A specially engineered kayak is a great solution for those who realize they need to get away from the shore but lack funds for a generator, truck and sail, for those who have despaired of their fishing boats for the time spent getting to the ocean and wasting excessive amounts of fuel once there, and particularly for those searching for a greener fishing substitute.
Kayak fishing is becoming increasingly popular— magazines and blogs are dedicated to it— and with very good reasons. You’re no longer shore-bound, so from almost anywhere, you have a tiny enough vessel to fire. While on the river you purchase and use no gas and in reality you profit from paddling exercise. You might spend less time fishing spots: I live a five-minute walk to a beach but a 20-minute drive to the marina. I can be on the boat, without driving, quicker than I could get to the marina and off, not to mention the extra no-wake-speed ride time from the marina down the canal and back out to the shore.
They become autonomous. You can go almost anywhere if the system makes the start without assistance.
Numerous boat builders produce kayaks for fishing, in two general styles: sit-on-top (the most common) and sit-inside vessels. Sit-in kayaks are what most of us think when it comes to the term “kayak.” A sit-on-top is much more like a surfboard with a seat built into it, but it is very popular with them.
Sit-on-tops have many qualities about them. Most are relatively cheap and easy to get. Some have clever dry hatches and some have built-in live wells and bait wells; some come with integrated rod holders, some have elevated rod holders and some have revolutionary hands-free propelling systems for foot service. Sit-on-tops are virtually impossible to drop, they’re big and secure, and easy to climb back to when you fall.
The Disadvantages? You’re already hot. There is no “freeboard” so you will be splashed by waves and wakes. A wet-suit or a dry-suit in cold water and cold air is needed. These appear to be hard, as they are constructed most often from blow-molded polypropylene, and need reinforcements inside or a thick skin to remain rigid. You have scuppers (places for water to drain) and water won’t pool in the hull, but scuppers, the way everything I’ve seen is built, create big, speed stealing dents on your boat’s underside. That that sailing vessels always have a sleek hull that is glass-smooth. You use a lot of energy while paddling a sit-on-top just to solve the hull’s shortage of streamline. They certainly aren’t competitive on fast flying.
Therefore, sit-on-tops are most common where the water is fairly warm and the distances to paddle are small. (Some designers have tried to overcome the challenge of paddling by designing foot-driven paddles or by incorporating electronic trolling motors, but in my humble opinion either of these complicates the matter.) Sit-in boats keep you dry by nature, until you tip them over. You have a complete front and aft wall, the legs sit in front of you under the rail, and you often carry a spray skirt so you’re practically waterproof inside the cabin. We don’t have scuppers, because water shouldn’t get inside the bow. Compared to similar touring kayaks, they are beamy (wide), and stability is better, but if you do tip over and spill out, you need to get enough experience to know how to climb back inside and pump out the water. Sit-inside vessels are often smaller, as there are not so many elements shaped into the hull structure, and the better-designed sit-insides are offered in wood (custom or semi-custom), hand-laid fiberglass, and even Kevlar (a high-strength synthetic fiber), rather than molded polypropylene, losing extra weight (but costing more).
Sit-in vessels will be quicker and easier to steer, even if they have the same beam and length as a sit-on-top, as there are no speed-robbing drain holes at the bottom of the boat. Sit-insides are also quicker by nature because they are often smaller and broader (a longer, narrower boat will always be faster and go straighter than a shorter, larger, boat).
A purpose-built sit-inside fishing kayak with many of the features of the sit-on-top boats can be found: insulated hatch covers, built-in and swiveling rod holders, and bait wells, but you also need to install a spray skirt to keep water out of the hull and off your lap to keep it completely dry. You can also swim in cold water from a sit-inside on a chilly day without a wetsuit—-I do— because you don’t get splashed. In the rain or storm I put the thin wading jacket of a fly fisherman over the spray skirt and underneath the life jacket.
Whatever boat you seek, you’ll be given new fishing possibilities and a good time by kayaking.