Kayak Fishing in the Ocean
Ocean kayak fishing means fishing out of a kayak, in the ocean. The kayak can be it a sit-in, sit-in-top (SOT) or a Wavewalk® kayak. Since kayaks are small vessels and in most cases they’re human-powered, namely under powered, and since kayaks expose their users to the elements, this kind of fishing typically involves some hazards and discomfort.
Mike Silva from Massachusetts fishing for Albacore Tuna (click images to enlarge)
Hazards related to ocean kayak fishing
Fishing in the ocean is different from fishing in flat water in many ways. To begin with, the ocean is practically limitless, and unlike small bodies of water, it presents the danger of being lost at sea as a result of the action of waves, ocean currents, tidal currents, wind and darkness, or a combination of these factors. In addition, the large distances facing the angler and their kayak could be more than it is practically possible for them to go. Depending on circumstances, the angler paddling their kayak faces the dangers of capsizing, dehydration, sun stroke, hypothermia, exhaustion and disorientation. Anglers who fish out of motorized kayaks are mauch less exposed to these hazards, but they can capsize their kayak while driving it too fast.
The surf – a challenging part of the ocean kayak fishing trip
Unless kayak anglers launch and beach at a dock in a protected harbor, the surf is where they typically make the transition from land to sea, and vice versa.
The surf is characterized by various hazards related to the presence of waves – from water getting into your kayak while you’re launching or beaching, to capsizing, getting your fishing tackle sprayed with corrosive saltwater, losing fishing gear, and just getting soaked and uncomfortable during the rest of your trip. Strong waves can even pin your kayak in parallel to the shoreline, in a situation known as ‘broaching’, without you being able to either get to shore or go into the ocean.
Launching any kayak in the ocean surf isn’t easy, and launching a kayak loaded with fishing gear and tackle is likely to be harder. However, launching a W fishing kayak is considerably easier, and it can be fun: You just get the kayak in the water and hop inside – as you can see in the demo movie below.
If you prefer to surf launch in a more relaxed way, you can just launch regularly from dry land, as shown in the first part of this video:
Tip for easier surf launching: When you ride the saddle seat at the rear of the cockpit, you raise your Wavewalk kayak’s bow, and by doing so you make it easy for the kayak to go over the incoming waves instead of going through them. This can make a big difference as far as the efforts required, the chances of succeeding, and the probability that you’ll get wet. This maneuver is possible only with a W fishing kayak, thanks to its long saddle, which offers its user to relocate fore and aft, and by that move the kayak’s center of gravity (CG) with them.
How to prevent your Wavewalk kayak from broaching –
If the waves drive your kayak to a fixed position that’s parallel to the shoreline (a.k.a. ‘broaching’), and your kayak happens to be a regular one (I.E. sit-in or SOT), then you’re broached, and your best bet is to try to get out of your kayak without capsizing it, and depending on what your plans are, either drag it out to the beach, or drag it in the water so it would face the ocean. But if you’re lucky enough to be in a W kayak, you’re not broached, since you can slide to the front of the cockpit, thus lowering the bow and making the stern go up.
The bow will act as a pivot while the waves hit the stern and make your kayak face the ocean again. When this happens, you can swiftly reposition yourself at the back of the cockpit, and paddle out to the ocean.
The reason why you want to do it from the cockpit’s rear is that it would make it easier for you to go over the incoming waves instead of having to go through them.
When this is done, you go back to paddling forward from a position in the middle of the cockpit, and most importantly: in the Riding position.
Remember – the riding position is your position of choice in rough waters. Standing up is less stable, and sitting with your knees forward isn’t recommended at all in such conditions.
If you need to go pass big incoming waves, you should ride the saddle from the back of the cockpit. This makes your kayak’s bow go up, so you can go over the wave crests rather than have to go through them.
Watch more videos »
Important: Before entering the water make sure you’re wearing a PFD (Personal Flotation Device), and that all your fishing tackle and gear are secured to your kayak.
How to cope with lateral (side) waves?
Lateral waves can be a big problem if you’re paddling a sit-in or SOT kayak, but if you’re paddling a Wavewalk kayak they can be a source of fun if you’re surf playing – You paddle your W kayak in parallel to the beach, and let the side waves roll under you.
You’d need to learn how to lean your kayak into the wave just enough to prevent it from being overturned, but don’t lean too strongly or else you might roll to the other side once the wave has passed under your kayak.
Tip: You should practice with your Wavewalk kayak in smaller waves before you tackle bigger ones.
The following videos show the Wavewalk S4 going in choppy sea and handling big wakes from a fast motorboat:
Capsizing your ocean fishing kayak
Some people believe that SOT kayaks are watertight, which in fact they aren’t, and some believe these kayaks are self-bailing, which they aren’t either. The ‘scupper’ holes are in fact structural elements that were introduced in the SOT hull to prevent it from collapsing as passengers sit on its top side (a.k.a. ‘deck’). These holes do not drain water out of the hull (yes, water does get inside, and when it does you can’t see it..) – they drain water only from its top side – the deck.
There is ample evidence to suggest that SOT kayaks can be hazardous to fish out of in the ocean. Read more on this subject »
As for capsizing your Wavewalk kayak (it is possible to do so!) – If you bail out swiftly enough the W kayak is likely to stay right. In such case you can hop back in from the side (if you’re athletic enough) or slowly crawl inside from the back, with your legs balancing you and the kayak.
If the Wavewalk 500 kayak is just laying on its side, chances are the side flotation would prevent it from overturning, and with some luck the kayak may even right itself back. Read more about side flotation ».
Both the Wavewalk 700 and Wavewalk S4 feature built-in flotation: Their saddle is a sealed compartment that provides 180 lbs of positive buoyancy.
Reentering a Wavewalk 700 is much easier than getting back into a W500, and getting back into an S4 is very easy. The following video shows a user reentering a DIY Wavewalk that’s comparable to a W700 –
Reentering a Wavewalk S4 is easier than this, and it’s most convenient to do so from the front.
If your Wavewalk Kayak gets overturned close to shore, the easiest and most sensible thing for you to do would be to let the waves wash it to shore. Once it’s there, pull it out to the beach, and drain it by simply overturning it. It’s easy and takes little time, and you can be
back paddling immediately after you’re done.
If your W Kayak is overturned far from shore, you can turn it back but when you do so one of the hulls will scoop some water in, and you’d want to pump or scoop it out (or at least part of it).
Remember the water at the bottom of one hull can be useful to counter-balance you as you reenter the boat from the other side. Once you’re back in the cockpit you can start draining it.
Keeping a hand bucket or manual bilge pump on board is highly recommended.
Important: Capsizing your ocean fishing kayak in deep water can be extremely hazardous, and therefore it is strongly recommended never to go fishing offshore by yourself. Always fish in the ocean in the company of other boaters or anglers that could help you in case of an emergency, well as call for help, if possible.
Protection I: How to keep the kayak’s cockpit dry?
Spray isn’t that much of a problem when you’re a Wavewalk fishing kayak: The W kayak features a real cockpit and higher free board, which other kayaks don’t have. When you launch or go back to sea you can “climb” even big waves by standing or riding in the back of the cockpit and leaning backward -This way you’re lifting your W kayak’s bow in a steep angle and the waves normally pass under you.
When paddling a W kayak in waves you get relatively little water in, and it is drained to the bottom of the hulls, where even a couple gallons might be unnoticed by you.
You can also outfit your W kayak with a cockpit cover that will protect you and your fishing gear from spray. You can use a small tarp or any waterproof fabric or plastic sheet to cover the front of your W kayak’s cockpit.
Protection II: Do you need a dry suit, or a wet suit?
Anglers who fish in warm waters and hot climates may scoff at this question -Why would they care about getting wet? But anglers who fish in colder regions should be aware of the dangers of hypothermia, which can result not just from falling overboard, but also from being exposed to the wind while wearing wet clothes.
This is to say that neither sit-in nor SOT kayak offer their users adequate protection from wetness, wind and cold, which is why people who fish from them in colder regions should wear either a dry suit or a wet suit. As for anglers who fish out of W kayaks, they are far better protected, and therefore their need to wear such protective clothing is reduced.
Remember that a kayak angler suffering from hypothermia is basically helpless, and may not even be able to call for help using their cell phone when they’re offshore. Read more to learn about the danger presented to kayakers by hypothermia
Ocean Etiquette: Please be courteous
Beaches are sometime crowded. In many cases board surfers have no paddle, so they are both less protected and less mobile than you.
A collision between you and a surfer may be harmless to you but it could be painful to the surfer.
Always leave surfers enough space for surfing and maneuvering, even it means you’re losing a nice, big wave… -Don’t worry, there will be others, and you can always paddle around and do other fun stuff with your Wavewalk kayak…
If you cross paths with surfers let them pass before you.
When surf launching, make sure that no surfer is being thrown against your W kayak by an incoming wave.
If you’re driving a motorized Wavewalk, you need to extremely cautious about the presence of people in the water, as well as kayakers, board surfers and SUP paddlers who aren’t motorized, and might capsize when hit by the wake from your motorized Wavewalk.
Paddling your ocean fishing kayak in strong wind
Nearly all kayaks used for fishing in the ocean feature a rudder, since without it paddling in strong wind is practically impossible, as the wind deflects the kayak from its course. Sit-in and SOT kayaks track poorly to begin with, and they are prone to windage issues, but rudders are not necessary with Wavewalk kayaks, which track remarkably well even in strong wind, due to the fact that they offer their users the ability to harness the wind as a factor that helps them track. This effect is achieved simply by the user relocating themselves fore or fat along the kayak’s saddle – By doing so they relocate the kayak’s center of gravity (CG), and direct it either into the wind or away from it, depending on the course they want to take and on the direction from which the wind blows.
If you’re not an experienced or strong paddler, you would benefit from motorizing your kayak.
More information on tracking in strong wind »
Paddling your ocean fishing kayak in strong current
Strong (fast) currents in are particularly dangerous, because they can carry you away from shore, into the ocean. Anglers whose kayaks aren’t outfitted with a motor are particularly exposed to this danger, because a current can be faster than the maximum speed they can achieve with their kayak just by paddling it, and because they may be exhausted after some time trying to paddle against the current.
Motorizing your ocean fishing kayak
A motorized fishing kayak is safer to use in the ocean since it offers the angler a chance to deal with strong wind, fast currents, and the long distances they may need to go in order to return safely to their launching spot, or to shore. Although motorized kayaks are heavier than non-motorized ones, driving a motorized kayak is certainly easier than paddling a non-motorized one. This is especially true after a long day of fishing and paddling, when the angler is tired, and it’s even more relevant for middle aged and elderly kayak anglers.
As far as deciding between an electric motor and an outboard gas engine, the latter is pretty much impossible to use with any type of fishing kayak except the W500. If you own a W kayak, you may want to read more about the advantages and disadvantages of electric motors and outboard gas engines in this article about motorized kayaks »
All Wavewalk kayaks can be easily motorized and used for offshore fishing. The S4 is the most suitable for this purpose, and so does the the Wavewalk 700, to some extent:
Read the article of this W700 15 mile offshore round trip trip in a motorized kayak »
The following movie demostrates the capabilities of the Wavewalk 500 when motorized –
Ocean kayak fishing trips can be long, and you’d need to take plenty of gear on board, as well as carry fish you caught back to shore. Therefore, having plenty of dry storage space is a real necessity, and needless to say that you should be able to easily access everything you store on board, anytime you need to.
Other fishing kayaks feature hatches, which are small and in many cases hard to reach while you’re sitting on board. Unless the ocean is perfectly calm, waves splashing on your kayak would get water into the hatches. In contrast, the W500 kayak offers over 8 cubic ft (60 gallons) of dry, protected storage space, and all of it is fully accessible to you when your out there on the water. The W700 offers an even bigger storage, and the storage space on board the S4 is comparable to the storage space in a motorboat.
There is no need for you to attach a crate to your W kayak, since these kayaks offers more storage space than you’d ever need:
Two Wavewalk 500 kayak fishermen from South Korea in an offshore fishing trip, including preparing a meal on board »
W500 kayak: Surf paddling in waves during tropical storm Irene. Watch the video »