- Black sea bass have dangerously sharp spines on their dorsal fin that can puncture human skin.
- The all-tackle world record for black sea bass is 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
- When hooked in deep water and brought quickly to the surface, a black sea bass will often regurgitate its stomach contents.
Many of you may be "missing the boat" when it comes to fishing in coastal areas. I understand that rough conditions dictate a sea-worthy craft and that anglers who place emphasis on speed and comfort will certainly want a boat with a deep-V hull. Likewise, persons who need to move long distances across extremely shallow water may want a flats boat, perhaps one with a tunnel hull. When it comes to "fishability," however, nothing beats a small boat like a canoe or kayak for plying coastal rivers, bays and lagoons. As the owner of a 17-foot center console, a tunnel-hull flats boat, a square-back canoe, and two kayaks, let me make my case.
Stealth is the key to shallow water success. Whether you fish primarily for redfish, spotted seatrout, snook, tarpon or another coastal species, you are going to catch many more fish if they are unaware of your presence. These fish patrol shallow waters in order to feed and can be readily caught if they don't suspect that you are there. Running an outboard up onto and across a flat is going to shut down the feeding for quite some time. You may cause the fish to flee the flat for the security of deeper water. Turning a trolling motor on and off will have the same effect, although not for such a wide area. I suggest that the area does, however, extend beyond the distance that you can cast. Even a person skilled with a push pole is going to be making noise pushing on the bottom. In addition, the fish you sight from the poling platform can also see you.
Paddling great distances is tough work in a kayak or canoe, but finding a place to launch near remote waters is usually no problem.
Canoes and kayaks cause none of these problems. Fish do not seem to recognize the smaller boats as the threat presented by larger ones. I often drift over fish that move away annoyed, but they do not flee by burrowing water like a scalded mole.
These small boats do have range limitations on the water. They are easily paddled, but you will not want to do so for a long time when you could otherwise be fishing. The range limitation is often more than offset by the ability to get your canoe or kayak launched at a remote ramp or by carrying it to the water from the side of the road. I know two guys who would launch their kayak off the beach in west-central Florida at sunrise and have tarpon hooked-up before the guide boats could get out of the inlet.
Opportunities to launch your canoe or kayak in remote areas are nearly unlimited. I suggest, also, that fish have long ago tired of the ever-increasing and almost relentless pressure that is being put on them and seek the security of feeding areas that are not readily accessible. Get away from the crowd and into some fish that are not stressed. They will be willing to feed.
There are space limitations in any small boat, and more so in canoes and kayaks. They force you to do what you know you should do anyway… take only the tackle you need. Think what you would take if you were wade fishing, and then add some items for personal comfort.
To begin, you must have a type-3 personal flotation device and any other safety equipment required by state law. You will also want a quality paddle with which you are comfortable. I usually bring a small cooler in which I place a plastic bottle filled with water that has been frozen. This cools any food that I bring, and I drink the water as it melts throughout the day. In the summer, I quit fishing when the water is gone.
Giant tarpon like this are proof that ultralight craft can take you to big fish.
Plan on getting your feet wet. It is difficult to launch a canoe or kayak without getting into the water first, so a pair of sandals that will stay strapped to your feet or old sneakers will be a must. You are going to be close to the water and subject to reflected sunlight, so bring and use your sun lotion for skin protection, as well as a hat and polarized sunglasses.
You also need to take into consideration any wind, current, or tidal changes. Bringing an anchor with a sufficient length of rope will be helpful in keeping you in position when you find your fish. It is also a good practice to start the day by going into the wind or against a current, whenever possible. You will be fresher and more willing to exert the energy necessary to move against it. Later in the day, you can use it to your advantage to ride comfortably back to the take-out point.
Another alternative is a square-backed canoe. A small gasoline outboard or an electric trolling motor can be mounted on the stern and used to run from one locale to another. When you are in the area you want to fish, but not so close as to spook any fish, shut down, raise the motor out of the water and paddle onward to your fishing grounds.
Bring A Buddy
Whenever possible, I like to fish with a buddy in a different canoe or kayak. We can fish between two different launch sites, one for put-in and the other for take-out, shuttling cars as necessary. I consider this prudent, although not necessary, given the remote locations that we fish. We do not interfere with one another, as do two people on the same boat, and we increase our chances of finding fish by covering more water. In addition, two skilled anglers in different boats can keep a school of tarpon or redfish between them, bouncing them back and forth to each other rather than letting them escape.
Canoes and kayaks both offer inexpensive opportunities for those without a boat to get onto the water and into some quality fishing. If you already own a deep-V or flats boat, but want to gain an edge and fish some water that your peers cannot get to, consider adding a canoe or kayak to your fleet. These small boats are light and easily transported between your house and the launch site. Since you do not need a trailer, you do not need much storage room. Also, canoes and kayaks require little or no maintenance.
If you are not yet convinced to try it, that's okay. Fishing from a small boat is not for everyone. But if you think that you might know someone, perhaps a teenager who has never experienced fishing on their own terms, who would enjoy sneaking up on a pod of fish that they have spotted; making a quiet cast into their midst; having their small boat jerked sideways when setting the hook; getting pulled about as they attempt to stop the run of a subsurface freight train; being eye level with a beast when it leaps out of the water barely a rod length away and splashing them as it lands; then tell them about the success they can have using a canoe or kayak in coastal waters.