16 Pros and Cons of Kayak Fishing


Kayak Fishing Guide - Informative tips, articles and product reviews for the kayak angler.

Kayak fishing is a fun and relaxing pastime that attracts more and more anglers every year. However, if you’re new to kayak fishing or looking to get into the sport, there are several pros and cons to consider before hopping into a kayak and setting off to catch some fish.

Kayak fishing is more relaxing, requires minimal planning and equipment, is more environmentally friendly, less expensive, and can be done by almost anyone. However, you’re more apt to get wet, it’s less comfortable, and doesn’t offer as much space as fishing on a boat. 

Whether or not you decide kayak fishing is right for you is based on personal preference. Keep reading to learn more about each of the pros and cons that kayak fishing has to offer. 

The Pros of Kayak Fishing

There are numerous pros when it comes to kayak fishing, depending on your preferences and what you’re looking to achieve when setting out for the day. 

Many anglers swear by this method of fishing because they find it more relaxing and don’t have to spend days leading up to their fishing trip planning every detail. 

Keep reading to find out more about the pros of kayak fishing, and you just might decide to make the switch. 

You Can Get Closer to the Fish

When you’re in a kayak, you can get closer to the fish than when in a boat. Kayaks lay much closer to the water’s surface, allowing you to see the fish before making the first cast. Getting closer to the fish can make your time on the water more successful, as you can cast to the specific areas of the structure that fish are holding tight to. 

Kayaks also make much less noise than boats, so they’re less conspicuous to fish. Fish won’t be startled by the loud motor of a fishing boat, allowing you to get up close and personal with your prey. 

Because of this, fish are less apt to retreat, increasing your success in catching one. This makes kayak fishing an excellent option for those just learning to fish. 

Kayak Fishing Is More Environmentally Friendly

Boats used for fishing dispense emissions and carbon dioxide (CO²) into the air as they burn the fuel required to power the boat. When fuel is burned, emissions are produced. This is categorized as the vessel’s carbon footprint. A boat’s carbon footprint depends on the size of the boat, how much fuel is spent, and what type of fuel is utilized. These emissions are not good for our environment. 

Motorized boats also have the potential to leak fuel, resulting in pollutants collecting in the water. This can damage the plants and animals that inhabit the body of water being fished and reduce the population of the very fish you’re trying to catch. 

The only motor on a kayak is the one powered by your arms as you paddle. There are no emissions produced or fuel leaked as you glide across the water, looking for your next catch. This makes kayaking a much more environmentally friendly way to fish. 

Of course, boats that don’t have motors won’t produce emissions either. For this article, I’m going to assume that you’re comparing fishing kayaks with boats that have motors. 

Kayak Fishing Is More Relaxing

When you’re out kayak fishing, you are entirely responsible for the outcome of your day. It’s just you, your kayak, and your fishing rod. You get to decide where you go, how hard you paddle, and when to call it quits. This is not only empowering for many people but relaxing as well. 

You don’t have to worry about getting caught in a storm or battling through rough weather like you would on a fishing boat.

You don’t have to worry about running aground or hitting hidden objects like rocks or fallen trees, because they won’t do as much damage to a kayak as they would to a boat. Although, they may tip you over!

Kayak fishing is done at a much slower pace, which allows you to take in the sights and sounds of nature and truly enjoy your time on the water, either by yourself or with friends and family by your side. 

Kayak Fishing Requires Minimal Equipment

When you embark on a day of fishing using a boat, there are many things you’ll need to bring along with you to make it happen. In addition to the boat itself, you’ll need a trailer to get it from point A to point B unless you dock it at a marina. You’ll need to be sure you have the proper safety equipment and extra rods and reels if you’re traveling with other people. 

When kayak fishing, the only things you need are the kayak, a fishing rod, a paddle, and a life jacket. This makes a spontaneous day on the lake, river, or ocean much more possible, and not to mention less expensive. 

Kayak Fishing Requires Less Planning

Because there is less equipment involved, kayak fishing takes a lot less planning than fishing on a boat. You don’t have to trailer your boat to a boat ramp or make sure it’s filled with gas. When you’re kayak fishing, you can just pack up your kayak and head out

Also, because you likely won’t be going out to the wide-open ocean for a day of kayak fishing, you don’t need to watch the weather as carefully as you would if you were embarking on a day of fishing on a boat. 

You Can Kayak Fish Almost Anywhere

Kayaks are much smaller and more agile than even the smallest of fishing boats. Because of this, you can kayak fish pretty much anywhere there is water deep enough to cover your kayak. This will allow you to go to certain rivers, ponds, and lakes that boats can’t get to. When fishing on a boat, you’ll need to be docked at a marina or launch it at a boat ramp to get it into the water, limiting your potential fishing spots. 

Kayak Fishing Is Less Expensive

There are many expenses involved if you choose to fish on a boat that will need to be considered. From the boat itself to extras like gas and insurance, the cost to own a boat adds up quickly. 

Boating Equipment

First, boats themselves are expensive. Even a small fishing vessel can start at 10,000 dollars and likely go up there, depending on any modifications you make. You’ll also need a trailer regardless of whether you keep it docked or choose to haul it in and out of the water each time you fish, which can run you up to another $700 to $1000. 

Fuel and Insurance

Gas is another expense to consider when determining if boat fishing is the right choice for you. Getting gas on the water is typically more expensive than filling up at your local gas station, and boat engines use more gas per hour than cars. Your gas bill can run up into the thousands depending on how much you use your boat each season. 

Boats also require that you purchase insurance, much like you would with a car. This is another annual cost you’ll need to factor in. 

Kayak Fishing Equipment

Kayak fishing only requires a kayak, a paddle, a life jacket, and a fishing rod. Once you set up your fishing kayak the way you like it, there isn’t much more you’ll need to do. Typically, a kayak fishing setup costs around $1000, which is much more cost-effective than fishing on a boat. 

Almost Anyone Can Kayak Fish

Kayak Fishing Guide - Informative tips, articles and product reviews for the kayak angler.

If you’re opting to fish off a boat, you’ll need to consider a few prerequisites before you do so. 

First, you’ll need to understand how to operate a boat. This can take some time and practice, and unless you’re going as a guest on someone else’s boat, it is a mandatory requirement. 

You’ll need to be a certain age, depending on what state you’re fishing out of. 

When kayak fishing, as long as you are strong enough to operate a paddle and reel in your fishing line, you can successfully kayak fish. This makes kayak fishing a great activity for people of all ages to participate in and is a popular pastime for families. 

Kayaks Are Low Maintenance

There isn’t much you’ll need to do to maintain your kayak once you purchase it. You’ll need to keep up with regular cleanings and store it in a cool, dry place when you aren’t using it. You’ll also need to make sure that you keep up with proper maintenance on your fishing rods, but that would be the case for any type of fishing. 

With fishing boats, there is regular maintenance that needs to be conducted. You’ll need to winterize the motor, care for the hull, service the electrical systems, and repair any canvas covers or upholstery you may have. 

You’ll also need to make arrangements to take the boat out of the water at the end of the season, shrink wrapping it for storage in a dry marina or other location. These maintenance requirements can get very costly over time. 

You Can Catch A Greater Range of Fish

Since kayaks can travel into places that not all fishing boats can reach, you can catch a wider array of fish. Kayaks can go into shallow or deep water, along shorelines and rocks, and through rivers, lakes, and ponds. Some of those places are exclusive homes to certain fish, crabs, rock lobsters, and more. 

With a fishing boat, you need to ensure you’re in deep enough water that your boat won’t run aground. This limits the areas you can go to, such as lakes, ponds, or the ocean. 

Kayak Fishing Is A Great Way to Get Some Exercise

Kayak fishing offers a great way to get some exercise and explore nature. As you paddle through the water, you’ll be getting a full-body workout strengthening your arms, shoulders, back, legs, and even your abs. It also offers a great aerobic workout, allowing your heart rate to climb with every paddle. 

The Cons of Kayak Fishing

While the pros outweigh the cons of kayak fishing, there are a few things you should be aware of. Here are some of the things you should consider when deciding whether or not kayak fishing is for you. 

Kayak Fishing Is More Physically Demanding

When you’re kayak fishing, you need to use your entire body to paddle to move forward. Paddling in a kayak is a full-body workout, and one can burn between 275 and 475 calories after a single hour of paddling

Once you’ve reached your intended fishing spot, you’ll need to use your core to stabilize yourself as you cast your fishing line repeatedly. You’ll also need to stabilize yourself against the rocking of the kayak.  

You’ll need to be strong enough to haul your kayak in and out of the water. And onto the roof or bed of your vehicle when you’re done for the day. The average recreational kayak weighs approximately 35 pounds (15.9 kg), but a fishing kayak can clock in at 120 pounds (54.4 kg) or higher! 

You Can’t Go Out As Deep As You Can With a Fishing Boat

Although you can traverse many more bodies of water with a kayak than you can with a fishing boat, there are some limitations as to where you can go with one. 

It is not safe to travel out into deep ocean waters in a fishing kayak; those types of trips are better suited for a boat. The uncertainty of the seas offers many unknown risks, and traveling out there in a kayak can quickly become a severe safety concern. 

Fishing Kayaks Have Limited Space

Fishing kayaks are significantly smaller than boats, which means that they have less space to store things. You’ll need to be very decisive when it comes to what gear you’d like to pack for a day on the water. Fishing kayaks also have less room to store fish, so if you catch more than a few fish at a time, you may not be able to keep them all. 

You’re More Likely to Get Wet

Getting wet on a fishing kayak is a guarantee and something you’ll need to be prepared for. Because fishing kayaks are much lower to the water than boats, they’re a lot easier to tip over. It’s not uncommon for a fishing kayak to capsize due to a large wave, as you reel in a fish or even if you just move too quickly. 

Ocean kayaks, which are much flatter than sit-in kayaks, often have scupper holes on the bottom that allow water to flow in and out of the vessel, which provides another source of wetness. Sit-in kayaks offer a little more protection from free-flowing water but can capsize just as quickly. 

As you paddle, water will also dribble water onto your lap, arms, and legs. As you pull fish into your kayak, you’re bound to get splashed by the fish.

If you’re fishing on the ocean or where currents are present, choppy water can also get into any style kayak quite easily, unless you have a spray deck installed. 

Kayak Fishing Is Less Comfortable

There is not much room to move around in a kayak as you’re fishing because fishing kayaks are designed to be sleek and mobile. Sit-on-top style kayaks allow for more legroom as there is no cover on the kayak, but also cause you to get wet much more quickly. 

This can be uncomfortable for some, as you’ll remain wet for the entire length of your trip. Kayaks that you can sit in offer support for your legs to rest on the sides, but don’t have as much legroom. 

Sitting on the seat of a kayak all day can also get uncomfortable, especially if you don’t have adequate cushioning underneath. You’ll need to remain seated the entire time you’re fishing; otherwise, you run the risk of capsizing the kayak. The constant casting from a seated position can also strain your back muscles over time. 

Many of the newer designed fishing kayaks are stable enough to stand up and fish on. Also, the sit-on-top kayaks have seats that are quite comfortable and widely adjustable to suit your comfort.

Final Thoughts

Kayak fishing is a great way to get out into nature and enjoy a day on the water. To recap, here is a list of the pros of kayak fishing: 

  • You can get closer to the fish 
  • It’s more environmentally friendly
  • It’s more relaxing
  • It requires less equipment
  • It requires less planning
  • You can fish almost anywhere
  • It’s less expensive 
  • Almost anyone can do it
  • Kayaks are low maintenance 
  • You can catch a wide variety of fish
  • It’s a great way to get exercise 

While that may seem like an impressive list, here’s a recap of some of the cons: 

  • It’s physically demanding
  • You can’t go out into very deep waters
  • Fishing kayaks have limited space
  • You’re more likely to get wet
  • It can be uncomfortable

Additional information on fishing kayaks can be found at these other articles on my site:

Have fun and be safe out there!

Mike Rodman

Mike enjoys fishing all year round, from fly fishing small streams in Wyoming's higher mountains to kayak fishing the lower altitude lakes and reservoirs. Mike also has a passion for ice fishing and is a member of Clam Outdoors Pro Staff. When he has spare time, he'll be found building custom fishing rods.

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