Vermont Freshwater Fishing
By Shawn Good
Fisheries Biologist, Vermont Fish & Wildlife
In the last few years, you’ve probably noticed the rapid increase in popularity of flatwater kayaking; seemingly overnight, brightly colored kayaks have sprung up on rooftop car racks and in the back of trucks across the state, with Vermonters heading to one of our hundreds of beautiful ponds, lakes, or large rivers to enjoy a day on the water.
This isn’t just a trend new to Vermont. According to a recent study by the Outdoor Foundation, 21.7 million Americans now list kayaking as a preferred outdoor activity — an all-time high. Kayaking is now the seventh most popular outdoor activity in the country, behind only running, fishing, biking, camping, hiking, and hunting.
Wait, did I say fishing? And kayaking? In the same sentence? If you think these two activities naturally go together, you’re not alone. Kayak fishing is the fastest growing segment in the fishing industry — increasing 32 percent just from 2015 to 2016. Anglers in the know can’t seem to get enough — kayaking and fishing are a natural match, and together they can be a rewarding combination.
So why has kayak fishing become such a big deal? For anglers, there’s a long list of benefits to being on the water, in a kayak, with a rod in your hand. Here are just a few:
It’s Inexpensive. With the swell in popularity, kayak prices have become very reasonable. Entry-level kayaks can be found for just a few hundred dollars, while higher-end fishing kayaks with accessories might run about a thousand dollars. Compared to buying a boat, motor, and trailer, kayaks are a very economical way to get on the water. They also require no mechanical maintenance, no insurance premiums, no fuel costs, and you don’t need a large tow vehicle. You can easily transport a fishing kayak on the roof of a small car, and it takes little space to store at home.
It’s Simple and Basic. Fishing from a kayak requires only the most basic gear. A paddle, a small anchor, a short length of rope, a couple of rods, and a small tackle box. No need for much of the high-tech equipment that has become so prevalent in fishing today. It’s also quick and easy to learn. A complete novice paddler can become competent at fishing from a kayak in a short period of time.
You Can Fish Anywhere! One of the greatest advantages that kayak fishing has over bank or boat fishing is the access it provides to untapped waters. Kayaks allow you to fish where other boats or bank anglers can’t reach. Kayaks can be slid off roadsides into small ponds that don’t have boat ramps, or even carried short distances down trails to more remote waters that have no road access and rarely get fished. Kayaks are also stealthy and draft just inches of water. This allows you to quietly float in shallow areas and cast to fish that would otherwise be spooked or hard to reach by other methods.
It’s Exciting. Kayaks get you closer to your prey than any other watercraft. There’s something about sitting so close to the water that makes you feel more connected, and when you hook a fish, it’s a completely different perspective as you fight and land it while sitting just inches off the water. Plus, fish simply feel bigger when you’re catching them from a kayak, and the battle is more exciting. A big fish may even tow you around a bit, adding to the fun and excitement, increasing the “man vs. nature” feeling.
It’s Relaxing. Quietness and serenity. Solitude and tranquility. Nature and inspiration. Even if the fishing is slow, you’ll find a whole new connection to Vermont’s outdoors. Sitting so low to the water and gliding silently makes you nearly invisible, giving you unrivaled access to wildlife-watching opportunities while you fish and paddle. Moose, deer, herons, otters, loons, eagles — you will see and experience Vermont’s wildlife in a way you never have before!
It’s Healthy. Kayak fishing is great exercise and will get you in shape. It’s estimated that the average kayaker burns over 400 calories an hour while paddling. And casting and fishing burns nearly 300 calories an hour on its own! After a season of fishing from a kayak, you’ll be stronger and healthier for all aspects of your life.
Safety. Like all outdoor activities, knowing how to participate in them safely is an important aspect of enjoying yourself. Always wear your life jacket while in your kayak. There are models designed specifically for paddling and kayak fishing that provide safety as well as comfort. Make sure you have a whistle, a paddle leash, and some rope. Always take the weather into account. Strong winds can make paddling difficult and push you away from your put-in point. If large waves kick up, paddle directly into the waves, and zigzag back to your destination. As with all boating activities, be sure to check the weather report before heading out on the water, and go to shore immediately at the first sign of thunderstorms.
Kayak technology has advanced immensely in recent years. Modern fishing kayaks are wider, more stable, lighter, and easier to carry, maneuver, and transport. Most have many user-friendly features built in, such as on-board dry storage, tie-down straps, and comfortable seats with backs. Kayaks are versatile, and there’s practically no limit to the places you can fish in them. Kayaks not only give you a simple and inexpensive way to get on the water to fish, they also will change the way you experience Vermont’s great outdoors. Give it a try this year!