Buying Tips for Fishing Kayaks: The Boats, the Gear, the Safety

Buying Basics: Fishing Kayaks and Paddles

“First and foremost, try as many kayaks as you can before you buy,” says Lucian Gizel. (Gizel is part of the kayak fishing gathering on Sleeping Bear Bay one weekend in September when kayak fishermen from all over go for King Salmon.) Ask your local kayak dealers about demo days, where there are likely to be representatives of multiple boat makers. Also, consider doing an afternoon charter to get a taste for the whole experience.

Pay Attention to:

Speed vs. stability. Sleek boats paddle faster, but they’re tippier.
Select for what works for you. Consider how you are likely to use the boat. Big water? Small water?
The seat. “You might be in that seat for six or eight hours, so you want it comfortable.”
Location of rod holders: Too close in? Too far a reach?
Hatches: Big enough? Easy to get stuff in and out of? Seal well? Strap closure or pressure fit—do some research.
Paddle: Get the best you can afford. A light paddle makes a big difference on a long day of paddling.
Quality: Don’t skimp on the boat. Remember there are few ongoing costs—no motor, no gas, no storage fees, no licensing even. So use the savings to spring for the best boat you can get, you won’t regret it. (Good advice, but full disclosure seems appropriate: Gizel is a rep for a boat manufacturer.)

Finding Fishing Kayaks Up North

• Crystal Lake Adventure Sports, 214 South Benzie Blvd., Beulah, 231-882-2527, crystallakeadventuresports.com. Brands: Wilderness Systems
• Backcountry, 227 East Front Street, Traverse City, 231-946-1339, backcountrytc.com. Brands: Native Watercraft, Wilderness Systems
• Outfitter of Harbor Springs, 153 East Main Street, Harbor Springs, 231-526-2621, outfitterharborsprings.com. Brands: Hobie, Native Watercraft, Feel Free, Ocean Kayak

Have fun. Catch fish. Be safe.

Safety gear suggestions courtesy Lucian Gizel.• Whistle or some other sound device.
• Flashlight or distress light
• Mirror for daytime distress signaling
• Sturdy tow rope
• Bright clothing
• Spare paddle
• Spot! (sends signal to satellite with your location).
• Knife and wire cutters (have on vest to cut yourself free if you become entangled)
• Layered, wicking clothes
• Dry suit if fishing cold water
• PFD at all times (“It doesn’t do you any good if you don’t have it on,” Gizel says)
• Paddle float (helps you re-enter boat)
• Water pump (if closed cockpit boat; sit-on-tops self-drain)
• Paddle leash (ties paddle to your boat so you don’t lose it)• Two-way marine radio to keep eye on weather, call for help.