Rarely do two popular outdoor activities come together as well as kayaking and fishing. For centuries, Alaska Natives have depended on kayaks for fishing and hunting in light, but sturdy handmade vessels. Fast forward to the present: Kayak manufacturers have dramatically re-designed and improved this small watercraft. Modern kayak designs are making it safer and more comfortable than ever to bring the exciting sport of kayak fishing to almost anyone. Today, the sport is found worldwide, and its popularity continuing to grow.
My first glimpse of modern-day kayak fishing was in the 1990s when I read a newspaper story at Ray’s Waterfront Restaurant in Seward, Alaska. The story detailed a local who took his brother on a tour of Resurrection Bay by kayak. Fishing was part of the plan, but not the size of halibut he caught.A monster halibut took the bait and gave the guy more than he could handle from a kayak. A charter boat happened to witness the epic battle and offered assistance. The kayak fisherman jumped aboard the bigger fishing boat and landed a 200-pound halibut.
In June of 2017, at Whaler’s Cove Lodge (whalerscovelodge.com) near Angoon, Alaska, I tried kayak fishing for the first time. Whaler’s Cove had just received several Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 kayaks. These foot-pedal-powered kayaks were stable enough for some of the lodge’s guides to stand up and fish from. My sister and I were the first guests to get a chance to catch a big one in their kayaks. We found the Hobie’s to be extremely easy to pedal and fish from. We were hooked!
As I researched kayak fishing, I found enthusiasts all over America and beyond. My goal was to locate a kayak outfitter in Alaska for my annual visit. Just Add Water Adventures (justaddwateralaska.com) in Homer, Alaska, offered the perfect trip. I and my fellow guests were ferried across wild and scenic Kachemak Bay to the calm waters of Tutka Bay. After the 20-minute boat ride, we were briefed on the kayaks, safety gear and fishing equipment. The traditional paddle-powered kayaks are tricked out for fishing. Four rod holder positions were available for trolling, storing the rods or dangling bait. Some kayaks even came with a fish finder/depth finder for the advanced anglers in the group.
On a blue-sky morning, I paddled away from the dock, excited to see if tales of big halibut lurking in Tutka Bay were true. Over the course of six hours, I caught halibut, greenling, rockfish, pollock and a Pacific cod. Each bite on my lure had me almost giddy with excitement to see what was on my line.
It’s easy to see why kayak fishing is so much fun. A fish of 10 pounds or more can slowly pull a kayak around in calm conditions, but a big one will take you on a thrill ride.
With kayak fishing becoming more widely available, anglers can buy their own pedal-powered kayaks geared for fishing or rent one from a guide. Some own their own kayaks geared for fishing and choose not to use a guide; water taxis in Seward and Homer will transport anglers and their kayaks to excellent fishing areas (saving hours of paddling) and pick them up later.
To find out more about travel to Homer, Alaska, visit homeralaska.org; for travel to Seward, visit seward.com.