Using a Fish Stringer for Kayak Fishing: Best Methods!

You’re on a hot bite and wondering where to put the fish you’re pulling in? There’s not much room to store fish in a kayak, especially the smaller kayaks. What is the easiest way to keep fish while you’re kayak fishing?

Keeping fish you caught on a simple fish stringer for kayaks is the easiest way. Room in a kayak is often at a premium, and a simple fish stringer takes up very little space, and it’s only used when needed. A fish stringer can be tied to the kayak, and the fish kept in the water alongside the kayak.

There are other options to keeping your catch fresh, but the simple stringer, lightweight and inexpensive, is probably the most used by fishermen overall. Here’s what you need to know!

How to Use a Fish Stringer on a Kayak

Fish stringers come in many lengths and a variety of designs. When fishing from a kayak, opt for the longer lengths. You can find them from 6′ to 15′ long.

Use a cord fish stringer by pushing the metal tip behind the gill plate and through the mouth of the fish. Insert the metal tip through the metal ring attached to the other end of the stringer and pull snugly, securing the fish to the stringer. Other fish can be slid down on top of the first one.

When using a snap stringer kayak fishing, single fish can be placed onto the snaps without interfering with each other. More than one fish can be placed onto each snap as well. Chain stringers are typically short, and tieing an extra cord to the lead chain enhances its use on a kayak.

Photo of a trout being placed on a stringer kayak fishing

How to Attach Stringer to Kayak

To attach a fishing stringer to a kayak, tie it to your seat within reach. Or as close to your seat as possible. If the stringer isn’t long enough to fully submerge fish in the water, tie a cord to its end. A carabiner makes attaching and removing stringers an easy task.

If you have a shorter length fish stringer, you might want to attach another length of cord to it. You want it to be long enough to keep your fish underwater.

I have found an effective way of securing a stringer to the kayak is to use a carabiner.

Attach a carabiner to the top of the chain stringer. Secure a cord to the carabiner with a good knot,

The carabiner can then be attached to several convenient spots within reach on your kayak.

Advantages of Using a Stringer

  • Economical – Stringers can be purchased for five to ten dollars in many places close to fishing waters. Bait shops, c-stores, and even gas stations will typically carry them.

    Cord stringers are the least expensive, although I would choose a chain stringer for a few more dollars. Placing a fish on each snap means less overcrowding than a cord stringer.
  • Takes Up Less Room – Storage and overall space are premium when it comes to fishing kayaks. Fish stringers are compact and easy to store on your kayak.

    Compared to expensive fish cooler bags and hard-sided fish storage units, there is no comparison to how much room those take up in your fishing area!

    You can keep a cord stringer in your pocket or tuck it away nicely in a spot other fishing gear or tackle would never fit.
  • Fish Are Kept in the Water – Keeping your fish alive in the water before you clean or fillet them means the meat will be fresher when you begin cooking.

    Fish will begin to deteriorate once they are no longer alive. Keeping them live in the water they came from means they will be better quality meat when eaten.

Disadvantages of Using a Stringer

  • Creates Drag on Your Kayak – With fish hanging beneath you, it will create drag and affect the handling of your kayak.

    Your kayak won’t track as straight, and the extra weight of the fish and drag will cause you to expend more energy when paddling.
  • Water Temperature Can Be Different at the Surface – Fish from the cooler water depths may not survive closer to the surface with warmer water temperatures.

    Certain target species like to be in colder water at deeper depths and closer to the bottom of your fishing waters. Bringing them to and holding them at the surface can cause them stress.

    When fish become stressed, they will not live for very long. And once they quit breathing and expire, the meat will deteriorate.
  • Fish Can Become Overcrowded – When placing fish on a stringer close to each other, they will rub and hit one another. Overcrowding can cause the fish much stress.

    And as above, with warmer temperatures, the fish will begin to perish once they are stressed, and the meat won’t be as high quality if dispatched before being cleaned or filleted.

Choosing the Right Kayak Fish Stringers for You

Choosing the right stringer for your kayak can take in many variables, including:

  • The species of fish you’re targeting
  • The average size of the fish
  • Daily Bag Limit allowed
  • The number of fish you plan on keeping
  • The length of time you plan on having fish on the stringer

If you want to keep your fish fresh and alive, taking into account the above, using the appropriate stringer will add hours of life to your catch.

There are three primary options available to you:

Large Snap Stringers

Large snap stringers are used when fishing for larger fish in fresh and saltwater. They consist of one or more very large snaps to place your fish.

Rogue Endeavor Fish Stringer Clip is a popular model, which attaches to the kayak with a 36″ steel core lanyard and hangs off the side.

Multiple large fish can be held securely at one time, and the buckle snap allows you to let the fish hang deeper in the water when needed.

Floating Stringers

Floating stringers are excellent when you are paddling. The float tends to drift directly behind the kayak when you’re on the move.

With a floating model, your tracking isn’t affected as much as with a stringer that hangs directly off to the side.

You will still feel the weight and drag of any fish you have clipped on.

There are two types of floating stringers:

Floating Snap Chain Stringer

Floating snap chain stringers have large enough snaps to accommodate fairly good-sized fish. (If you’re fishing saltwater and larger fish, I’d recommend the large snap stringer shown above.)

The Yile Stringer Clip Floating Snap Clip comes with five (5) meters of steel rope. Plenty long enough for anyone’s fishing excursions. (That’s 197 inches or just over 16 feet!)

With the large snaps, fish can be kept separate from each other until you need to double the snaps up.

With the float, a carabiner to attach it to the kayak, and a storage bag, this stringer is a bargain for the price. Check it out and see what you think.

Floating Cord Stringer

Floating cord stringers are economical and get the job done they are intended for.

Most floating models still need to be tied off to the kayak. The Anglers Choice Float Stringer has a twenty-five foot (25′) cord ideal for kayaks!

The best way to utilize the Anglers Choice float is to slide it further down the cord, roughly eight (8) to ten (10) feet, and tie a knot just above the float.

You’ll have plenty of cord to tie off to your kayak by doing this.

Keep in mind when using a cord stringer, the fish will become stacked upon one another and reduce the length of time they’ll remain alive.

Snap Chain and Cord Stringers

The plain-jane snap chain and cord stringers are like those shown directly above except with the float and are very inexpensive. But they store well and are very popular too!

Snap Chain

The most popular snap chain stringer is the Eagle Claw Invincible Chain Stringer!

Everyone who has fished for a summer or two has seen them everywhere you go. They also tend to rust easily and bend out of shape quickly, in my experience. But they cost next to nothing!

If I were to go this route, my choice would be the Berkley 15-Feet Deluxe Cord Stringer with Snaps.

The Berkley stringer has plenty of snaps (9) to place your catch on and a long enough cord to tie off to your kayak and allow the fish to swim!

Cord Stringer

Every kid who grew up fishing had themselves a good old-fashioned cord stringer! I probably still have a few lying around on my garage shelves or old tackle box!

Stuff this cord into your shirt or pants pocket, and you’re good to go!

How Long Can Fish Live on a Stringer

On average, fish will only live for a few hours on a stringer. Water temps, the number of fish on the stringer, and water motion all come into play. Damage to the gills and the fish struggling will shorten how long they live on a stringer. Three to five hours is how long you can expect fish to live.

  • Water Temps – Warm temperatures will often stress the fish, and there is less oxygen in warmer water.

    When fish are caught from deeper water and brought quickly to the surface, the change in temps can be harmful to the fish.
  • Number of fish on the stringer – When you’re having a good day fishing and placing more fish onto your stringer, they tend to become overcrowded.

    When fish are overcrowded, they struggle against each other, rub off their protective “fish slime”, and damage their gills. Fish won’t last long in these conditions.
  • Water motion – Fish need water to move through their gills to breathe.

    If you’re not moving often enough or fishing moving water, fish won’t receive the oxygen they need to live.

These three conditions will reduce fish life expectancy while they are on your stringer.

Final Thoughts

Over the years, I have used all types of stringers except for the floating models. Mainly being a Catch & Release guy, I don’t keep many fish to eat.

The snap chain stringers are my favorite when using a stringer, and there are other ways to keep your fishing catch on a kayak too!

There’s more to a stringer than just a piece of cord! Take into account where and how you fish. What types of fish you’re targeting, and choose the one that best fits your needs!

Have fun and stay 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. When he has spare time, he'll be found at his rod bench building custom fishing rods.

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