Kayak Sight-Fishing

Kayak Sight-Fishing
Sometimes I simply stalk and photograph.
"You are killing me, fish, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother." – Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

I have been fortunate in my life to be able to encounter Mother Nature in many aspects. It started by collecting God's bounty to put dinner on the table but with age that passion has turned into a sport for me; a greater challenge if you will. I took it as a test just to see how close I could get to a fish that has eluded many anglers while still having the chance to catch one. Being able to see a redfish mosey around a shallow flat while being oblivious to an anxious angler is an unexplainable feeling; the hunter being hunted.

I have fished just about every method and for multiple species; regardless, I find myself drawn to the marsh by the allure of sight-casting for redfish. Even though the fish is clearly visible, the challenge of successfully hooking and landing one may often exceed our expectations. There are a few variables that play a factor and can be the difference in catching or spooking.

Lately, due to the stifling heat, I have been launching around 5:00AM to get an early start and be in a good spot in the marsh at first light. At times you have a 1-2 hour window first thing in the morning but other days it can be prolonged due to tides or moon phase. I like to fish a low tide which makes spotting redfish much easier across a flat. Just make sure you can exit the marsh once the water recedes, that is not a place you want to be left high and dry.

Now that you have made it to your spot, next comes locating the fish. Sometimes you can find a fish swimming in 6 inches of water and sticking out like a sore thumb but it is not always that easy. Other times just the very tip of their tail or the top of their dorsal fin is visible. If you have a stable enough kayak, standing up gives the hunter a great advantage. This vantage point can really increase the odds of seeing hidden fish. Also a good pair of polarized sunglasses is a must! Another good tip is to keep the sun at your back as much as possible. A redfish's back will tend to glisten in the light and can be a giveaway of his location.

Once you have a fish spotted, slowly make your way towards him and try not to get in a rush. Banging around in your kayak and sending pressure signals via wakes is a sure way to spook a fish. While keeping an eye on your target, try and take note of which way he is traveling. Then adjust accordingly so that you can make a cast where you will be able to drag your lure in front of his face.

I have found that the right lures and presentation is necessary to entice a redfish. I try to stay away from heavier lures or anything that will make a loud splash when landing on the water. My go-to lure is a Zoom Super Fluke in the baby bass color. I like to rig it weightless/weedless with a #4/0 hook. This lure lands softly, sinks slowly, and can be dragged through just about anything. Even if you over-cast into the marsh grass, it can be eased out and into the water without a snag. My backup rod will be rigged up with a Buggs lure. These lures are hand-tied out of fly material on a specially designed weighted jighead. I like to put some Pro-Cure on mine, just to add a little scent. This combination can be deadly when pursuing redfish in the marsh.

Now that you have stalked your prey, it is time to make your cast. A precise cast and placement of your lure is the key!

The hard work invested to find the fish and get into position can be ruined instantly by being off target. I try to aim for a spot three feet in front and two feet beyond the fish's head. One of the most common mistakes made by anglers is casting directly at a fish, especially one pushing a wake. The wake you see is not the nose of the fish but the ridge of their back by the dorsal fin. You want to lead the target, reel slowly, and let him swim into your lure.

Once you feel him take your lure, tighten your line, set the hook and hold on! The most spectacular thing an angler can witness is watching your lure being inhaled by a hungry red. Then to top it off, you get to watch him thrash across a shallow flat trying to escape as the drag on your reel screams. Just the thought of this gets my heart racing. It is such an exhilarating feeling to be so close to a fish that a majority of the time will outwit you.

Even though I do appreciate catching redfish, sometimes I just like to watch them. Getting to witness the beast of the marsh act naturally in their habitat is more enjoyable than trying to hook them. Being able to see a small school of redfish with tails out the water is a majestic sight. Often I will pick up my camera instead of my rod, which sometimes is not so easy to do. The allure of being able to see redfish and be so close has always been captivating to me. This is the reason why I kayak and moments like these are what keeps me coming back.

Enjoy Life!