I've always liked to fish. From shores, boats, riverbanks, docks, piers and even through the ice in Michigan during the winter. But down here on Florida's gorgeous Emerald Coast, I have found what just may be the best way to fish yet: From a kayak.
That's the verion I used in the photo above, taken as we were leaving Santa Rosa Sound off Fort Walton Beach after an afternoon on the water fishing for redfish and speckled trout. What a spectacular sunset. And what an awesome way to experience it, sitting a few inches on top of the water, watching the first stars of the night sparkle in a sky turning from deep purple to black as the lingering traces of the sun still tinged the horizon bright orange.
Regular readers of this blog know that, for years, I have wanted to get a kayak. But which kind? How would I use it? I knew I wanted to seriously fish from it and I wanted to be able to use it pretty much anywhere we went. That ruled out a recreational kayak. Or an inflatable one. Or one of those interlocking ones that break in two sections for storage.
The one you see me on above is the one I have decided on, a 10 foot long Slayer Propel 10 by Native Watercraft. I used it with kayak fishing guide Dave Posey, who runs a Kayak Fishing Destin, an awesome company that takes anglers out into the Gulf of Mexico and inland waters in pursuit of a stunning variety of fish.
You navigate this kayak by pedaling. It feels much like pedaling a recumbent bicycle. You can, of course, navigate by paddling the kayak. But the pedaling allows your hands to be free to handle your rod, change baits, drink some water, take photos. The Native brand allows you to pedal forward and backwards, making it very easy to get around structures like docks, rocks, stumps, Kayak fishing is stealthy. You can sneak right up on the most easily spooked species.
I'll share more about the kayak – bought through Dave from Half Hitch of Destin, where he works as their kayak pro – after I pick it up in a few weeks. Jennifer and I have to head home to Michigan for the holidays, but will be right back to the Emerald Coast after Christmas. The Propel 10 is ten feet long (an easy fit inside our Roadtrek) and weighs 59 pounds. It is so stable that anglers can stand up to sight cast. If you have to ask about the price, move on. These are serious kayaks over $2,000. Casual or recreational kayakers can find much cheaper models.
But what I want to share is how much fun I had fishing from a kayak. We launched from the dog park in Fort Walton Beach where I take Bo every morning and headed out into the sound. We caught redfish and trout, using live shrimp. That's what we were targeting for this trip.
But you can catch just about anything in the nearby waters. In the Gulf of Mexico, Dave has caught sailfish and cobia, huge fighting fish which battled him for an hour and hauled him two miles out into the gulf. He's also caught shark, grouper, amberjack, tuna and lots of other species.
I was surprised by how much fun it was pedaling a kayak. But it was also strenuous. I admit, I was huffing pretty good a couple times there as I tried to keep up with Dave. We fished flats and dropoffs in an incoming tide. I was captivated by the beauty of the sound. Most of the time, we were 50 or so yards off shore, slowing drifting with the water. At one point, we watched a large osprey devouring a fish he had just caught from a perch atop a dead tree on shore.
It was a cool day, with an air temperature about 64 and a water temperature of 72. I was in shorts and a light jacket. Dave was in a sweatshirt, knit hat and waterproof waders. He's a Florida boy so he thought it a bit nippy. For me, a Midwesterner, 60 degrees is shorts weather.
We released all the fish we caught, taking hurried photos of them to remember their sleek beauty..
If you've never tried kayak fishing and are heading down this way, call Dave and book a trip. It will be a highlight of you travels.
While we were out on the water I interviewed Dave for the podcast about what to look for in a fishing kayak and why it is so much fun. You can hear it in a few weeks.
And I'll have more photos and a full review of my new kayak when I return to the area after Christmas, pick it up and take it out.
But I admit it. I was hooked on kayak fishing just as much as the fish were on shrimp.
I'm planning lots of trips.