The Ultimate Guide to Saltwater Kayak Fishing

saltwater kayak fishing

Nearly 4,000 years ago, the Inuits created a boat for fishing and hunting. That is the kayak. Saltwater kayak fishing continues with that practice.

The good news is that saltwater kayak fishing is an accessible and affordable sport. According to a survey, many are knowledgeable fishers before entering this sport, however, kayak fishing is open to anyone who wants to learn. What’s more, kayak fishing is gaining some serious time on the media, as 61% of anglers heard about the sport on the media (i.e. TV magazines, social media, websites, and networks). This sport is deeply enjoyable and rewarding.

We want to share it with you, so we have put together this ultimate guide to share our knowledge about saltwater kayak fishing, and some tips to use on your kayak fishing adventures. As always, check out our spinning reel reviews to make sure you’re totally equipped!

1. First, what’s the difference between freshwater and saltwater kayak fishing

The difference is what it sounds—saltwater kayak fishing takes place in saltwater, mainly the ocean. Freshwater kayak fishing is in fresh water, so mostly lakes and rivers. But it gets more detailed, for freshwater, there’s still waves and moving waters and for saltwater, there are inshore and offshore waters to navigate.

Inshore waters follow the coastline, and the maximum depth is roughly 70 feet. It’s common for anglers in these types of waters to face a variety of weather and water conditions. Long and slim kayaks with a moderate level of rocker are recommended for this type because they’re faster and provide easier tracking across long distances. However, a lot of seasoned kayakers enjoy sitting on top kayaks because of their stability and unsinkability.

Now, offshore waters are defined as waters that have a minimum of 71 feet depth. This type involves a lot of paddling, battling waves and water conditions. The sit on top kayak is perhaps the best for this because of its stableness and ability to be flipped over when the kayak flips. Your gear should be rust resistant for saltwater too.

In terms of preferability, 32% of anglers prefer inshore, saltwater fishing, compared to 5% who prefer saltwater, offshore fishing. While we’ve mentioned the sit on top kayak is a favorite, be sure to check out other types such as modular and touring kayaks.

2. It’s all about the paddle

When you join the angler community, you may at first think you need to spend hundreds (maybe thousands) on your kayak. This is far from the truth. Invest in your kayak once you get acclimated to the sport.

As long as it does the basic functions of a kayak—doesn’t sink when it’s in the water, and can get you from A to B—that’s great. When it comes to saltwater kayak fishing, it’s all about the paddle. Think about it. You’re getting yourself from A to B by paddling in variable conditions that can get rough on the turn of a dime.

Paddling provides a great workout, but, with the wrong paddle, you can suffer from a number of blisters and fatigue your upper body quickly. Plus, you may not get to your destination at the time you intended to, which can put a damper on your fishing experience. This is where a good paddle comes in.

A good paddle will decrease the number of blisters, help lessen fatigued arms and shoulders, and will get you to your destination efficiently and faster.

Ditch the expensive kayak, and invest in the paddle.

(If you’re bummed out about the kayak, know that you can always upgrade in the future.)

3. Can’t forget the sun protection and bug spray

This sport is all outdoors. Which means you must deal with the conditions that come with that—hot sun and insects being two of them. Bringing your general bottle of bug spray can prevent against unwanted bug bites. Not to mention, you’ll be spared from a world of pain after fishing. You’ll also be able to focus and enjoy the sport, not having to swat nearly as many bugs away as you would without the spray.


Here’s the thing. You need to use a sunscreen with at least a 50+spf. The main ingredients should either be zinc or titanium dioxide. Make sure you apply liberally to all parts of your body that will be exposed to the sun’s rays at least 20 minutes before being on the ocean. And apply every 2 hours, especially if you get wet. You’ll be thanking us when you don’t have to purchase gobs of aloe for the burns.

Another option that avoids placing chemicals over you body is to get some UPF clothing, such as this great rash guard: The [easyazon_link identifier=”B004I44ISY” locale=”US” tag=”reelsaltwaterfishing-20″]O’Neill Wetsuits UV Sun Protection Mens Basic Skins Long Sleeve Crew Sun Shirt Rash Guard[/easyazon_link]. I personally own several of these shirts.

4. Yep, the fish handling equipment

Nope, you can’t just take a fishing pole, kayak, and paddle and be all good to go. What are you going to do after to catch the fish? This is where fish handling equipment is vital.

You’ll need a fish grip (to hold the fish), pliers (to remove the hook from the fish), net (as another way to catch the fish), line cutters (to cut the line), gloves (these are optional), and a stringer (also optional, but bring them if you plan on keeping and eating the fish later.)

Bring these. They’re important.

5. Anchor that

Your kayak is your ship. And, when it comes to ships, you need an anchor, otherwise, your movement will be dependent on the weather conditions. This is especially important during windy conditions, as an anchor will ground you. If you’re not that in love with anchors, you can use a push pin or a power pole. And when we say anchor, we don’t mean your classic, stereotypical shipping anchor. Pretty much anything that can dependably hold your kayak down and position it facing into the wind or downwind will work. Some anglers even use dumbells for this.

If you go offshore, you will definitely need to bring a drag anchor. You don’t want a big fish pulling you hundreds off yards out. Check out the: Check out the: [easyazon_link identifier=”B001443LMK” locale=”US” tag=”reelsaltwaterfishing-20″]Lindy Fishermans Series Drift Sock[/easyazon_link]

6. Safety first

There are a couple different accident scenarios that can happen:

  • A random lightning storm takes place.
  • You cut your hands on something sharp such as the pliers, hook, knife…
  • The hook gets stuck in your body.
  • You pull a The Old Man and The Sea and go after an enormous fish. Except, instead of catching it, it flips your kayak over.
  • A snake says hello and falls from a tree into your kayak.
  • Or, it could be the tide, weather conditions…, you flip over.

The thing is, you will encounter some sort of accident at some time.

It’s best to be prepared for it by having the essential safety gear.

Which is a life vest, cutting tool, VHF radio (if you do offshore), flares, whistle, waterproof putty (for cracks and holes), paddle leash, gloves, headlamp (for night or poor lighting conditions), elevate light (for early morning and late night fishing), first aid kit, rain gear, and a plan. For offshore, you might even consider a GPS beacon: [easyazon_link identifier=”B006JXY0CQ” locale=”US” tag=”reelsaltwaterfishing-20″]ACR PLB-375 ResQLink+ Buoyant Personal Locator Beacon[/easyazon_link]

And know these safety measures:

  • Always let someone know where you’re going (not just the on-land location, but area in the sea).
  • Don’t go alone —especially if you’re just beginning.
  • Do your research: know where you’re going, what fish you’re trying to catch, what the weather and water conditions are going to be like, and what gear you need to pack.
  • This is so important that it needs its own bullet point: research the local state rules in whatever area you’re saltwater kayak fishing in.

Know what’s mandatory to have such as a USCG approved all around white light from sunset to sunrise (and for periods of low visibility).

And know what’s not, but might be good to bring along—saltwater kayak fishing blogs, forums, group chats are great for this.

And, whatever you do, don’t bring a banana.

Contact us for questions, comments, or concerns about saltwater kayak fishing.

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