Here you will find information and tips and tricks on kayaking, kayak fishing, softbait fishing and spearfishing topic's that have been written by Rob Fort and previously published as articles for New Zealand Fishing Coast to Coast Magazine in the last 5 years. Fishing Coast to Coast magazine is a bi-monthly publication that has a bunch of very talented writers covering most topic's on fresh and saltwater fishing and diving in New Zealand and around the world.
Proud supporters of kayak fishing in New Zealand the magazine have been publishing articles on on the subject for more than seven years. Recently in 2011 they took this a step further and increased the kayak fishing section to bring it in-line with its ever growing popularity.
The magazine is available through all good book stores or back issues can be purchased through the website!
Click on the logo to visit the official magazine website.
KAYAK FISHING SAFETY
There is a mixed variety of individuals doing this style of fishing and naturally they range from experienced to new bees, but what surprises me the most is the lack of provision for safety within such a broad range of kayak anglers. More often the safety thing is over looked for many reasons and these can range from; didn’t think or consider it was necessary if in a kayak, only going out very close to shore.
One of the most common areas over looked by about ninety nine point nine percent of people kayak fishing is re-entry to the kayak while out on the water. This can be practiced in the relative safety of a calm sheltered bay on a nice day. It is a good idea to get someone to be there to assist you on another kayak if possible but if this is not possible get a friend to help from the shore. Using a tether line which is attached to your kayak will enable your helper to hold on to the kayak if on the shore or another kayak while you practice. Your kayak is best setup without any fishing gear on it for obvious reasons and all that you should have is a seat and paddle. You should always wear your PFD (lifejacket) and whatever clothing you prefer which can be swimwear, wetsuit, kayak dry gear etc. When at your desired location and out on the water getting ready to tip out be sure that the water is deep enough so you cant touch the bottom as this is what you will encounter when out fishing. It is good for you to find out how much it takes to actually tip your kayak over. So slowly start to roll the kayak from side to side until you are ready to take it all the way and by doing so will put you in the water along with the kayak finishing up side down. The first part of this exercise is flipping (righting) the kayak over and you will need to become sufficient at doing this in order to re-mount the kayak. To achieve this simply reach across and over the center part of the hull on the kayak (opposite side) to the other side which usually contains grab lines, handles etc. Grab a firm hold of one of these grab points and then using yourself as a kind of cantilever pull the opposite side of the kayak over and back towards you while using your other hand to push down on the side closest to you and by doing this the kayak will flip over. If you have quite a wide kayak across the center or are unable to reach the other side then you can also achieve the same result by moving away from the center towards the bow or stern where the width is less. Once you have got the kayak back up the right way it is a good idea to take a few deep breaths and try to relax as much as you can before attempting to get back in. This is some times necessary and for good reason as you won’t be so out of breath which can make it even more difficult to do. So once you are nice and calm position yourself in the center part of the kayak and grab hold of each outer side edge of the kayak and slightly press down so you are spreading the load evenly to both sides keeping it stable. The key to successfully re-entering the kayak is achieved keeping your weight evenly distributed and by doing this you will be able to climb back on without tipping the kayak over. So with your hands firmly supporting your weight evenly on both sides try to lift yourself up by treading water and lifting. Then try to thrust yourself forward and over the kayak so that your upper part of your body is positioned over both sides well onto the deck area close to the seat. Shifting your upper body weight over to one side more will compensate for your legs hanging over the opposite side and once you have successfully done this it is time to bring the legs around. To do this you must again juggle your weight as necessary to keep the kayak stable and up-right. Once your legs and feet are on the kayak the final part is maneuvering your self back into the seating position again. It is very important that any person kayak fishing is able to re-enter the kayak and if left to chance you may find yourself in trouble when the situation arises. If you cannot get back in when at sea you may be at risk of hypothermia from being in the water to long.
Learning the skills required to maneuver, navigate and paddle your kayak at sea is also very important. Sitting one of Coast Guards day skipper course which now includes sea kayaking can also be of benefit. If you are not familiar with conditions encountered at sea then getting to know the environment slowly is well advised and only time on the water will truly prepare you. If you are in this situation or new to kayak fishing then learning from someone who has experience can make a big difference and joining a kayak fishing club can put you in touch with other like minded people who are usually happy to share knowledge
I strongly advise that before going on any kayak trip you ensure that a thorough check is undertaken of the kayak to ensure that it is totally sea worthy. As part of this make sure all hatches/bungs and fastenings are tightened down and inspect the hull for any adverse wear. Make sure every item that you have on your kayak is attached to it by way of lanyard/leash or you could lose it if you tip over. If you use a gaff don’t attach it to the kayak with a tether line. The reason for this is if you get dumped coming back in the surf break the last thing you want is the gaff being towed by kayak which could connect with you and the rest I will leave to your imagination.
Another thing to consider is if you are planning on going out on the water kayak fishing by yourself. In this situation you will need to be attached by a tether line to the kayak which will prevent you from being separated from the kayak if you fall out. This is extremely important as it is almost impossible to swim after your kayak if the wind gets hold of it and the kayak is far easier to find in an emergency situation.
Using a kayak flag and proper light so you can be seen day or night is a must especially in built up areas. The use of reflective film on your paddles and kayak can also add to your ability to be seen. Auckland now has a bylaw in place for the surrounding harbors which requires any kayaker to have reflective film on paddles and kayak, light and flag. To add to the visibility you can wear a fluorescent hat that has a reflective strip these really stand out. The advantage to using a bright hat is that it can be seen in any direction as opposed to a flag which will not be seen if the wind is blowing in such a direction to make it have very little profile.
Personal clothing should consist of specific garments such as rash shirt and long john made of synthetic fibers: SharkSkin is fantastic in keeping you warm. Cheaper polypropylene or polyester is also suitable. Multi layers of thin clothing allow more flexibility. Waterproof outer layers in both top and pants such as Rasdex and Sharkskin, sun hat with tie or warm hat for cold conditions and wet weather, sunglasses (with cord loop), suitable footwear such as neoprene booties. A life jacket or personal floatation device (PFD) MUST ALWAYS BE WORN when kayaking.
Carry any signaling devices on your person or life jacket at all times and these consist of; whistle, signaling mirror (old compact disk), emergency light and handheld VHF radio and or mobile phone in a sealed waterproof bag (Aquapac). A word about mobile phones as quite a few kayak anglers rely on these as there only means of communication when on the water. A mobile phone is only as good as the numbers you enter to call someone up and this is where the problem starts. For example if you get into trouble and need assistance in an emergency due to a medical condition like heart attack, then calling emergency services with your mobile phone as opposed to VHF could be the difference between life and death. The amount of time it could take for help to come to your assistance if using a mobile phone will be much slower when coordinating a sea rescue as opposed to VHF because Coast Guard use VHF marine radio. Another advantage to VHF marine radio use on the water is that other boats will also more often than not have an VHF on board and will be able to come to your aid quickly if situated close by. Carry in a waterproof dry bag (which should be kept within reach of your self), day/night flares, first aid kit, sunscreen and a survival kit.
You should also have enough water (drink bottle) and food (snack bars) to fuel your body for the duration of the time on the water. Our body is the motor that drives the paddles which in turn moves the kayak along so drink and food are very important. An optional extra which can be carried under the hatch inside your kayak is a bag containing thermos tea/coffee/food and supplies if you are out for a full day. It is best to use a compass and or GPS (handheld or fixed), laminated copy from a chart of your designated area that you are fishing for navigation purposes. The reason for this is if you become surrounded by rain or mist and lose all visibility then you can use any of these devices to get back to the coast, instead of possibly becoming disorientated and paddling in the wrong direction which could be out to sea. At a minimum you should always carry a compass even when you have GPS in case for some it fails or loses power.
Before you go on the water make sure you check the local area marine forecast, for wind speed and direction, sea state and any gale warnings or expected changes in weather likely. Talk to Coastguard, other kayakers and boaties about local conditions and what to expect. Check the tides, tidal flow and range. Leave your trip intentions with a reliable friend or relative and include the following: launch site, expected return time and overdue action time to contact Coastguard or Police. Last of all don't go past your own personal ability level (fitness). What one kayaker might be able to handle may be different to you, if the conditions change and you are not able to cope with them you could be caught out. Lastly remember we are no different to any other vessel out on the water so why compromise your own personal safety and at the end of the day how much is your life worth?
Kayak Fishing – Spin reel care and maintenance
Kayak fishing places the harshest extreme marine conditions on all fishing terminal tackle. There are many reasons for this and probably the two main ones that come to mind are XOS fish and lots of salt water contact. One area often overlooked when purchasing a new reel for kayak fishing is a suitability pre check to prevent any damage in the future. Doing so will not only give you trouble free running when fishing but also longer periods before servicing needs to be carried out. Of course the equipment type and quality will influence the life span further and when purchasing some basic fundamentals should be a minimum requirement. Look for features like sealed waterproof drag systems, excellent anti-corrosion paintwork protection and these two things can make a big difference. One other trick can add to this and this comes down to your own pre-treatment with grease and other lubricants. To explain this process I have chosen the new Quantum Cabo PT 40 spinning reel as my new reel that has yet to be put to use on the water. The spinning type reel is commonly used with kayaks especially for softbait fishing. I found the Quantum to meet the required criteria and this is a good quality reel containing sealed ceramic drag, six-layer Saltgard™ finish, Nickel-Titanium bail wire that never gets bent out of shape and more. Once you have purchased your reel of choice the protection work can begin but before starting you will need a couple of items to do the job. The most important item is the type of grease you select and any old grease won’t be sufficient for this. It is recommended that you use the best grease you can get hold of and purpose made is best. The one I found to be very good is a new product from BCS Enterprises called CAL'S 2 speed universal star drag and reel grease which features qualities like maximum corrosion protection, little or no drag acceleration, smooth star drags, fortified with Teflon and polymer and superior heat and wear resistance. The CAL’S grease also reduces gear train friction and is safe to use on all metals containing the best qualities from several different types of greases. You can find this drag and reel grease at all good tackle stores. Once you have the correct grease the only other things needed are reel oil, an artist type paint brush, clean rag or tissue and appropriate tools like screw drivers and spanner for the job. Once you have everything you need we are ready to start work and the first thing required is removal off the spool, rotor assembly and handle then proceed to open up the side plate on the main body to expose the internal workings. Depending on the reel type you may be required to pull off other parts and if you are confident enough to do so it is wise to check your parts diagram first for any details on how the reel comes apart. If you don’t feel confident enough to do this work then I would recommend you get someone qualified to do the required work for you. Once you have removed the side plate you can begin the first stage and before you do this it is necessary to remove the drive gear allowing better access to the inside of main body housing. Before doing so you must undo the screw fastening the main shaft to the O/S slider. Slide the main shaft out then remove the drive gear assembly followed by the O/S slider and set aside with screw then carefully remove O/S gear with bearing or bush. When removing parts from the reel it is a good idea to make sure you set everything aside taking care not to lose anything like small screws. Now that you are able to get to the inside properly we can begin the process and the first step is to coat all internal surfaces of the main body assembly with grease using the artist brush. Next step is to coat all parts removed with grease and then replace them back into the main body in the opposite order to which they were removed. Once all parts are coated and repositioned it’s time to coat the body cover. When finishing this I like to make sure a good amount of grease is placed on the lips of both the body cover and main body assembly where they meet to ensure a good seal is formed further preventing any water from getting into this area. Smear a coat of grease over any screws on the outside of reel especially on the underside of the head as this will help form a waterproof seal when tightened down With the body cover screwed in place apply a few drops of reel oil into the handle openings on both sides followed by a blob of grease then replace handle and handle cap. Now we move to the clutch assembly applying oil to it and also brushing some more grease onto the outside taking care not to displace any small springs which are exposed on some models. The Quantum’s clutch assembly and pinion has a surround which is moulded onto the main body assembly offering the clutch assembly much better protection from the elements. Once this is done it is then time to do the rotor assembly and you will need to remove the arm lever cover, coating the inside of it with grease as well as any other internal surfaces. Remove the bail arm and arm lever to enable further coating of grease for protection then reassemble followed by replacing and fastening the rotor. It is time now to turn our attention to the line roller bearing or bush on the bail arm. The line roller is usually the first part to wear out, with corrosion usually occurring very easily if left unchecked. Unscrew and pull apart then start by coating all internals with grease. The roller bearing should have some oil and grease applied then you can reassemble the line roller system and bail arm etc. Now we are ready for the last part which is the spool and drag system. A word of caution when putting grease on your drag system and you must make sure the drag washers used in the reel are able to be lubricated with grease. Note: some reels have carbon drag washers and cannot have grease or any other lubricant applied because they may dissolve. Once again cover all the inside of your drag housing and all other parts including the drag washers with grease using the brush. Finally coat the underside of the spool finishing with the drag knob assembly including the o-ring seal, replace spool and you are ready to go. Now that the reel is completely reassembled clean off any excess grease leftover on the outside surfaces of the reel like where the body cover meets the body assembly. The only other things required for the reel before use is to spray a coating of Saltaway over every surface and allowing to dry off just prior to fishing. Saltaway is ideal for this because once it dries it forms a protective barrier keeping salt water at bay. Once you arrive back from your fishing trip spray Saltaway on your reels once again immediately afterwards to remove any salt that might be on the outside. Later on if you think your reel needs some more Saltaway give it another spray then allow too dry. When lightly spraying your reel with any product always have your drag tightened to prevent any liquid getting inside. If you are not going to be using the reel for some time then applying a coat of Inox is a good idea to keep it nice and protected for longer periods. By taking proper care of your reels you will insure a longer lifespan and smother performance even with reels of lesser quality. If you are not able to do this yourself then visit your local tackle store chances are they will be able to do this for you and mention that it is for kayak fishing this way they can give it an extra treatment.
Kayak Fishing - Which Rod
The kayak is now regarded as an extremely effective means of catching fish and much like any other platform used for fishing it can encompass many different styles of fishing. Each fishing style will require a different set of rules which includes using the correct rod/reel, terminal tackle and technique. Many kayak anglers will try to make do with what they have already or simply go out and buy something that just isn't right for the job. A classic example of this is the upsurge in softbait fishing from a kayak proving one of the most effective and safest ways of catching fish. However it does have its own set of rules requiring specific equipment use. All too often I come across newbie's to kayak fishing who are using softbaits with very limited success and this usually can come down to either a significant number of things or the smallest detail in their equipment. The Fishing Rod can play a major part in this success and should be considered high on the priority list. Using just one rod to cover the many fishing styles you intend to undertake in most cases is not advisable and sometimes it can be difficult to convince your partner of this fact when justifying yet another purchase. I like to use the sport of golf as an example when trying to explain to the other half why another rod and or reel is so important. Yes fishing is much the same and when you go out onto the golf course you don't just take one club with you to cover all your bases.
When choosing a fishing rod for kayak use consideration of the basic fundamentals for the chosen fishing style should be taken into account. These are as follows:
1/ Because you are sitting down on the kayak, using a rod which has too much length between butt section and reel seat will make using the reel difficult. To find what is right for you when in the tackle store attach the specific reel to the rod and sit down on the floor much like when you are in the kayak. This will give you a proper test to see if you can work the reel properly. Alternatively if you find a rod you like with a butt section that is too long it is possible to get it altered to suit by a professional rod maker.
2/ Using a rod of the correct length is also important. A rod which has an overall length which is to long can affect the center of gravity when fighting fish by placing much of the weight well away from the center core of the kayak. Rods from five foot to six foot eight inches are ideal depending on the style of fishing. You should also be able to reach the tip of your rod when landing your fish at the side of the kayak and if you aren't able to do so you may put the rod in a situation where it could be point loaded causing it to break while trying to get the fish on board.
3/ Grip configuration is another aspect to consider and having a bigger for grip above the reel seat is ideal for kayak use. This makes handling the rod easier when in the sitting position while playing fish. Type of grip which in most cases is either EVA foam, cork or both can further influence both comfort and the ability to detect any interest felt down the rod from your prey.
4/ Type of rod blank used forms the basic back bone of the fishing rod influencing suitability for any given fishing style. Rod blanks can vary greatly and this can include fiberglass, graphite and combinations of various materials. Parabolic action is by far one of the most important things to consider depending on fishing style and this is the action a rod has when under load. For example a softbait rod has a stiffer bottom end and softer tip in comparison to a jig rod which bends more evenly across the length.
5/ Guides should also be looked at and this will depend on the type of line used. Braid line requires better quality because of its abrasive qualities which allow it to cut through most objects easier when under load.
6/ Configuration of guides and type of reel seat allowing use of either a spin or overhead/bait caster type reel. Each rod is built with a certain type of reel in mind and the overhead type usually has a pistol type reel seat and smaller first guide close to the reel. The guides are also arranged much closer together and setup to be used with guides facing on top of the rod as opposed to spin which are on the underside.
7/ Lastly line/weight rating of the rod are important and this can be quite deceiving because many rods these days are rated quite high even though they have very little weight in hand. Most rods will have this detail clearly marked just above the grips on the blank next to the brand name.
Now that we have the rod aspects covered we can look at the most common side of rod use which is the fishing styles. In each style of fishing category I have also given my rods used currently for your reference and some are not yet available until the upcoming season.
Softbaits: Generally a rod which has a graphite construction is best with cork grips being more suitable than EVA foam. As a rule the lighter the rod the better because of the active style of fishing softbaits require. The length is important with anything from five foot six to six foot two inches ideal. Both spin and overhead type setups are good with the overhead suited to deep water more than spin. Rod rating should be from five to ten kilos again depending on depth being fished and a heavier rating is better for greater depths. It is worth noting that the shorter rods produced today are capable of casting almost as far as the longer versions. Graphite rods come in different modulus ratings IM-6 to IM-8 which represent the amount of graphite in the blank. For example the higher rating of IM-8 means the stronger and lighter it will be with the downside to this being more fragile when handling and transporting. Some of the newer technology now entering the market featuring spiral wrap core and nanoresins compounds offer more durable stronger rods. My choice of rods is; Spin - Quantum IM-8 6'2" 3.6 to 7.6 kg and Quantum Alliance 5'6". Bait caster - Quantum IM-8 6'2" 3.6 to 7.6 kg. Slow jigs: Most rods are suitable for use with slow jigs and this includes softbait specific types also. Using a slow jig with rod in the holder while working a softbait works well also and if doing so it is better to use a rod which isn't so susceptible to point loading. One rod in particular that suits this style extremely well is the new Quantum Alliance 5'6' as well as most bait caster overhead type setups. Bait: Most rods used for any other fishing activity will cover bait fishing and it is up to the individual which size/weight they choose for the job depending on factors like water depth and style which can be stray lining or fishing directly below the boat for example. Trolling: This is one area which is definitely under utilized by many kayak anglers and we are travelling at an ideal trolling speed most of the time as we paddle along. Selecting a rod capable of handling a wide range of fish and applications is worth considering here. I find using a slightly longer rod good for this as it will keep the line well above the kayak helping avoid snagging on any attachments fitted like the rudder. Not only does a longer rod offer less likely hood of snagging but also aids in lifting line over the bow when playing fish which can often change direction from one side of the kayak to the other during such times. The longer rod will also have a much more forgiving action compensating better for any sudden strong runs and change in direction that larger fish so often do when on the line. Rods with heavier ratings should also be considered as the species which might be caught like kingfish can put much greater demands on gear so having something more powerful to lift and direct fish will further aid the angler. My choice is the Quantum Boca offshore 7'0 11 to 18kg with two inches removed from the butt section making it 6'8" in both spin and overhead models.
Live baiting: Again as with the trolling rod previously mentioned it is possible to use the same type of rod for live bait fishing and for many of the same reasons listed. Because the live bait is often under a balloon having a longer rod allows the line some height as the bait fish can often swim around the kayak in circles.
Poppers: Once again the trolling rod mentioned previously works well here in a spin type setup of course. The longer rod length is perfect for casting poopers around which are usually of the larger variety and will most often attract the attention of species like kingfish.
Jigging: This is a relatively new style of fishing here in New Zealand and gear specific for the use of jigs is ideal for the kayak. Rods suitable for jigging are made of hi modulus graphite with much shorter lengths ranging from five to five foot eight in most cases. They are also extremely strong and designed with an action allowing them to bend right over from tip to for grip. Choosing a slightly stiffer rod action may have its advantages for the kayak angler preventing the rod from folding over the side of the kayak too much. My choice is the Quantum Jig Special 5'8" 60-80lb line weight and 190 to 325 gram lure weight and the Finn Nor Marquesa 5'6" 270 gram with Finn Nor Marquesa MA16 reel.
During the years of kayak fishing undertaken by me I have owned and used many different brands of rods for the various fishing styles involved. These brands used are all quite similar in many ways when taking the certain style into consideration and it is only small detail which has separated them with some performing better than others. Whatever you choose for your particular style of fishing from the kayak insure that most importantly it suits your own body makeup. I recommend visiting a professional tackle store who will offer much greater knowledge and advise than the k-mart or warehouse situation. Alternatively if your budget allows have a purpose built rod made by a custom rod builder like our own Kieron Olson from Reel Rods.