There are several areas on kayaks that can be easily overlooked, and will harbor fugitive invasives that can be spread to other waters. Some of those key areas include the foot wells, seating area, tank well, and scuppers. Water spends a lot of time in areas, mostly with thanks to scuppers allowing water into the kayak. Splashing from waves, as well as just fishing in general, brings more items into the kayak.
After a good rinse to remove most of the sand and mud that might have accumulated, spray the kayak with a good non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning agent. Many folks have Simple Green around the home by now, and this cleaner will do great. Pay close attention to trouble areas and make sure they are well saturated. When that is complete, it is time for a good scrub. A scotch brite pad or veggie scrubber will help remove particles that have gotten into the textured areas of the kayak.
When scrubbing is complete, its time for the rinse. Work areas thoroughly with clean water and keep your eye open for areas that might need another scrub. Deep corners are likely areas needing a second scrub - around the tank well, and foot well areas, especially if your kayak's foot wells are molded. When the top side is complete, flip the kayak over and keep on going.
At the bottom of the kayak, there are few areas to be concerned about. Again the scuppers are a target, but do not overlook areas that have heavy scratches like the front and rear keels, or other areas of the kayak that might have gouges. The smooth bottoms of kayaks makes cleaning easier than the deck, but nonetheless important to clean. This is also a good time to clean your rudder system, if equipped, and also inspect the kayak for damage.
With the kayak all rinsed up, you're all set to go. Optionally you can apply a plastic treatment like 303 Aerospace Protectant, or other UV blocker. These will make future cleanings easier, and protect your kayak from harmful UV rays. Before you put everything away, check out the rest of your gear like anchors, waders, and shoes.
Another, most excellent option, if available to you is the local DIY car wash. Many car washes now re-use the wash water, so you can use less water when cleaning your kayak! Alternatively, wash your kayak on the lawn, and count it as a watering so you can skip it next time. Who knew washing your kayak could cause a green lawn!
More and more states are requiring boat inspections to track down possible aquatic nusance species before they get in the water. Some states, at the time fo this writing, include Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, California, Utah, and New Mexico, with Nevada's program starting in 2012. The quick, 10 minute inspections cost nothing, and, if there is something clinging to your kayak that shouldn't be, cleaning is free as well. But, should you pass up an inspection station, the fines will set you back that new reel you were thinking about.
Invasive species can quickly over run a non-native system, erradicating food sources for native species, choking out vital nutrients, and cause damage to dams and piers. By simply washing your kayak, you can rest easy knowing that you're keeping your waters safe and clean for the fish we're trying so hard to play with.
About Isaac Miller: Isaac considers himself an "equal opportunity angler" and will fish anything that will take a hook. Isaac often makes live internet video broadcasts when fishing from his kayaks, giving up-to-the-second reports on conditions and tackle choices. He also blogs at 'Yak Fish, hosts Kayak Fishing Radio West, PR Director for Recycled Fish, Pro Staff for YakAttack Gear, and is a YakAngler Pro Staffer & Associate Editor.