in Boating & Fishing, Parenting & Family

Since I was a toddler, I’ve fished Long Island Sound waters most seasons from an outboard runabout. Common catches include bluefish, striped bass, flounder, fluke and (undesirable) sea robins.

I always wanted to try reeling in bluefish and stripers from a sea kayak with light tackle. It seemed like a more immersive and vulnerable thrilling method of fishing. You can drift naturally right at the surface, and maneuver easily in shallow and rocky shorelines.

I also liked the idea of quickly strapping a light, seaworthy vessel to the top of my car at a moment’s notice, and launch from almost anywhere. We go camping a few times a year, usually near water, and I always thought we were missing out by not having kayaks.

So after paddling some rentals with my kids during a camping trip this summer, we went onto eBay and purchased some ocean kayaks. We got a Necky Dolphin for me, and a Perception Prodigy XS for my seven-year-old son. Both are discontinued classics.

For our maiden trip on Sunday (not Saturday) before Labor Day, we paddled all around New Rochelle Harbor on the southern side of Glen Island, adjacent City Island, Orchard Beach and Pelham Bay Park.

We learned a few things about kayak fishing:

  • You need to develop a little more coordination. Kayaking is a workout that requires coordination, and kayak fishing more so. Alternating between paddling and casting takes some getting used to, but becomes natural after a while.
  • Slightly more addictive. Fishing is fun, and addictive. Doing it from a kayak made it more so. On our first day on the kayaks, we started small with some Kastmaster fishing lures, and quickly pulled in a bunch of snappers (baby bluefish). We casted and reeled them in like Pavlov’s dog.
  • Fish feel bigger. Kayak fishing is more immersive because you’re on a tippy platform inches from the water. Even snappers feel bigger from a kayak. And when walls of bunker (baitfish that bluefish and stripers crave and corral into frenzied schools) are jumping all around you, they will occasionally land on your kayak, or potentially on you. Hooking a fish 10 pounds or higher is thrilling. I haven’t caught anything bigger…yet. (A great white shark demonstrated recently to two Massachusetts women that fish can eat you when you’re in a kayak.)
  • Dangerous boaters. You have to watch our for idiot boaters. The only thing more vulnerable than swimming in open water is being in a kayak in open water. You can easily get run over and crushed (which is why kayaking fishing with kids ages six and seven requires another level of coordination). Busy weekends like Labor Day mean lots of intoxicated boaters, most with little experience handling their boats. Yellow and orange are the best colors for kayaks and gear to ensure you stand out against the water.
  • Scuppers and guts. My Necky Dolpin is a sit-on-top kayak with scuppers in the footwells, seating area and rear storage well, to drain water that comes in from waves, paddling or rain. There’s a fishing benefit to this: I can snag bunker , fillet them and bait my hooks right at my feet, then quickly wash away all the blood and scales with seawater. It all just drains away so I can stay neat and get on with fishing.
  • Storage wells hold kids. Another benefit of my Dolphin kayak is the rear storage well, which is shaped to hold a scuba tank. It’s great for carrying little passengers, or climbing up on after you jump in the water for a swim.
  • Two kids require two kids kayaks. Getting one kid-sized kayak when you have two kids was a mistake. I figured we’d get one to see how they really liked it. They fought over it all day, and the subsequent days we went out.

So far, it’s a blast.