How to Fish From a Sea Kayak: 16 Essential Tips

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

Fishing from a kayak requires plenty of hand-eye coordination and control of the vessel, but it gets exponentially more challenging when you’re out at sea. The water’s deeper, the fish are tougher, and you’ll likely be further from shore. Fortunately, you’re in the right place to learn how you can become an expert at fishing out at sea from a kayak.

To fish from a sea kayak, you need to bring an anchor to hold your position, a durable paddle to navigate the water, and the right type of gear to stay safe. Also, bring a GPS for tracking services, a camera to locate the fish, and make a plan to get out if things get too intense.

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following information about fishing from a sea kayak:

  • What gear you’ll need to bring to stay safe and in control
  • How to track the location of fish, the shore, and more
  • The differences between traditional kayak fishing and sea kayak fishing

Don’t Forget to Bring an Anchor

Perhaps the most important part of fishing from a sea kayak would be to bring an anchor of some sort. The waves of the ocean are far more difficult to control than when you’re on a calm lake or river. Setting an anchor on the seafloor will allow you to sit still in an area while you’re trying to catch fish.

There are quite a few anchoring tools at your disposal when you’re sea kayaking. For example, you can use a small traditional boat anchor, a push pin, or a power pole to prevent the waves from pulling your kayak away from the fish you’re trying to catch.

Get a High-Quality Paddle

Your paddle isn’t also a crucial part of the gear that you’ll need to bring. A regular kayaking paddle often isn’t enough to handle the stress and pressure caused by heavy-duty waves. Granted you should stay away from windstorms and bad conditions out at sea, it’s still smart to bring a high-end, thick paddle.

Having a paddle break while you’re out in the water can be life-threatening. If you don’t know how to get back or you’re miles from shore, swimming can be an unrealistic option. For this reason, you might want to consider bringing an emergency collapsible paddle. It’s always better to stay prepared rather than risking a nasty situation.

The SeaSense Kayak Paddle is highly rated and can be found on Amazon. It’s one of the best options on the market. You’ll be able to control your kayak with ease, slicing through the waves without it shaking or cracking. It’s very affordable when compared to other sea kayak paddles in the same quality range, and thousands of customers have already left their approval.

Use Sunscreen and Bug Spray

Sunscreen is an essential part of kayaking anywhere. Being out on the water can get you burned fairly quickly. Not only do you not have any shade from the direct sunlight, but the warmth bounces off of the water, hitting you twice over. You can quite literally get sunburned from the waves’ reflections.

Along with sunscreen, you should pack a small bottle of bug spray. Mosquitos, flies, and other bugs tend to find their way out to the shallow water. If you’re not too far from shore, you’re practically asking to get bit. Wear a bit of sunscreen and bug spray to prevent both unwanted circumstances from sending you home too early.

Pack the Right Fishing Gear

The first rule of fishing is to know your prey. If you’re fishing for speckled trout, bring speckled trout lures. If you’re going out to the sea, know the type of fish that you’re trying to catch. Bring the proper baits or lures to stay prepared, including a tackle box with everything you need. Having doubles will prevent you from missing out on potential catches.

One of the best ways to know what type of bait you should bring is to think about what the fish eat in their natural habitat. If they’re after clams, then bring clams. If they’re eating worms, then pack a load of worms. Following this suggestion will save you time, money, and wasted energy trying to figure out what bait to bring.

You should also bring a weight that will sink to the bottom. Pyramids don’t roll, so they’re often a sea-fishing favorite. Spherical weights usually roll along the ocean floor, which prevents fish from seeing them. Instead, bring something that’ll sink quickly and hold its place once it hits the floor.

Wear Protective Clothing

The weather can change at any minute when you’re out on the sea. Bring warm clothing, but don’t forget to wear something light underneath in case it gets too hot. Sunhats, sunglasses, gloves, and other gear can prevent sunburns as well. You wouldn’t want to go home feeling frozen or burnt.

Remember that protective clothing applies to dealing with the fish and bait as well. If the fish have sharp teeth, you’ll need tough gloves that won’t be punctured. If they’re slippery and aggressive, you should bring gloves that have a good amount of textured grip to hold them without them getting away.

Getting injured out at sea is never a good sign. Pack an emergy kit full of bandaids, anti-bacterial ointment, burn kits, and cold presses. You can get a small one, such as the economical Be Smart Get Prepared Kit, that’ll keep you safe rather than sorry. And my favorite, the watertight and ultralight Adventure Medical First Aid Kit both found on Amazon.

Stay Hydrated and Well-Fed

Going home early from being hungry can ruin a potentially fun fishing trip. When you’re out on the sea and you’re getting warmed up by the sun, you’ll need a lot of food and water. Do your best to eat a big meal before you leave, drink plenty of water, and pack snacks in a cooler. Dehydration can set on quickly, and it’s very dangerous without any water nearby.

There are all sorts of water flasks and small coolers that can fit perfectly in a sea kayak. If yours has a hidden compartment, you can use it to pack additional food and emergency supplies of water.

Note: Always check the weight capacity of your kayak before you load it up with too much gear. You don’t want to have sinking troubles in the ocean!

Take a Flashlight, Flare Gun, and Life Vest

According to Old Town Canoe, you should bring a floatation device with you whenever you’re kayaking. Whether you’re out at sea or on a small lake, wearing a life jack can save your life in a bad situation.

Also, bring a flashlight. Even if you’re going during the day, dark clouds can make it hard to see out on the ocean. You can shine the light down in the water if it’s calm and clear, revealing the location of the fish below you.

Finally, bring a flare gun. Anyone who’s gone sea kayaking will suggest bringing a flare gun because it alerts boats, lighthouses, and helicopters of your presence. Getting lost at sea has obvious problems, but you can keep your peace of mind by packing one of these useful tools.

Prepare for the Worst

Although the vast majority of sea kayaking trips go well, it’s a smart decision to prepare for the worst. This suggestion doesn’t mean you should be stressed out 24/7; Just know how you can prevent everything from taking a negative turn. Here’s a list of suggestions to prepare for the worst:

  1. Bring extras of everything important. Food, water, paddles, fishing poles, etc.
  2. Know exactly where you’re going. Don’t go out in a random direction; Plot everything beforehand.
  3. Notify friends or family of when you’re leaving and when you’ll be back. If anything goes wrong, they can start looking for you right away.
  4. Consider emergency rations. There are plenty of kits, such as the S.O.S. Emergency Rations, that’ll keep your energy up with extra calories when you need them the most.

Use a Large Kayak if You Can

One of the main tips from Bass Pro Shops is to bring a kayak that’s big enough to handle the water. Too small of a kayak can get flooded, tossed around on the water, or give you cramps. On the other hand, if your kayak is too big, you’ll end up biting off more than you can chew.

Loss of control, tough handling, and exhaustion are all possibilities when you get a massive sea kayak. Review Bass Pro Shops’ sizing charts before you pick a new kayak. A 12-footer is a decent size for the water since it won’t get tipped over any time soon.

Along with the dimensions of the kayak, you should make sure that there’s enough storage, space for your paddles, and room to stretch out. All of these conveniences become more apparent when you’re out on the sea for several hours on end.

Make a Plan Before You Head Out

Part of staying safe and having a good time requires making a plan. Let’s review a handful of ways that you can make the perfect plan for fishing from a sea kayak:

  • Route the area as mentioned in a previous section. Get a map and mark where you’ll be going.
  • Know the terrain and the fish around the area. Again, bringing the right bait for the fish will lead to success.
  • Know the weather conditions. If it’s going to rain, you can pack the right gear. If it’s sunny, then a sun hat should be on your packing list.
  • What will you do if the kayak is turned over? Plan for disasters and make a routine of practicing your plans.
  • Learn the terrain of the ocean floor. Not only does the underlying terrain affect the waves, but it can also impact the way your anchor lays and how the sinkers roll.

Consider Bringing Multiple Rods

Having another pole ready to go can prevent you from having to go all the way back home for another. Even a small emergency backup pole can be enough to catch small fish from your sea kayak. Consider collapsible fishing poles, smaller models, or even a traditional sea fishing pole if your kayak is big enough.

If you already have the right type of fishing pole for the job, then the odds are low that you’ll have to use the backup. However, issues happen and it’s good to stay prepared in case you accidentally lose or break the primary fishing pole. You never know when the backup might become more practical than your main pole.

Wear a GPS Tracking Device

Bringing a GPS tracking device can be beneficial for all sorts of reasons. Below, you’ll find the three main reasons that you should bring a high-end GPS tracking device when you’re fishing from a sea kayak:

  1. You can navigate the water and learn the coordinates. If you know where a good spot is, mark it on the device so you can go back for another round later on.
  2. You can share your location with friends and family so they always know where you’re at. If anything goes awry, they can find you quickly by using the device’s signal.
  3. Finally, you can get back to shore easily. Knowing the coordinates of the shore will make it nearly impossible to get lost at sea.

Pack a Fish Finder or Camera

Speaking of a GPS device, some of these devices also come with seafloor monitoring systems and sonar. For example, on Amazon, you can get the Garmin Striker 4. It comes with a mounting arm to attach it to your sea kayak, allowing you to keep your hands on the paddle or fishing pole when you’re out at sea.

Fishfinders track movements underwater, which alerts you of something under your boat. If you want to take your tracking abilities to the next level, consider getting an underwater camera mounted to the bottom or side of your kayak. You can view the fishfinder for movements, then refer to the camera to find exactly where the fish are located.

Know When It’s Time to Leave

If the waves get a bit too high, a storm’s brewing, the boat’s flooding, or the sun is a bit too hot to handle, it’s time to get out of there. As you’ve hopefully read throughout this article, staying prepared and understanding when it’s time to get out is the best course of action. Unfortunately, not every day is perfect for sea kayak fishing.

Try to set a list of standards for yourself before you head out. If it looks clear, then set a temperature that’s too hot to handle. If it’s rainy, then set a standard for how soaked you’re willing to get before you head back. Heat exhaustion and hypothermia are no joke, so don’t push yourself too far trying to have a good time.

Try a Few Practice Runs

If you’ve never been sea kayak fishing, then you should realize that it’s a completely different breed from traditional kayak fishing. Similar principles apply; You need to navigate the water, anchor yourself if possible, and stay afloat with a life jacket. However, the water’s harsher, the terrain is much more foreign and unpredictable, and the fish are harder to catch.

Try heading out about half a mile, maybe less, to do a practice run. Keep the shore in sight, remembering to bring all of the proper gear and have an escape plan. This section shouldn’t be intimidating; It’s just essential that you give it a trial or two before you go far out in the water without any supervision or experience.

Go With a Friend

Last but definitely not least, bring a friend with you if you can. Friends are good company to prevent boredom, but they’re also a great method of staying safe. If one of you feels too tired to paddle, the other can jump on board and help to get you both home together. It’s also a great way to stay motivated for competitive purposes.

Combine your friend with the aforementioned tip of going on a trial run if you’ve never been out on the sea with a kayak. You’ll both have a blast while staying safe. It’ll also probably bring a bit of relief to your loved ones who might be concerned about your well-being if this is your first time fishing from a sea kayak.


Fishing from a sea kayak is easy once you get the hang of it. As long as you respect the sea and understand the unpredictable, tough conditions, you’ll be able to push through and have a good time.

Here’s a quick recap of the post:

  • Bring safety gear and clothing to prevent bug bites, sunburns, and hypothermia.
  • Pack the right type of bait, pole, and sinkers for the fish.
  • Make a plan and stay prepared for the worst-case scenarios.
  • Attempt a trial run or two before you go far out on the water.
  • Bring flares, life jackets, and extra water to stay hydrated.

If you’re looking for more ocean kayak information, here are a couple of articles that may interest you!

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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