Folks who play outdoors are always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to enjoy their recreation and that’s certainly true for those who cast lures or baits to catch big fish aboard 14-foot long fishing kayaks.
There’s no way you’d ever call Mark Veary’s fishing boat a ‘heavy weight;’ After all, it weighs a mere fifty pounds!
Yet Veary and his fishing partner, Brian Steves (both are members of Northwest Kayak Anglers) agreed that their “fishing kayaks” have opened up Oregon’s waterways for exploration like never before; including popular places like Henry Hagg Lake in Washington County.
“There was always a spot ‘somewhere over there’ that I wanted to get to,” said Veary. “Places just out of reach and then I saw one of these on the water and that was it! It looked so easy and so mobile and I knew I had to have one.”
And so he bought his first kayak over 10 years ago years ago and he has been exploring Oregon’s waterways ever since.
Brian added that the watercrafts are affordable, easy to operate and fishing kayaks are a good fit for his family members.
“I also like the stealth approach to my sport – you can be so quiet – especially paddling on calm water,” noted Steves. “It’s amazing because the fish will often just sit there and look up at you.”
Whether backwater sloughs, ponds, lakes or the big blue wild Pacific Ocean, the compact, smooth sided fishing kayaks have allowed more anglers to paddle into more places and catch more fish species too.
“These boats showed up in Oregon about three years ago,” added Veary. “They’ve grown in popularity and now I regularly see kayak anglers on lakes like Hagg Lake.”
The boats began as scuba dive platforms back in the 70’s. They are wide and lightweight and the stable boats allowed divers to carry heavy air tanks topside while they explored the water below.
Now, more modern “fishing kayaks” have seats molded into their designs so anglers can sit on top of the craft – rather than down inside, (like a traditional sea kayak,) and there’s plentiful open space that allows for storage of equipment, fishing tackle and gear.
Local kayak fisherman and guide (Groundswell Kayak Fishing) Ron Stauber noted that the old adage, ‘necessity is the mother of a invention; is particularly true for kayak fishermen: “I fish in the ocean a lot and need storage that’s handy, waterproof and secure. I am always on the lookout for gear that I can adapt to my needs. That’s a fun part of kayak fishing too.”
Longtime kayaker Andrew Insigna agreed and added, “I wanted to try a new fishing challenge and also get some exercise. What I like is that I can launch my boat anywhere, I don’t need gas for a motor and even if I don’t catch fish I can tell people that I enjoyed an evening of paddling my kayak.”
Jeff Anderson was drawn to the sport for many of the same reasons and noted that that biggest adjustment is the need for detailed pre-planning and on-board organization, especially when it comes to water safety:
“Safety is much, much more apparent in these small boats. You are right on the water, so even though the boats are extremely stable, you do plan and expect to go swimming at some point. Plus, I fish year round, so during the colder months I wear fleece underneath my dry suit.”
Everything has a place on Anderson’s boat too; all of his equipment is within easy reach and he even tethers his fishing rods to the boat in case they go overboard.
He said with a laugh that he has learned many lessons the hard way and that there are “more than a couple rods on the bottom” of his favorite fishing areas.
“Kayaks really put a lot more adventure into fishing,” said Anderson. “You are right on the water surface and it’s this ‘old man and the sea’ kind of feeling that lifts the spirit.”
Veary carries a hand held vhf radio for communication and he noted that anglers must have a signaling device with them - like a whistle – at all times.
In addition, his boat is checked annually so to be certified ‘clean of invasive species’ and he always wears his life vest.
“The most important thing is to be aware of your surroundings because there are many power boats out in the summer months and all it takes is a momentary lapse of judgment and you are over the side of your kayak.”
Mark is a big believer in ‘being seen’ on the water, so his boat sports a six foot tall mast with a red safety flag attached, just like cyclists might install on their bikes.
“That gives more visibility and helps others to see me – even from a distance.”
Veary is a big proponent for kayak fishing and wants others to share his passion for the recreation too:
“Fishing is such an intimate experience aboard the kayak…and I think that makes catching a fish more enjoyable - plus, you don’t have a big outboard motor in the back of the boat. You did it under your own paddling power.”