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Questions and Answers About Fishing Kayaks



Last updated: 10/2011

Like every other sport or activity, kayak fishing has its own myths and beliefs that evolved over the years as a result of fishing kayak vendors' marketing campaigns and more naturally - as fishing tales...

True Or False? - Questions You May Have Asked Yourself:
 

-“A Sit-On-Top kayak (SOT) is more comfortable than a Sit-In Kayak (SIK)"
That may be true if you feel comfortable sitting on a paddle board that offers you absolutely ne protection from water or weather, and has has holes ('scupper holes') going from its deck down through its hulls and below waterline.  These holes were put there to drain the water that's nearly always present on the deck from because of spray and waves, but they obviously conduct water in the other direction too, that is from below up and into the space you're seated on.  In sum, there is no such thing as a dry SOT kayak.

-“A kayak can get you where other boats cannot.”
-This statement is not very accurate since those who claim so ignore a wide range of small, shallow-draft water crafts including motorized and human powered pirogues, canoes, dinghies, rafts and more. Both whitewater canoeing and down river canoeing are still practiced by many, and so is fishing from canoes, dinghies etc.

-“Kayaks are faster than canoes.”
–This statement is based on an erroneous comparison between some faster kayak models to the most common canoe models that are usually large and very stable, while in fact fishing kayaks are rather slow by nature and some racing canoe models are very fast.

-“Kayaks are more stable than canoes.”
-This statement is false, and canoes are still very popular as fishing boats, mainly because they are usually wider and offer more stability.  You can sometime see people casting standing in a canoe if water and weather permit, but have you ever seen someone casting standing in a kayak?  -It is said that very small and lightweight people can, but this is certainly not true for the overwhelming majority of people.

-“The Sit-On-Top (SOT) is a new type of kayak.”
–Wrong. The first commercial SOT models were introduced on the US market in the beginning of the seventies. Native peoples all over the world have used small sit-on-top paddle crafts for millennia, sometime even with double blade paddles.

-“Kayaks were the fishing boats of choice for natives of Greenland, Northern Canada and Alaska."
-In fact these people preferred large and stable canoes called Umiak, especially for open water fishing.  They used kayaks more often in protected waters, and mainly for sneaking close to their prey when hunting.

"The Arctic skin boat known to Inuit as the kayak was protected from waves, spray and the elements by a watertight, covered deck. Low and slender in shape, the speedy kayak was admirably designed for its primary function: the pursuit of sea mammals, waterfowl caribou. These hunting boats, quiet in use, were found all over the North, as far west as Siberia, among the Chukchi and Koryak; and as far east as Greenland and Labrador, among the Inuit."
See: Canadian Museum of Civilization

-“Modern kayaks are both stabler and faster.”
-Totally false: Paddle sports are generally slow, and the slowest kayaks are those designed for fishing.  The reason for that being that the monohull design is constrained by the laws of hydrodynamics to a tradeoff between speed and stability, and since fishing kayaks are required to offer more stability than other kayaks they are slower.  Furthermore, Sit-On-Top (SOT) kayaks are even slower since their scupper holes substantially increase drag.

-“A good kayak seat is very important.”        
–The fact of the matter is that the original native people's kayaks never had seats, and the whole concept of kayak seat is rather misleading since leg numbness is the result of bad circulation in the legs coming from being seated in the “L” kayaking position, which most of us stopped using since we were toddlers.  As for lower back pains, they result from the legs pushing your body against the seat's backrest (AKA “lumbar support”) in an attempt to prevent your body from sliding down.  Expensive, cushioned and otherwise sophisticated seats may delay the appearance of these annoying and potentially dangerous physiological symptoms, but eventually they will appear simply because kayaks offer you just one, unusual and therefore problematic position without any option to switch to other paddling or casting positions.

-“Kayak fishing is a water sport and therefore you have to get wet!"
-Not acceptable. First of all kayak fishing doesn't necessarily have to be wet if you use a sit-in kayak on flat water.  Second, getting wet and staying wet for long hours is not an option in colder climates and waters, that is in about half of the US territory.  Third, being wet for hours is unpleasant even in warm climates and waters, and can cause rashes and infections.  Conclusion: You don't have to listen to SOT manufacturers’ excuse for not having found better solution to “wet ride” and “soggy bottom” problems that are plaguing people who fish from SOTs and are a main turnoff for those who want to participate in kayak fishing.  And just for the record, you don't really want to wear waders while in your kayak, not just because it's uncomfortable but also because it's dangerous.

-“Scupper holes drain the water from your SOT.”
-False. Scupper holes drain the water only from the deck, but not from the hull of the SOT kayak, which can get water leaking inside without you being capable of noticing it, until it's too late...
Scupper holes also get water onto the deck from below, as the kayak is bouncing up and down, and from side to side.

-“Kayak stability is important only for beginning fishermen.”
–Not when it comes to fishing kayaks since the overwhelming majority of North Americans have neither the skills nor the physical attributes that Inuit and other native kayak fishermen had, and SOT kayaks are essentially less stable than comparable sit-in kayaks since their center of gravity (CG) is higher. Therefore, modern, recreational kayak fishermen are exposed to a much higher risk of capsizing than the original, native kayak fishermen were.  You may get used to fishing from an unstable kayak until the inevitable moment comes when you'll capsize in unsafe conditions. –Some people can ride a mono cycle quite easily but that doesn't mean you should try it...

-“SOTs are more versatile than Sit-in kayaks.”
–Not if you would even consider fishing with a SOT in cold water and/or old weather, -conditions that are common to much of the US and Canada.  Also, SOTs offer you little or no protection in the surf, and are less maneuverable than sit-in kayaks, which elevates the risk of injuries and accidents even in warm waters (e.g. shark bytes, jellyfish etc.)    

-“You can roll a SOT.”
"In reality, 99% of people who paddle kayaks can't even roll a SIK tough it's basically easier than rolling a SOT, so it would be a waste of time for you to try to roll a fishing SOT, especially considering the fact that in order to do so you'll have to strap yourself to your boat, which is very dangerous, especially in the surf where capsizing is more likely to happen.   

-“You can cast standing in a kayak.”
-Although nobody really believes this since most people don't even feel fully confident just sitting in a kayak, this myth keeps being mentioned on Internet forums in discussions about stable fishing kayaks.  Technically speaking, children and very small adults can sometime stand in a kayak, usually a wide sit-in since it has a lower center of gravity than a SOT.  However, nobody can stand in any type of kayak confidently enough to cast.  Some people can cast standing in large size canoes, and anybody can cast standing from a W boat.    

-“Rudders solve both your tracking and maneuvering problems.”
–Although many would like to believe so, the reality is more complex and not particularly encouraging one to use a rudder:  Native kayakers never used rudders but Kayak manufacturers introduced rudders with the intent to improve kayaks’ directional stability (i.e. tracking) and maneuverability.  Keeping any monohull including kayaks is a problem since zigzagging makes the boat go a longer distance, and constantly correcting the kayak's course can require a lot of your energy and time.  Moreover, tracking becomes more difficult as water and weather conditions deteriorate.  But looking only at (unpublished) results of hydrodynamics tests shows that rudders increase total drag by up to 10%, and considering the constant mental and physical effort that manipulating the rudder requires from the paddler it is possible to say that rudders reduce effective speed by about 25%.  Naturally, the more experienced the paddler the less effort is wasted, but the less the rudder is required in the first place.  As for maneuvering, a rudder can make a noticeable difference especially if the kayak is very long (e.g. 16’-18’ long seakayaks) and the paddler inexperienced, but its effectiveness is dubious in shorter (i.e. more maneuverable) kayaks.

-“Modern fishing kayaks are so stable you can hardly tip them over, even if you try."
-This is an absurd falsehood:  The only people who are not in danger of tipping a modern fishing kayak are small children who sit and behave nicely in their kayak.  In fact, when you need to struggle with a big fish kayaks are impractical since they can offer little support to your pulling effort.  Only few kayak fishermen are capable of catching big fish from their kayaks without any assistance.

-“Most kayak fishermen fish at sea.”
–This image doesn't seem to fit reality, where most people who use kayaks for fishing tend to do it in protected waters, for obvious reasons.

-“Kayaks are very mobile.”
-While this may be true compared to boats that require towing, it's not necessarily true within the class of paddle craft since kayaks are more difficult to get into and out from than canoes are, and consequently also more difficult when it comes to launching and taking out.

-“SOTs are stabler than SIKs.”
-Quite the opposite: SOTs offer paddlers to sit in the unstable “L” kayaking position on top of a deck, while SIKs offer them to sit it that same position at the bottom of the hull.  This difference in the center of gravity (CG) height works against the SOT and needs to be compensated by a wider hull.

-“Hatches offer practical means for storage.”
-Few thing could be further from the truth:  In fact, you can't access what's inside the hatches from your seat, and in most cases the hatches fail to be totally waterproof.

-"SOTs are very safe kayaks, and they are self bailing."
False. The hulls of SOT kayaks are not self bailing, and there's no means to drain water out of them unless you pump it out, or drain it out through a hole, while the SOT is on dry land. The only part in a SOT that's continuously drained is its deck, through water flowing down its sides and down the scupper holes. SOT kayaks' hulls are neither self bailing nor offer proper means for seeing water that gets in through the hatches, deck rigging holes, and cracks, and this means you could find yourself paddling a sinking kayak when it's already too late to do anything about it.

-"The best color for a fishing kayak is dark green or camo because it's harder for fish to see."
When fish look up to the water surface they see a bright light coming from above, and when they look down to the bottom they see darker shades. This is why most marine predators have light bellies and dark backs.  There is no scientific proof that light colored or dark colored fishing kayaks (or canoes) perform better, but it is absolutely certain that light colors, especially yellow are more visible outside the water, and therefore are safer for you when fast and/or big motorboats are around.


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