Saturday, November 17, 2018
Outdoors

Grab a kayak to navigate tight fishing spots

Robert Field took up fishing about five years ago. He fished lakes around the Dallas area without much success. With no boat, Field would stand on the shore and cast as far as he could.

Then a friend gave him a kayak to use. He jumped on, paddled out in the lake and started catching fish.

"After struggling on the bank, that was it," Field said. "That is what I needed."

Little did Field know at the time, but that day on the lake would turn into an obsession. He earned a master's degree in finance and had a normal 9-to-5 job. But about three years ago, after a video of him catching a black tip shark went viral, Field, 29, ditched his day job and became a full-time kayak fisherman.

Thanks to sponsorships, Field travels the world kayak fishing. He has numerous videos on yakfish.tv. The shark video has more than 4 million views.

Field has relocated from Dallas to Cape Coral. While he has turned fishing into a job, he believes there is plenty to learn.

"I still consider myself a rookie," Field said.

Kayak fishing has grown in popularity. Kayaks can range from about $400 to more than $5,000. Most hold one person and have room for poles and a tackle box. But there are two-person models as well.

Aside from the standard paddle kayaks, pedal kayaks allow anglers to be hands free while guiding the vessel.

"What's good about those is you don't have to worry about your paddling form," Field said. "You just pedal and steer with a rudder with your hands. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can just jump in and go."

Another advantage to kayak fishing is the options it gives inshore anglers. Water that is inaccessible by boat is opened up by kayak. Areas along mangroves or shallow water inlets can be reached.

"Around here you get these super low tides," Field said. "There's been plenty of times where there are boats working the mouths of some shallow area and I'll cruise right past them and up in there."

Field said some new kayaks have room for a small trolling motor. But most old-school kayak fishermen like  getting a little exercise while fishing.

One disadvantage is being confined to a small space. The seats are usually comfortable, but there isn't much room to move around. Field said that most newer model kayaks are sturdy enough to allow anglers to stand while casting or landing a fish.

"Kayaks have evolved a lot over the last 10 years," Field said. "They are now built to be very sturdy. I've got five different kayaks and I can stand up in every one of them. People think of kayaks as being old and skinny, but these fishing kayaks aren't that way."

While Field said he has gone out into deep water with a kayak, it is usually best to stay inshore. Here are some kayak fishing places to check out locally:

Cockroach Bay

This area in the southeastern part of Tampa Bay near Ruskin is one of Field's favorite places to fish while in Tampa. It is a protected area with plenty of mangroves and calm waters to fish.

"The main bay is tough to fish from a kayak because there is so much water," Field said. "I like to stick more to the creeks and marshes and mangroves. Cockroach Bay has been a very good spot."

Weedon Island

Located near the Gandy area of Pinellas County, Weedon Island has a launch spot for canoes and kayaks. From there, mangroves and islands are a short paddle away. Great for the big three: trout, redfish and snook.

Fort De Soto Park

A great place to kayak and fish. The park is full of inlets that can only be reached by kayak. And there is also the open water between the park and the Sunshine Skyway bridge. It is a great place to catch spotted trout or mackerel. And redfish are hanging around the deeper waters.

Lake Tarpon

Kayak fishing doesn't have to be limited to saltwater, of course. Lake Tarpon is an excellent place for bass, and with a kayak you can get close to the weeds and docks without spooking the fish.

Caladesi Island/Honeymoon Island

This area in northern Pinellas is good for big snook, trout and redfish. It is part of St. Joseph Sound and has plenty of areas where the tide rushes in and out.

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