Angling preview 2017: Motor-free open-water fishing via kayak

Kayaks are becoming popular watercraft for fishing because of the places you can take them and the precision they provide. Tim Lesmeister is using his to explore the mountain lakes in Alaska as well as the lakes, rivers and reservoirs he crosses in his travels.

Unless I’m chasing the smallmouth bass on Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior or pounding big pike on Lake Minnetonka west of Minneapolis, my watercraft no longer have a motor hanging off the back. The only propulsion I use are my legs or arms.

Now I choose to fish smaller sections of waters in a kayak because of the ability to get into pieces of lakes, rivers, and reservoirs normally impossible for me to reach via a boat with motor. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Gleason Lake is located in Wayzata, Minn., and has no public access. What it does have is a popular walking trail cutting between its northern and southern basins. I can take my Hobie Outback kayak and set it on the custom portage wheels, and from a parking lot on that hiking trail a quarter mile from the lake, I can load all my gear and pull the lightweight watercraft to the split and drop it in. There are huge bass and northern pike as well as loads of small sunfish. This is why a bluegill-colored crankbait really works well there.

Lake Zumbra, just west of the Twin Cities, has a marginal boat access. This keeps fishing pressure low, but it gets some angler attention. I rarely see boats in the back end of the bays that are choked with milfoil, cabbage, coontail and lily pads. It doesn’t stop me from taking my Ocean Prowler and paddling back into that slop to vertical jig 1/4-ounce weedless jigs tipped with twister tails in the pockets of the vegetation.

This is the beauty of the kayak. You can reach places inaccessible to many other anglers.

The last time I was on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, we dropped in three Hobie Pro-anglers. The boats going from the access were heading out into the big basin only to be chasing fish that “weren’t biting,” while we three kayakers worked around the docks, cuts, and channels near the boat landing and caught some nice fish.

Kayak fishing has limitations. If I were planning on trolling walleyes on Lake Erie I would want a big boat. Now if I were trolling walleyes on a 300-acre lake “up north,” these days I prefer the kayak.

There are presentations that are tough via kayak. Flipping a lure to a pocket in the heavy vegetation is not that easy because you are right down close to the water in a kayak. Instead, you vertical jig the lure.

One thing a kayak delivers is pure precision. All of my kayaks have sonar, so I can get depth and see the vegetation and fish. This means I can pinpoint spots and sit right over fish and work them until they either start biting or I decide to move to a more productive spot.

This year I will be halibut fishing in Alaska in a kayak. I’ll also be exploring mountain lakes throughout the Kenai Peninsula for rainbow trout and Arctic char. I plan on getting off the shoreline and into the middle of some Iowa farm ponds with my kayaks, and there are many more spots just waiting to feel the bottom of my tiny boat. I hope to discover them all.

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