Kayaks and paddleboards open up a whole new world for anglers along the Emerald Coast. For many, owning a boat just is not realistic due to cost of the boat, fuel, maintenance and insurance. Pier and jetty fishing is also not for everyone as many do not like the crowds that use these places. Finding access to fish the bay has also become more difficult due to all the development, so kayaking and paddle boarding are an affordable way to access favorite inshore and near shore fishing areas.
You can get into a kayak or paddleboard for as little as $500 or $600, a nice paddle only rig for $900 to $1400 and for around $2500 you can have the fully tricked-out pedal drive model.
Kayaks come in several types:
- Sit inside kayaks
- Sit-on kayaks
- Pedal drive sit-on kayaks
For our area sit on kayaks and pedal drive sit on kayaks do the best job. Any sit on kayak works like a surf board, if you take water over the kayak it self bales the water out, Sit in kayaks collect the water inside the boat and you have hand pump the water out or hand baled water out.
Half Hitch carries the Native brand pedal kayak, which is currently the best of the pedal drive kayaks on the market. Native is currently the only brand that you do not have to have a paddle on board. We suggest you have a paddle just in cast you need it, but you don’t have to have one. In all of the other brands of kayaks other than Native, you can pedal forward but if you want to back up, you have to either pull the pedal drive system out and flip it around or use your paddle to go backwards. In the Native boats it uses a true propeller system and if you pedal forward you go forward and if you pedal backwards the boat backs up. This feature is most useful when fishing tight spaces around bridges, docks and creeks. The pedal drive is also excellent for covering long distances and having hands-free operation so you can be fishing at all times.
How to chose the right kayak or paddleboard
There are many options. You need to consider several factors in choosing the right kayak or paddleboard, such as: Will it be used primarily for fishing, touring, or just a play thing?
When choosing a fishing kayak look for one that has rod holders and a stable platform in case you want to stand and cast. Generally, shorter kayaks 10-13ft make the best fishing platforms as they operate in tight spaces better. Fishing kayaks tend to be a bit wider and are not as fast as touring models, but are more stable
Touring kayaks tend to be longer and narrower, 14-17ft, these boats glide better and travel farther with each stroke of the paddle.
Single vs tandem kayaks
Single person boats are better for fishing with just one person on board because there’s less chance of getting tangled or hooked by a second fisherman. Tandem kayaks are more for taking out with a friend and just hanging out for the day.
Paddleboards come molded and inflatable. Molded paddle boards last for years if not forever. Inflatable have a limited life span but can easily last five or more years with some care. The advantage to inflatable is light weight and easy storage. You don’t have as many options on a paddleboard as with a kayak but are perfect choice for many anglers.
Once you choose a kayak or paddleboard you need to start thinking of what accessories you need or must have.
Required to have:
- Life jacket
- Whistle or horn
- Running light if you plan on night fishing
Like to have:
- Anchor and anchor trolly system
- Stakeout pole
- Waterproof pouch for phone and valuables
- Safety Lines for rod and paddles
- Net or gaff
- Bait bucket
- GPS unit
- Depth finder
- Storage box
- Extra rod holders
- Carbon-fiber paddle
- Kayak Cart
- Live well
Transporting your kayak
Unless you have a pickup truck, you need to consider how you will transport your kayak. There are multiple types of car top kayak carriers, from $50 to $300, the other choice is a lightweight kayak trailer. Kayak trailers for the most part are aluminum and come in single, double, and multiple number trailers. Some pickup trucks will require you to have a truck bed extender for short bed trucks if you have longer kayaks.
You also need to address getting your kayak from the truck, car or trailer to the water. Sometimes you will be able to park and launch your kayak right at the waters edge. When beach launching you may need to transport the kayak some distance. While you can just drag the kayak across the sand this becomes especially difficult at the end of the day when you have been paddling and fishing all day. Also you may need to transport over rough terrain and dragging does not work. This is when you need a kayak cart. Kayak carts start around $150 and as much at $280. Balloon tires work best for soft sand and do just fine over parking lots and hard terrain.
Choosing a paddle
Most people don’t give enough thought to this one and just choose the lesser expensive option. Having the right paddle will make life so much better. There are many different options but most fall into three categories.
- Aluminum Paddles
- Graphite Paddles
- Carbon Fiber Paddles
Why choose one over the other. Aluminum paddles are the least expensive. Graphite paddles are mid-range in price and are lighter weight. Carbon fiber paddles are the most expensive but are also the lightest weight of all the paddles. This makes paddling for distance and time much less tiring.
Fishing the bay
Access to the bay can be somewhat limited but having a kayak opens up the entire bay system for you to fish. In the bay there is year round fishing of some sort, especially for redfish. Other species you can catch include white and speckled trout, flounder, sheepshead, spanish mackerel and black drum. Refer to our fishing tips section for seasonal bay fishing opportunities.
Fishing the gulf
Kayak fishing the gulf is where the real excitement is. We have many reefs and wrecks from just a few hundred yards offshore, out to about 2-3 miles, which is about as far as I would recommend going in your kayak or paddleboard. While you can go alone, it is wise to find a fishing partner and go with them or a small group for safety reasons. Again in the gulf, depending on the season, you can catch king and spanish mackerel, cobia, tarpon, bonita, blackfin tuna, snapper, grouper, amberjack, ladyfish, and even an occasional sail fish. You can cast, jig, troll, flyline or bottom fish for different species.