Contributed by Alex Vail, The Flying Kayak
More and more people are catching bigger and bigger fish from kayaks every day. Kayaking fishing for big fish isn’t just a challenge, but also a rush. Hooking and fighting big fish from the ‘yak is one thing, but landing those fish is a whole different story entirely. So here are a few kayaking fishing tips to consider when it comes down to the final step of landing your trophy.
Consider Your Safety When Kayak Fishing for Large Fish
There have been numerous instances in my life where I simply feel unsafe bringing a fish aboard the kayak. Situations such as rough seas, strong currents, sharp teeth, and flailing fins have kept a few fish in the water and away from my body. Sharks are a prime example of fish like this. Sure it’s great to get a hero picture of one before I let it loose, but if I’m feeling even remotely unsafe about the situation, I’ll just cut the line boatside. Especially large fish such as tarpon might not need to be brought aboard in order to prevent something like capsizing. Sure the picture might be awesome, but losing all your gear when it flops isn’t ideal.
Leg Sweep Method
For instances such as catch and release, the leg sweep method to land fish works fantastically. Just as the name implies, one simply brings the fish along side of the boat and uses their leg to get underneath the fish and lift it into the kayak. Getting a lip/gill plate hold helps ensure the fish’s head isn’t going anywhere, while the leg does the heavy lifting from below. Just be prepared to get slimy.
What can I say? Gaffs are sort of the be-all and end-all of landing fish. There’s no catch and release with these tools, and a good gaff shot can almost guarantee a successful landing. One thing to consider, however, is how to hold the gaff. Gaffing from a kayak is a little different than gaffing from a boat because of how low in the water you already sit. From my experience, I find it safer to actually gaff from underneath the fish rather than from above. This way, the actual gaff acts as some protection between you and the fish. Gaffing from above can quickly send an angry, toothy fish right into your lap.
I see more and more people using nets to land large fish from the kayak and I have to say that it’s a very good method. You instantly eliminate the chances of the fish getting away boatside the moment that it’s in the net. Also, when using a net, you don’t hurt the fish at all. Sadly, I’ve yet to see a net big enough to easily handle 100+lb tarpon from the kayak, but for slightly smaller fish, it’s a perfect method.
Always remember that safety is the most important thing. With that said, toothy critters such as king mackerel, wahoo, sharks, etc, should be landed with their business end pointed away from you. The last thing anyone wants is some razor sharp teeth chomping around in their lap.
As stated before, when your kayak fishing it isn’t always necessary to pull the whole fish into the boat. Often merely lipping the fish or using a lip gaff will suffice. The picture gets taken, the fish swims free, and you (and your gear) remain safe and sound.
So when you’ve done everything right and are about to land the fish of a lifetime from the kayak, just remember these tips for the final step. With these methods you can safely land big fish and avoid the horrible feeling of losing a fish boatside before getting to at least snap a picture. Just don’t forget to bring the camera!