisheries. According to the study the number of registered boats since the sixties has increased 87% and the size of the boats have also increased further adding to the problem. I think if only a few would trade in the bass boat for a kayak, even if only part time, it would go a long way to preserving the fisheries and waterways that we all share and love.
When we talk about kayaks vs. big bass boats, one aspect that cannot be ignored is portability. The launch sites for kayaks are over abundant and are pretty much only limited to private property. I have spoken to local bass clubs, bass boat anglers at ramps, and fishermen in general about where kayaks can be launched. Where I live in North Texas we have had over 62 inches of rainfall last year, which is up from 21 inches the previous year. For at least six months the boat ramps were closed on several lakes and sill closed on others. I heard the gripes and complaints from guys that were essentially landlocked because there was no ramp to launch their boat. A couple of years before that we were in such a bad drought that the ramps were completely out of the water and they were also unable to launch a boat from a ramp. I believe that both of these circumstances have propelled the kayak fishing scene in my area out of necessity and anglers were forced to fish from a kayak or stay on the bank. One of the many great aspects of kayak fishing is the ability to throw your kayak in the back of your truck or on top of your car and toss it in the most remote of locations and explore new waters and what lurks in them. That is a sense of freedom and adventure that you just cannot get in a big, expensive boat.
Lastly I have to hit upon the health and wellness aspects of kayaking. I’ve heard it all before, “If I wanted a workout I would join a gym”, “I just wanna fish, not workout”. I hear you, trust me, but these are only a secondary benefit that comes from kayak fishing. I’m not going out there to specifically get a workout in, and believe me when I say it’s not like doing P90X. The health and wellness aspect for me is more internal than physical. I have never participated in an activity in my entire life that gives me the tranquility, peacefulness, or the time to reflect as kayak fishing. The feeling is very hard to describe to those have never experienced it first hand, but those that have know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ll give you two examples. I lost my mother about two years ago from a long hard fight with breast cancer. It hurts to this day but one of the first things I did after the funeral was take an extra day off work and go out fishing on a big lake by myself in my kayak. It was exactly what I needed. There was no one asking me if I was okay, no one offering condolences, and no one trying to hug me. I realized that all of those gestures are offered from love but after a while it becomes suffocating. This was the first time since her passing that I could actually think about what I was feeling and how I was going to move on with my life from this point. Going fishing that day didn’t fix my heart but it did allow me a space that was all mine for that one day and it absolutely provided me with a platform to build my new normal off of. I can’t discuss health and wellness and kayak fishing without talking about Heroes on the Water or H.O.W for short. H.O.W is an organization that takes mentally and physically disabled service veterans and provides them with the opportunity to get the therapeutic advantages that kayak fishing has to offer. I have been to H.O.W events and I’ve seen the powerful influence that just one day on the water can have on one of these brave young men and women. One soldier called it “All inclusive therapy”. He said that he gets physical therapy from paddling, occupational therapy from participating in a lifetime activity/sport, and mental therapy from the relaxing atmosphere and zero distractions that kayak fishing provides.
I’m not an expert in paddling technique, fishing, or even writing for that matter, but I do know why I love fishing from my kayak so much. I do know that there’s nothing else like it in the world. I do know that there’s more to kayak fishing than what you see on the surface. There’s an entire fishing sub culture that is stuffed full of friendly, welcoming, and creative anglers that would give the PFD off their backs for one another.