Years ago I owned property on a tidal creek at Edisto. My boys were little then, and I would put my youngest son Ian on the back of our sit-on-top kayak facing backwards while I slowly paddled down the creek trolling two rods rigged with jigheads and paddletail grubs. Ian would watch the rod tip intently, and when it started to bounce, he would reel the trout in. We had many memorable and fun sessions fishing our creek this way. In the Fall, this creek was very productive and catching a few for a delicious “creek to table” lunch or dinner was almost guaranteed. In fact, my son named a portion of the creek Snaggletooth Stretch after the two prominent teeth on a speckled trout.
Although the property is long gone and the boys are now adults, I was reminded of those days after I recently purchased a lightly used Hobie Compass kayak. On my maiden voyage as I left the landing it made me notice again how different kayak fishing is from boat fishing. There are many benefits to kayak fishing. A relatively high-end fishing kayak will run you between $2,000 and $3,000 depending on how you outfit it. All things considered, it’s a lot less expensive than buying a boat which can easily run you 10 to 20 times that much. The larger the boat, the more complicated and expensive everything is (from personal experience). It sure is nice to throw a kayak on the bed of the truck, a few rods, and the basics and off you go. No fuel, maintenance, or much of anything to worry about.
Kayak fishing has been among the fastest growing segments of the market and the technology and innovation is better than ever. Pedal drives are not new but are better and more efficient. They eliminate paddling and allow both hands free for casting. The latest fishing kayaks are super comfortable, efficient, and stable. You might think that you will be at a disadvantage since you can’t cover as much range as you can with a boat, and to an extent you will be correct. My response to this is a story. Once I was in my bay boat fishing a stretch of the Wando River where I have several spots I like to try at different stages of the tide. I noticed my friend and tournament kayak angler Dave Jaskiewicz fishing across the river. After what seemed like a short time I looked up and he was nowhere in sight. Eventually, I identified a small dot about a mile downriver as Dave and I remember being blown away with how incredibly efficient pedal drive kayaks are.
There are a few competitors in the pedal drive arena. Some are basically like bicycle pedals that turn a propellor. The most unique is the Hobie Mirage drive which is nothing short of an engineering marvel. Instead of a propellor it utilizes fins kind of like a seal or penguin. It’s hard to describe but it’s amazing how fast it is.
After observing entries in our Release Over 20 Initiative for the past year, I have noticed that most trophy trout are caught by two categories of anglers: kayakers and waders. Both angling methods are essentially silent but for line coming off a reel and the splash of a lure hitting the water. You see, a mature sow trout is not going to be outwitted easily. If you have spent much time flats fishing, you will know that you stand a much better chance of landing a trophy if the fish doesn’t know you’re there. Depending on how calm and quiet it is, it does not take much to accidentally reveal your presence to a fish. For example, simply shutting a hatch is enough to alert a fish.
Contrast this with a scenario that may seem familiar: An angler approaches a spot on-plane in a bay boat. He backs off the throttle a hundred yards from the desired spot and shuts down the motor. The motor is heard underwater from a long distance, and the boat coming off plane throws a large wave that no doubt washes the shore of the desired spot. Next, a trolling motor is lowered with a clank, and its relatively silent but spinning prop is enabled to move the boat closer to casting range. Add in conversation, shutting hatches, etc., and it is no wonder that less big trout are caught by motorboaters. I think about this a lot as I am doing the exact same thing myself in my boat. To minimize the noise and disturbance, I try to come off plane well before my intended spot and approach it slowly under trolling motor power or drifting. But it is still not anything close to as stealthy as a kayak.
You may have noticed that if you get back in the creeks or marsh and simply sit quietly and wait, that things will start to happen. A redfish tail might pop up in the flooded grass, a speckled trout may strike the surface throwing a shrimp in the air, or an osprey may dive down and pluck a flounder from the shallows. I have even seen an otter emerge from the water dragging a redfish up the bank for a meal. You notice a lot more of these things when kayak fishing than you do in a boat. To me, that is the best part. It’s as if you are one with nature.
I’m looking forward to getting back into kayak fishing and am planning to join the Lowcountry Kayak Anglers – one of our areas most successful and vibrant fishing clubs and maybe get in on some of their many angler meetups and tournaments.
Maybe this Fall I’ll even try to revisit Snaggletooth Stretch to see if its still as good as it used to be. And, no, I won’t tell you where it is!
Partner, Eye Strike Fishing