Take a ride fishing in a kayak

Fish in Minnesota can grow pretty big but the vast majority of them lack the size and strength to pull an average fishing boat any significant distance.

It's really too bad.

Some of the best fishing stories involve boats being dragged this way and that by an angry sea creature. In the end, it all comes down to brains and mechanical advantage prevailing over pure brute strength.

Short of having the DNR supply performance-enhancing supplements to fish, this situation can best be solved by shrinking the size of one's boat. Large, powerful bass boats and deep V walleye boats are way too large-but so are those 14-foot rowboats with that 1970s-era 9.9 horsepower motor.

I'm talking about true downsizing. A watercraft just big enough for the angler, some gear, a net and little more. The kind of watercraft a hefty largemouth bass can turn 90-degrees so as to perfectly position the driver for a last-ditch splash or two during those final acrobatic leaps.

The only watercraft small enough to do this is a fishing kayak. Not a whitewater kayak for some far off mountain river. And not that little beach kayak the kids play with, either. A fishing kayak is as serious as any hardcore bass boat or walleye rig.

In fact, fishing kayaks represent one of the fastest growing and most innovative new markets in the watercraft industry today. They are part of the general trend away from big and brazen to comfortable and subtle.

Fishing kayaks provide an angler with a connection to the water and fish that no other watercraft can provide. Modern designs have made them sleek, stable and versatile.

Big bodies of water can be fished from kayaks. I fished Mille Lacs last summer in a Hobie Pro Angler and did quite well in a small bay while big boat anglers felt the need to be tossed about on eight-foot rollers mid-lake.

Where fishing kayaks excel is on those secret lakes where the bass have hardly seen a lure, bluegill still weigh over a pound, crappie readily bite, the walleye are a perfect golden hue and giant pike lurk in the shadows.

If you don't believe those waters still exist then stop reading and turn the page. Please!

For those who believe, here's where to look. Throughout the state forests, national forests, backroads and side roads of the area are blue dots and lines on the map. Many of these lakes and small rivers are jewels in the forest where spring-fed waters, shaded by towering trees, hold tremendous supplies of fish. These waterbodies are inaccessible to all but the most compact of watercraft.

They can be difficult to find as well. Advice from locals can be helpful as can water access maps available from the DNR offices or online at www.dnr.state.mn.us. Fish population information and rudimentary maps can also be found free of charge on the DNR webpage.

Canoes work in these lakes but you can't equip a canoe as easily as you can equip a fishing kayak and still maintain portability. Because of their plastic hull design, fishing kayaks are very conducive to specialization. Install a rod holder, mount your depthfinder and there's still room for fishing gear, a net and camera.

The traditional fishing kayak is powered by the driver wearing a life-jacket using a two-sided paddle but the newest fishing kayaks are powered by the driver using his feet, similar to a bike. This model leaves the angler free to fish with two hands or, as I'm prone to do, fish with one hand and monkey around with the depthfinder using the other.

There is also a connectedness to the water, the fish and the outdoors one just cannot help but feel in a fishing kayak. As the water goes so does the kayak. The misconception is that it will feel tippy but with such a low center of gravity, most kayak anglers feel more solid than standing in a regular boat.

Rather than feeling like you are battling the water, like in a fishing boat, a kayak lets you adjust with the water and adapt to its rhythm. That said, wearing a personal floatation device at all times is as essential in a kayak as it is in any other watercraft.

Casting, trolling and bobber fishing can all effectively be done from a kayak. Plan your trip accordingly and one can easily switch back and forth between these tactics with a properly loaded fishing gear bag.

Anglers in a kayak do not have the luxury of space so every jig, lure and weight must be carefully considered. I'm switching lures constantly when I have a lot to choose from but in a kayak I settle in and tend to do much better because I'm not losing any time changing lures.

Only experienced paddlers should take on waves of any significance and having such a low profile means watching out for powerboats on busier bodies of water. Just like anything, let common sense dictate what to do and where to fish.

Go ahead. Take a ride this summer in a fishing kayak with your fish species of choice doing all the work as you enjoy the view and hold tight to the reigns.


Categories: Blog Content, Ron Hustvedt

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