On most of our trips that we tackle with our camper trailer in tow we try to take away at least one kayak as you never know what waterway you might be camping beside, nothing like a little exercise while your away. Not only can it do wonders for your body but also allows you to explore local waterways and if your a keen fisher-person maybe catch a feed. But don't be confused between a canoe and a kayak as there several differences. Basically a canoe is flat bottomed, recommended for calm waters, can only be paddled by a single oar and you sit deep inside it keeping your centre of gravity down low. There are a host of kayaks on the market from sit-ons, sit ins, tandems, expensive ocean fishing kayaks through to some that can even sail themselves.
Choosing a kayak can be daunting these days as there are many different brands on the market but there are options to help you buy what is right for you. You need to consider where about you intend to use your kayak ,or Yak as it is also known. Wether it be just in a local creek or river, maybe an outside ocean kayak, or just that once in a year camp beside a lake or dam. Generally kayaks range from 2 metres in length to over 4 metres for the more serious ones. Other options include rudders, lighter paddles, waterproof storage hatches, moulded foot wells, fishing rod holders, clip in waterproof seats and to some where you can peddle as you fish. Kayaks these days are made from a polyethylene construction just like a tough plastic, they are seam welded around the joins and come in a variety of different colours.
Like shoes, Kayaks need to feel good when you get in them and for some you need to look good in them. Living on the coast there are generally specialised boating shops available for you to inspect several different brands and if your lucky even have a test paddle.
When we chose ours, I took a check list with me to make sure I knew what I wanted. One kayak needed to be lightweight and just have the option of clipping in a seat if needed, as my teenage daughter only wanted to cruise the water occasionally with me. I needed a longer craft ( as I am over 6' tall ), have several fishing rod holders, to be able to clip in a seat to save my back on those long days on the water, several compartments where I could store waterproof fishing tackle boxes, drink bottle holder and to have a self draining deck, as often I venture out to sea where an odd wave might splash over the side. The good thing about a self draining deck is that the kayak will rebalance itself as the water drains through the scupper holes. Another option to consider are paddles. Some retailers will actually throw in a paddle, but these tend to be awkward and the paddle blades are not offset for maximum stroke. We have found that paddles with either aluminium or a graphite shaft tend to be easier on your hands after several hours on the water. Another thing to consider is the weight of the kayak both when you transport it and getting it onto your camper trailer or 4wd after each session. Keep in mind your car or your camper trailers GVM when you do load up and head away. Most yaks weigh between 15- 30 kg depending on the length and the accessories that you can customise them with, it doesn't sound a lot but you need to be aware. Another thing to consider are the local regulations. Some states require you to wear a PFD ( personal flotation device ) at all times, yet other states require a different rating PFD depending on where you are on the water. I have seen some pretty serious setups where you would be hard to pressed to recognise the original craft-with depth sounders, electric motors, food eskies, gaffs, nets the list goes on.
Kayak fishing has made a huge entry on the market the past few years with nationwide competitions, great package deals from retailers and just giving people a new option on the water. The great thing with yak fishing is that you leave a very small foot print of where you have been. No noise, no smelly outboard- just peace and quiet as you weave and fish between snags and the occasional mangrove. Our fishing setup on our Scrambler XT yak is very simple. There are several rod holders in the back of the Kayak for when you are either paddling to a destination or even trolling with a lure out the back, and a contained section at the rear of the XT for storage of lure boxes and maybe a lunchbox if out for the full day. I did go the option of a waterproof seat as this allows you extended time on the water before the dreaded aching back sets in.
Fishing from a kayak doesn't have to be anything fancy, several small lures, a knife, bottle of water and some extra line is all it takes to have a great day on the water, and the fish option can vary from chasing your saltwater varieties like flathead, bream and jew to chasing cod, yellow bellow and bass in the freshwater rivers and dams. I must say we rarely keep anything caught ( maybe because we haven't caught anything significant recently ) but honestly just getting out there exploring the backwaters away from the hustle and bustle is great. No noise, no pollution, no crowds, just nature at its best. Your fishing outfit needs to be nothing fancy, just a simple light weight rod and a matched reel and a few hard body lures or soft plastics. I like to use 2-4 kg line on my outfits as this way your able to target most species and gives the fish a fighting chance. Some people use braid line but I tend to use mono-filiment line, easy to tie knots in, a lot easier to break if you get a snag and a hell of a lot cheaper to buy. Being a casual fisher is easy.
Be aware of local conditions also, check the tides, any fishing regulations, motor boats in the area and even the weather. Maybe not a great fashion accessory but with Australia's harsh sun, and with the reflection of the suns rays off the water- a wide brim hat is a must as well as the highest rated sunscreen that you can buy- it's no fun spending the next three days sitting back at camp because you are as red as a lobster and can't move. At the end of the day there is no right kayak to buy, it is a matter of working out what is right for you. Look at price, the size and weight, can you transport it safely, how often will you use the kayak, what reason will it be used for and how much can you afford. Take all this into consideration and get out there on the water, tell someone where you are heading and have FUN !!.
No fish were harmed in the writing of this story !!