By Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Kayak fishing is a growing sport, and it’s easy to see why. Kayaks are nimble, cost less than most motorized boats and provide access to places even the best casts from land just can’t reach.
But those who love the sport say kayak fishing is more than just a quick and less expensive way to get on the water.
“Because you are so low in the water, there is this sense of vulnerability when you start fishing, but you also have this feeling of freedom and accomplishment, blood, sweat and tears,” says Justin Ritchey, who has kayak fished for more than 10 years and has competed across Florida and
internationally. He has taken fourth place in the 2014 Hobie Fishing World Championship in Amsterdam.
Ritchey got his start kayaking in college by renting a two-person kayak for the weekend and asking random classmates to foot the rental fee for time on the water. Ritchey would provide the car, fishing gear and knowledge.
What often gets people into kayak fishing is the ability to access places they just can’t reach from shore.
“You can go anywhere you want with no stress of a motor breaking down or electronic failure,” Ritchey says. “And because you are quiet, you can often get closer than boat anglers can get.” You also can often get in shallower waters than many motorized boats.
While what you catch within paddling distance will vary according to where in Florida you are fishing, if you can catch it, your kayak can take it. Ritchey has personally caught sailfish, blackfin tuna, mutton snapper, kingfish and tarpon from his kayak.
“In a boat, when a fish takes a lot of line, you have less control,” he says. “In a kayak, you might be getting towed, but you are never too far away from the fish, which allows you to get the fish in much faster.”