Tag Archives: kayak

National Get Outdoors Day

Grab your favorite running shoes, stock up on sunscreen, and make sure you bring enough bug spray because Saturday, June 13th is National Get Outdoors Day. On this day every year, adventure seekers around the country are urged to get outside to explore and keep active. If you’re in need of a bit of inspiration of where to go and what to do, then you’re in luck because we came up with a list of just five of the many exciting events being held on Saturday.

Meet Me at the Confluence
South Beloit, Illinois

A group of people with lifejackets and holding paddles surrounded by kayaks.

Kayakers all geared up and ready to paddle up the Rock River. [Image: http://natureattheconfluence.com]

Meet Me at the Confluence is a great way for outdoor enthusiasts of any age to get acquainted with this public area and to most importantly to get outside! There are three events in the area, all centered around fun and exciting outdoor exploration. The “Fur Traders River Run” Community Paddle Trip is a six-mile trip that brings kayakers along the Rock River, which was used by early fur traders to move their materials. Nature at the Confluence Open House is also available for guests to see the soon-to-be Nature Center as well as the Prairie Restoration Community Project, which tours the land along Turtle Creek and invites visitors to join in the restoration process.

More info: info@natureattheconfluence.com

Hike and Paddle
Easton, Pennsylvania

Two girls kayaking.

Enjoy a paddle after a relaxing hike through Easton, Pennsylvania. [Image: http://www.allsedona.com/]

Join an urban hike beginning in Hugh Moore Park’s National Canal Museum parking lot. The Hike and Paddle follows the local trails of Easton, Pennsylvania. It heads out onto the Karl Stirner Arts Trail to the Delaware Canal Towpath Trail and ends along the Lehigh Canal Trail that wraps back in Hugh Moore Park. Once the hike is complete, the group will also be taking a quick paddle along the Lehigh Canal. It’s the perfect balance of fun and adventure!

More info: ikindle@pa.gov or 610-982-0166

The Ride for Hope
Tallahassee, Florida

A group of cyclists.

Cyclist enjoying the Ride for Hope. [Image: http://therideforhope.com/]

If you’re looking to get outdoors on two wheels, then look no further than Tallahassee’s annual Ride for Hope. This thrilling ride raises money for the Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center and has varying levels of difficulty, depending on what sort of challenge you’re looking for. The ride has a family fun ride or walk, 11-mile, 29-mile, 40-mile, a metric century (approximately 62-mile), and a full century (100-mile) options. Choose the distance you’d like to break a sweat over and bike for a fantastic cause!

More info: info@TheRideForHope.com or 850-431-5389

Greenway Walk and Historic Tour
Stoneham, Massachusetts

A group of people cleaning up trash in the woods.

Cleaning up the Stoneham trails. [Image: http://www.tricommunitygreenway.org/news]

Stoneham’s Tri-Community Greenway Walk and Historic Tour is a relaxing and informative event that’s perfect for the whole family to enjoy. The walk begins on Gould Street and winds over to the Woburn Tunnel where visitors can continue walking over to Montvale Avenue or head back to Gould Street. There are parts of the trail that aren’t paved, however, it’s a laidback trek overall.

More info: tricommunitygreenway@gmail.com

Salt River Tubing
Mesa, Arizona

Group of people on tubes floating down a river.

Kick back and float along the gorgeous Salt River. [Image: http://www.saltrivertubing.com/]

Float down the Salt River with the Salt River Pirates for an experience of a lifetime. It’s a relaxing yet invigorating tube float along the scenic river. For National Get Outdoors Day, the pirates have live entertainment and are giving away pirate bandanas to the first 1,000 guests. Come dressed in your eye patches and pirate hats for a chance to win free tube rental passes, too!

More info: 480-984-3305

This is just a taste of all the many events happening nationwide for National Outdoors Day. Make sure you strap on your boots and head outside, and don’t forget to download our Pocket Ranger® Mobile Apps for more information about the comings and goings of state parks near you!

Spring in Virginia Beach!

Now that we explored Virginia Beach’s natural areas, let’s enjoy its beach destinations, prefect for a spring day full of water and land sports! “Live the Life,” as you roam through Virginia Beach’s diverse beach landscapes, local restaurants, and its vibrant downtown area.

Girls enjoying the Resor Beach boardwalk.

Courtesy VA Beach Tourism


Explore the beaches!

Virginia Beach promises calm waters with distinct scenic views. Some to keep in mind include Resort Beach, Sandbridge Beach, and Chesapeake Bay Beach.

Sometimes we just want to relax and stroll down an endless pier! Resort Beach features a 3-mile boardwalk, great for jogging and biking. The boardwalk is lined with restaurants, hotels, beach playgrounds, souvenirs shops and plenty of other attractions. There’s Grommet Island and the King Neptune statue, a 34-foot-tall, cast bronze god of the mythical sea. You can bike, boat, kayak, parasail or paddle board in Resort Beach. Restaurants around here range from fine dining to crab and oyster shacks, or catch your own lunch at a nearby fishing pier!

And when you’re off biking, me sure to carry the Virginia Pocket Ranger® App. Its advanced GPS Maps allows you to access trail data, record tracks from hikes, runs, or bike rides, and view elapsed time and distance traveled.

Man walking near the Chesapeake Bay Beach shore.

Can we fly out here? Chesapeake Bay [Image: VA Beach Tourism]

If exploration and seclusion is more your thing, Sandbridge Beach is the place! Along with the island vibes and serene views, you’ll have a chance to explore the outdoors, and discover trails, marshes, and the open waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park whether on bike or by foot. There’s also surfing lessons available from local outfitters. And you don’t necessarily have to leave comfort out of the equation. Enjoy amazing ocean views from available hotels, rental homes or condos.

The scenic Chesapeake Bay Beach is the ideal location for sunsets and sunrises. It also features gentle waves perfect for swimming and splashing, especially for the little ones learning how to swim. Here visitors can enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, sand castle building, volleyball and more! It’s truly a romantic escape with multiple dockside seafood restaurants, offering incredible sunset views over the Lynnhaven Inlet. And for the historian in you, visit the Cape Henry Lighthouse to learn a little more about Virginia.

We want wildlife and adventure!

Image: www.zooborns.com

Image: www.zooborns.com

While you’re exploring Chesapeake Bay be sure to visit the bottlenose dolphins that live in estuaries year-round. From May to October visitors can get close to playful marine mammals during a guided dolphin-watch on kayak! Guides will take viewers to see the dolphin’s favorite areas. Document the experience through photos as dolphins frolic between feeding grounds. And use the Virginia Pocket Ranger® App as your guide when you’re off exploring those nature spots beyond the beach. With the app you can mark and record the coordinates of plant life, animal species, or landscape views with the photo waypoint feature.

You’ll also find a thrilling adventure while zip-lining through trees in the brand new Adventure Park at the Virginia Aquarium. Virginia Beach has five campgrounds! Pitch a tent in one of Virginia Beach’s five campgrounds, 1,800 campsites, or stay in one of their 70 rustic cabins, that include restrooms, showers, guest laundry, bicycles, playgrounds, pools and boat ramps.

Savor the local cuisine

Family crab picking in Sandbridge Beach

Image: VA Beach Tourism

Virginia Beach has some of the freshest coastal cuisine. From oysters to crab cakes to rockfish, there’s plenty of local fish to try at Virginia Beach restaurants. For drinks, head to anyone of the five artisan breweries for a fresh pint! If you want to learn more about oysters, there are oyster-farming boat tours on the Lynnhaven River where you can taste fresh harvested bivalves. Also, be on the look out for farmer’s markets and roadside stands, selling fresh, sustainable and local produce. Though this area is know for its strawberries, thanks to the annual Strawberry Festival, it also grows blackberries, cantaloupe, kale, blueberries, among other produce.

See what its like to live on a sustainable farm. New Earth Farm offers educational programs from how to sheer sheep to how to make cheese, kombucha, noodles and other dishes. They also offer cooking classes taught by top chefs at the farm’s Food Lab. Kids as young as 10-years old can sign up and start making meals from scratch, as well as harvesting eggs, washing and chopping produce and putting it all together to make a dreamy farm feast.

Stay tuned for Spring events at Virginia Beach from March to May, inluding PANorama Caribbean Music Festival, Festival of the Arts, Strawberry Festival, and others here!

To explore more of Virginia Beach don’t forget to download our free Virginia Pocket Ranger® App!

Kayak Fishing Tips For Catching Large Fish

A man catches a big fish while kayak fishing

Image: Alex Vail

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.

Someone has caught a large fish while kayaking

Image: Alex Vail


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.

A fisherman uses a net to get a fish into the kayak

Image: Alex Vail


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.

Other tid-bits

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.

A man kayak fishing while a llarge fish rests in the bottom of a kayak

Image: Alex Vail

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!

What to Bring Kayak Fishing

Contributed by Alex Vail, The Flying Kayak

A few days back, I had the pleasure of taking a friend on his first kayak fishing adventure. The night before we left, he asked me a question that I’d never actually been asked before:

“What should I bring?”

I then realized that if you’ve never been kayak fishing, what to bring might not be obvious. So, for anyone new to the sport, I’ve compiled a quick list of things I deem necessary to have aboard for a half day of kayak fishing.

Kayak Fishing

Image: Alex Vail

1. Paddle
Having a good kayak paddle is essential. It is, after all, the only form of propulsion you’re going to get. It’s important to have a paddle that fits you and your kayak. Taller people need longer paddles and how high/low your kayak sits in the water also determines how long the paddle needs to be. 

2. Life jacket
Pretty straightforward here. It’s the law to at least carry one life jacket on board.

3. Anchor
Though I personally don’t use one too often, an anchor is a very nice tool to have around. Whether you want to get out of the kayak and wade around, or you just need a break from paddling, a good anchor ensures that the kayak isn’t going anywhere.

4. Dry bag/Case
It doesn’t matter how calm the water is. If you’re kayak fishing, SOMETHING is going to get wet, be it inside the kayak or outside. It’s just a fact of life. With that said, it’s important to protect your valuables like cell phones, wallet, keys, etc. A dry bag or waterproof case is essential. I put my valuables inside one and store it inside one of my hatches. Even though it’s sealed up inside, there’s still a little bit of water that finds its way in and having my things dry is extremely important.

5. Food
Unless you’re planning to spend an entire day out on the water, I wouldn’t bring something like a meal. I recommend sticking to snack foods, like candy bars, trail mix, etc. As stated before, everything is going to get wet at some point or another, so try to pick food that isn’t going to get ruined by a little water.

6. Water
It doesn’t really matter what you carry it in, just as long as you have it with you. Camelbacks, canteens, water bottles, whatever. With it being summer right now, it’s vital that you stay well hydrated. Remember to continue drinking water throughout the day. 

7. Sun Protection
The summer sun, especially down here in Florida, is absolutely brutal. I’d suggest not working on your tan too much while in the kayak. Things like hats, sun screen, sun buffs, long sleeve shirts, all of these are important if you want to stay protected from the unrelenting sun. I’ve noticed that many first-time kayakers forget to apply plenty of sunscreen to their legs (especially the front of them). Since your legs just sit there, basking in the sun, they’re the first things that are going to get fried.

8. Fishing Tackle
Last but not least is fishing tackle! What rods and reels to bring is obviously a matter of personal choice and dependent upon what species you’re fishing for, but it’s important to remember not to over do it. Since space is limited in your kayak, don’t bring the whole kitchen sink with you! I’d suggest getting a hold of a small tacklebox (the soft sided ones are perfect), and take exactly what you need. This will cut down on how much space you’re taking up, and will make re-rigging/changing lures much quicker. Unless you’ve decided to carry a cooler on board, and you plan to keep fish, a stringer is perfect to carry inside the tackle box. Just remember that it’s EXTREMELY difficult to paddle while the stringer is in the water. It’s like dragging an anchor. If you have rod holders, take advantage of them and carry more than one rod. Rigged differently, a second rod can stay ready to cast to that surprise species that your main rod isn’t set up for yet. 

Tackle Box Cell Phone

Image: Alex Vail

There are, of course, a billion other things that can be brought along on a kayak fishing trip. But for a simple morning out on the water, this list covers the basic necessities. When in doubt, carry that extra gear, even if you think you won’t need it. The more often you go out on the water, the more refined your gear list will become. Before long, the question “what should I bring” will be a thing of the past.

Kayak Fishing

Image: Alex Vail

Be sure to check out the Pocket Ranger® Gear Store for these items and more!

Inclement Weather and Kayaking Safety

Contributed by Alex Vail, The Flying Kayak

If you’ve ever spent any time out on the water paddling, chances are you’ve been stuck in weather that was not particularly favorable. Be it high winds, thunderstorms, or rough water, there is always a real and present danger when a person decides to start paddling. But a little bit of common sense, preparedness, and a healthy respect for the elements can help keep you out of trouble.

High Winds

Kayaking Safety

This is probably the most common form of inclement weather when out on a paddle. It doesn’t necessarily have to be foul weather for wind to take a toll on a paddler. Be conscious of your own abilities. Remember that at some point, you’re going to have to fight the wind against your kayak or canoe, and it’s vitally important that a person realizes how strong of a paddler they either are or are not. Be flexible with how you anticipate your paddle going. If you have to adjust your planned path to stay out of the wind, do so. Chances are you won’t regret it at the end of the day.

Rough Waters

This ties in directly with high winds. Any time wind has a chance to rip across open water for a long distance, you’re going to encounter rough waters. The longer the distance and deeper the water, the rougher the conditions. It’s not only important to evaluate where rough waters may occur, but also realize that there are simply some days you cannot launch. I recently made the mistake of paddling in weather that I should not have, and I paid dearly for my mistake with hundreds and hundreds of dollars of lost gear. Really ask yourself if your safety (and gear!) is worth risking when dealing with rough waters.


Kayaking Safety

Now that summer is here, it’s the time of year for afternoon showers and thunderstorms. In areas like my home state of Florida, summertime weather is unpredictable at best. I’ve witnessed clear blue skies transform into massive storms in just a matter of minutes. These thunderstorms not only bring high winds, and thus rough water, but a much more dangerous threat: lightning. When paddling, you’re generally the tallest thing on the water, and a lightning storm is the last thing you’ll want to be caught in. It’s important to plan accordingly for thunderstorms. You may want to adjust that 14-15 mile round trip paddle. What happens when you get to mile 8, and there’s a massive thunderstorm between you and the car?

General Safety

Wear your life jacket.

I’ll say it again: wear your life jacket. If you’re forced to face foul weather, it can literally save your life. If paddling, I strongly suggest wearing the life jacket and not just having one aboard the boat. Unpredictable things can happen in inclement weather and the difference between wearing a life jacket and simply having one aboard could literally be the difference between life and death.

Overall, just use common sense. It’s your best tool against the unpredictability and harshness of Mother Nature. If you think you can’t paddle, don’t. Adjust your plan if needed. Flexibility and the ability to say no to certain conditions can help ensure your safety. And even though paddling, fishing, and simply being out on the water is great, it’s never worth risking your wellbeing over. So when you’re out paddling this summer, just remember to stay smart, and know your limitations. You’ll be thankful later.

Kayaks vs. Canoes

Contributed by Alex Vail, The Flying Kayak

I’ve recently had many people ask me what the real difference is between kayaks and canoes and why I prefer paddling around the kayak. There are many different things to take into account when comparing the these two watercraft, and which one a person prefers comes down to what they’re planning to do with it. There are pros and cons to each when considering which one to choose.

Kayaks vs Canoes

Kayak Pros:

–        Speed: Kayaks are fast. Plain and simple. (And even the tandem kayaks can outpace a canoe with the same amount of paddlers.) Though some kayaks are obviously built more for speed than others, they are still extremely quick. The double-bladed paddle helps add to the pace because there’s almost always a paddle in the water.

–        Easy to load: Kayaks don’t require much (or any) ballast to help stabilize them. Unlike a canoe, which needs to be weighted down for stability, a kayak is essentially ready to go the moment you unload it from the truck.

–        Low profile: Kayaks sit much lower in the water than canoes, meaning the paddler sits lower, as well. This becomes important when fishing or paddling in high winds. While fishing, an angler with who’s situated lower is going to spook less fish and get much closer to the fish than a person sitting higher in the water. When paddling in the wind, the less “boat” there is sticking out of the water, the better. Canoes can act almost like a sail in high winds and make paddling an absolute nightmare.

–        Capsizing: When, not if, you finally capsize your chosen watercraft, what happens? Depending on which you’re paddling, it could be no big deal, or it could be deadly. Kayaks, whether they’re sit on top or sit-in, recover from capsizing much more easily. Obviously you risk losing gear, but unless you don’t have the skirt on your sit-in, there’s no risk of swamping your kayak. Canoes, on the other hand, are done the moment they flip. They swamp and thanks to them having no top, all of your gear is gone.

Kayak Cons:

–        Gear space: Let’s face it: you’re extremely limited in how much gear you can carry in a kayak. Canoes actually need gear in order to be stable. So in instances such as camping, the canoe is always going to be the better bet.

–        Standing: There are plenty of kayaks that are stable enough to stand up in, but there are just as many that aren’t. Obviously you cannot be getting up and down in a sit-in, and some sit-ons (like mine) are too narrow to make standing safely an option. I’ve personally never paddled a canoe that I couldn’t stand up in.

Kayak vs Canoes

Canoe Pros:

–        Gear: As stated before, the amount of room available for gear storage will always be greater than the room in a kayak. If camping is your main focus, the canoe is for you.

–        Motor option: If paddling just isn’t really your thing, a canoe will obviously be the better choice. Square sterned canoes make mounting a motor a breeze. And even if you have a pointed stern, a side mounted motor is possible. Now, some kayaks have the option of hooking up a trolling motor, but their power is extremely limited. There’s no worse feeling than paddling a kayak away from a storm like your life depends on it, only to have a motorized canoe fly past you to safety.

Canoe Cons:

–        One paddle: Traditionally, canoes are paddled with just a single-bladed paddle. This means that the person sitting in the back must constantly switch paddling sides in order to steer the boat. Depending on how low in the water the canoe sits, one can actually use a kayak paddle, but they must still make correction paddles to keep the boat on course.

–        Capsizing: I’ll say it again only because I feel like it’s a pretty big deal. Capsizing in a canoe is horrible. Though being safe/smart about paddling can keep you out of trouble, and canoes are extremely stable, it still happens. When it does, you’re forced to pull the canoe out of the water. There’s almost no chance of recovery while still in the water.

Canoe vs Kayak

These are all things that need to be considered when deciding on which watercraft is best for you. Primarily the decision focuses around what you’re going to be doing. Will you be fishing? Exploring? Camping? Maybe a little bit of everything? These are questions that one must ask themselves before purchasing the right watercraft. Unfortunately, there’s no perfect, all around choice. Each has its own pros and cons. It’s just up to you to decide which is the better choice, and with any luck, this short guide can help you on that decision.


Tips for Camping out of a Kayak

Contributed by Alex Vail, The Flying Kayak

With the popularity of kayaking and kayak fishing steadily on the rise, more and more people are beginning to get away from the traditional canoe and switch to kayaks for their camping excursions. But there are several things that a person must take into consideration before attempting to camp this way. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when planning a camping trip via kayak.

Kayak Camping

1. Store it away

My number one rule for camping out of a kayak is that if you aren’t willing to lose it, keep it below deck. The question isn’t whether or not you’re going to flip one day; it’s when. Paddle enough, and it’s almost a guarantee that someday you’ll capsize in the kayak. Even well strapped down gear can break free during a spill and one runs the risk of losing precious gear for good if it’s not stowed away safely. Vital gear like emergency radio, water, food, and a tent should be kept within the kayak rather than on top. Losing gear like that can instantly end a camping trip and make things much more difficult on yourself.

2. Pack light

Think of camping from a kayak as almost like hiking. You want to carry everything you need, but you also want to be as light as possible. Unlike a canoe that can easily handle several hundred pounds of gear, a kayak is limited on space. In addition, a really heavy kayak in the water will tend to go through waves, rather than over them. This often leads to getting far wetter than you would normally. If you’re paddling long distances, a light kayak will help save your arms and shoulders from feeling like they’re going to fall off.

3. Anchors away

Camping Out Of A Kayak

An anchor is one piece of gear that every kayaker should have. They come in handy both while fishing and while just traveling. It’s a simple task to toss out the anchor and take a break while paddling, and doing so will prevent you from possibly losing ground to currents or winds. When it comes down to actually camping, I like to pull the kayak out of the water (if possible) and toss out the anchor on dry land. Fluctuation tides or inclement weather conditions could come float the kayak in the middle of the night. And the one piece of gear that you absolutely cannot afford to lose is the kayak itself. When camping on something like a platform or dock, I still use my anchor and wrap it around the wooden posts or columns.

4. Bag it up

Kayak Water

Whether you’re paddling a sit-in or a sit-on kayak, getting wet is inevitable. Not only will you get wet, but so will your gear. That’s why when I pack up to go camp from my kayak, I make sure to keep things that need to stay dry inside dry bags. These waterproof bags have rubber seals and clips that can ensure a watertight seal. Things such as dry clothes, cookware, and food all go inside a dry bag. By putting things in dry bags, a paddler opens up much more available space on the outside of the kayak. Bags can be strapped down with bungee cords or rope and doing so frees up room on the inside of the kayak.

5. Bring back-ups

This holds true for almost any camping excursion, be it hiking, canoeing, or kayaking, but be sure to bring back up items. An extra paddle is a must when camping from a kayak. Imagine, for a second, how terrible it would be to break or lose your only paddle when you’re on a multi-day trip. Other items include ways to fix broken gear like rudders or seats. Spare rope, extra clothes, and alternate ways to make fire are things that I’m sure to always bring along. Redundancy is essential when it comes to being well prepared on a trip.

Though it’s slightly less conventional than camping from a canoe, the kayak is definitely a good way to spend a few days in the wild. It’s just important to remember the kayak’s limitations and plan accordingly. If you follow these easy tips, you’ll be well on your way to having a successful kayak camping trip and realize just how fun it can be.

Do you have any tips for camping in a kayak?