Inshore Kayak Fishing: 9 Essential Tips & Tricks
So you’re ready to go on an inshore kayak fishing adventure! You’ve heard great stories from your friends casting out early in the morning and coming home with a fresh redfish, roosterfish, or an exciting tarpon story. Kayak fishing for redfish is one of our favorite pass times when we’re down south. Getting an inshore kayak can also increase your range when freediving, pole spearfishing, or even bonefishing!
How hard can it be? We agree that inshore kayak fishing can be a great way to get out on the water without investing in an actual boat. It’s also a really good way to exercise while fishing. So we put together this handy guide of tips and tricks to ensure you are set up for success on your trip.
We’ve spent many hours out on the water kayak fishing and have learned our lesson on forgetting essential items. With this list, you’ll be set up for success next time you go inshore kayak fishing and won’t forget something important. Let’s dive in!
Get an Actual Fishing Kayak
This might seem obvious, but if you plan on using your kayak predominantly for fishing be sure to a kayak designed for fishing. This will ensure it has space for fishing equipment (like your rod and fishing net) and allows you to paddle easier while holding a rod. Not sure where to start? You don’t have to buy a super expensive kayak to start with! We put together a guide on our favorite fishing kayaks that are under $300 if you’re looking to invest in something entry-level.
Invest in an Anchor
Often times new inshore kayak fishermen forget to invest in some sort of anchor. At first glance having an anchor might not seem important, but once out on the water you’ll soon realize you are at the mercy of the wind, strong currents, and fish. That’s right, if you do get lucky enough to hook into a big one, you’ll need a way to slow it down and not allow it to tow you out to sea. Investing in an inshore kayak fishing anchor is crucial in providing yourself with extra control once out on the water.
Even Inshore, Pay Attention to Wind
A lot of new kayak fishermen think that if you stick inshore you don’t have to worry about wind as much. This might be true compared to open ocean kayak fishing, but wind can play a huge factor in your success and safety inshore as well. Always pay attention to your local weather forecasting and avoid going out when it looks like the forecast will be above 15 mph.
In general, if you want to avoid the wind while inshore kayak fishing plan on going earlier in the day. It’s often the calmest early in the morning and the wind picks up as the day goes on. We usually try and get on the water by 6 am and call it quits around 10 or 11 am. Adding a small wind direction indicator to your kayak (like above) can also help you orient yourself for optimal paddling.
Use Sunscreen & Wear a Hat/Sunglasses
This tip is the one we forget the most. Be sure to put on sunscreen and wear a hat (preferably with neck protection) before you go inshore kayak fishing. Even if you go right after sunrise, you will still get burned from the UV reflecting off the water. This is especially true in tropical locations where the sun angle becomes aggressive very early on in the day. If you don’t put sunscreen on your face, arms, and legs, you’ll be in a lot of pain later on in the day. We guarantee it!
Another helpful tip about dealing with the sun is to invest in a good pair of fishing sunglasses. These will not only shield your eyes from the sun’s intense rays, but they will also help you spot fish hiding underwater. What makes a good pair of fishing sunglasses? Here’s what to look for.
- Make sure they are UV blocking and polarized. Most sunglasses block UV, but be sure to get polarized sunglasses as well. The polarization works wonders in helping you seen what’s underwater. If you’re going sight fishing, check out our guide on the best polarized sunglasses for sight fishing.
- Get blue or green reflective lenses. This also helps with the light reflecting off the water and gives you better contrast for spotting fish. This worked wonders while we were sight fishing in Belize.
- Get a sunglasses strap to keep them on your head. This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s super easy to have your glasses knocked off your head while paddling or fighting a fish. Use a strap to keep them securely fastened to your head.
Bring Lots of Water for Inshore Kayak Fishing
Another tip that might seem obvious yet was one of the most common problems we encountered while inshore kayak fishing: getting really thirsty. Depending on how far you have to paddle and how many fish you fight, you’ll end getting really thirsty out on the water. Be sure to pack an extra-large water bottle. If you’re feeling fancy, get a Hydroflask that you can fill with ice water. It will stay cold all day long even in the hottest conditions and works great with Gatorade or other electrolyte drinks. Just be sure to leave your banana-flavored drinks at home!
Invest in a Waterproof Camera
We can’t count the number of times we end up catching a monster fish while inshore kayak fishing but forget to bring our camera or weren’t comfortable pulling out our phone. The solution to this is investing in a waterproof camera. We like the GoPro Hero 8 the most as it takes stunning wide-angle photos and professional-level videos. Be sure to tie it to your kayak with a rope to ensure you don’t drop it while out on the water.
Get Proper Fish Landing Gear
Landing a fish while inshore kayak fishing can prove to be very difficult if you don’t have the right gear. If you end up catching a large fish, you’ll need to unhook it without capsizing your kayak. For smaller fish (like snapper)you’ll also need a way to get them safely into your boat to either keep or unhook. We recommend investing in a good pair of saltwater fishing pliers to hep with unhooking, and having a kayak fishing net onboard to help bring in smaller fish.
Bring Safety Gear Even Inshore
We can’t stress this one enough – be sure to have the proper safety gear on you before you go out on the water. This includes a proper kayak fishing lifejacket, a cutting tool (like the above saltwater fishing pliers), an emergency whistle, and either your cell phone or radio for communication. Always be sure to tell someone who’s staying behind of your plans and when you aim to return home.
Consider Getting a Fish Finder
Getting a kayak fish finder can be a game-changer when hunting elusive fish in low light conditions. We recommend getting a kayak fish finder when fishing for musky, tarpon, or other large predatory fish.
Lastly, we’d be remiss to forget using bug spray before going kayak fishing inshore. Many tropical locations have mangroves or other freshwater shelters that are great for inshore kayak fishing but also home to tons of mosquitoes. If you don’t either bring bug spray or use some before you go, you’ll come home with many annoying bites that could have easily be avoided. Don’t forget your bug spray!
Inshore kayak fishing can be a blast if you prepare properly. It allows you to fish further out and get in front of fish like speckled trout, bonefish, and redfish that you wouldn’t normally be able to get to from shore. It also can be a great activity for early morning exercise, as paddling and battling a fish takes a lot of work. We hope after reading this guide you’ll feel extra prepared for your next inshore kayak fishing adventure. Let us know about it in the comments below!