I originally compiled this tips list for kayak fishing several years ago. I’ve retooled it a bit and wanted to reintroduce it since we have approximately 500,000 more people fishing from kayaks since its initial release. As always, if you have something to add, drop us a comment and please share with your friends.
1. Learn to Paddle a Kayak
Sometimes staying on a spot is very important and nature will try to push you off of it. Whether it be current, wind or passersby, learning to maneuver your kayak well will add time fishing and reduce frustration. A proper paddle stroke will actually propel you at the same speed or faster than the “digger” who goes all out. Make sure to look up a local ACA paddling course. It will be money well spent.
Ike in one of his first trips out as a kayak angler shows the “digger” form with way too much effort on brute power as opposed to form. Also, he doesn’t appear to be wearing a life jacket. And his paddle is rotated the wrong direction.
2. Wave at Other Kayak Fishermen
Some of us are social; some are not. A nod and a wave will usually suffice. If someone has time and/or wants to chat, they’ll give you an opener. If you don’t have time or don’t want to chat at that moment, be courteous, answer the opener and let them know you are heading up stream. It takes some practice but it is well worth it to let people know you’re not a tool.
3. Take a New Guy Kayak Fishing
Getting on the water by yourself can be scary, especially for a newbie. If you talk about kayak fishing as much as I do, you know who would be interested in going. Take them out and do it with the intention of being the “guide”. If your goal is to catch fish, you’re doing it wrong. The goal should be for THEM to catch fish. Help them with technique, stay close for questions and encourage them along the way.
4. Chill Out
Most of the time the person fishing where you were wanting to fish isn’t doing it because they are vindictive spot stealers. Most of the time they paddle by, think a spot looks fishy and decide to throw some bait at it. Maybe start with Rule #2. Very often I’ve seen kayak anglers invite another to join them and even tie up to them.
5. Kayak Karma
Believe me when I say there is such a thing as Kayak Karma. She is angry and vengeful. If you push people away from kayak fishing, she will get you. If you chew somebody’s tail for no good reason, she will get you. Be nice out there because Kayak Karma is not only vengeful but she is the sister of the Fishing Gods and she WILL tell on you. Kayak Karma hates an internet troll. Don’t be that guy.
6. Even the Entry Level Boats are Cool
Show some excitement when someone tells you about their new Pelican kayak they bought. They wanted to kayak fish and now they can. Be happy for them. Don’t tell them their investment is a piece of trash or too hard to paddle. We all start somewhere and not in the same place. Tell them “Welcome to the Addiction” or something along those lines.
7. Keep Safe
First and foremost, wear your PFD. That’s not an electronic document, it’s your life jacket. It will save your life. Additionally, make sure you are always obeying state water safety laws but above and beyond that, don’t be stupid. Don’t try to race across an inlet with a power boat headed at you on plane. Be careful with wakes around bridge pilings. Have the proper lights and maybe even more than required if fishing at night. Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. There are many more but the bottom line is, Be Safe.
If someone has shown you how to do something, pass it on! In the medical field they have a mantra that I like a lot: “Watch One, Do One, Teach One.” This keeps the fountain of knowledge flowing to future generations of kayak anglers.
9. Be Helpful
If someone looks like they are struggling loading or unloading, if someone drops some gear on the way to launch or if someone is looking puzzled while staring at their kayak, ask if you can help. It’s pretty easy, most of the time they really appreciate the question, even if they decline help. I have had many a trip made easier by someone helping me put my kayak on my car.
10. Have Fun
This is supposed to be a fun sport. Don’t try to over think it. If you struggle, ask for help. If you find yourself not having fun, talk to someone about it. Take in the nature around you. Listen to the sounds that are so rarely heard in a power boat. Watch how close fish and birds will get to you. Take pictures! This is the best sport in the world. Make sure you enjoy it!
If you are using a boat ramp to launch your kayak, have everything ready before you back down the ramp. And turn your lights off. Nobody likes a boat ramp camper taking 20 minutes to unload all their stuff and rigging up their kayak. (This also applies to other watercraft). Have a plan, have it together, get it off the truck or trailer and move it off the ramp so others can use the ramp to enjoy their day.
12. Give Space
When you are fishing, unless you have been invited to come closer, stay at a good distance. Nobody likes a potlicking vulture. If you ask to come closer or leap frog to a spot up the bank be prepared to hear “No” and be okay with it.
Those are my top 12 etiquette tips for kayak anglers. Hopefully they all make sense and you get where I am coming from. Let me know what else should be included on the list and share with your friends!