I love to travel the Southeast and hit new places or chase different fish that haven’t graced my species list. I also enjoy meeting the great folks that seem to be so prevalent in the kayak angling world. When it comes to preparing for a trip, the kayak community is the strongest source of help an angler can have. Way too many times, I have gone through hours of work when a simple request for help would have netted better results. This doesn’t eliminate the fact that you need to do your part. Just know that many are gracious, and willing to help an angler in need. I try to do as much preplanning as possible before I reach out; it really helps me to focus on where and when I am seeking assistance.
When planning an adventure, I do several things to try to make it as successful as possible. First, I usually search satellite maps to look at the area. This helps me see the layout of the water and locate launches in my area of attack. The maps will also help you locate topographical areas that are high-percentage fish holders: river bends, shoals, flooded backwaters, oyster bars, etc. I use the measure feature of the map tools to approximate paddling distances to the areas I may want to investigate. In Google Maps, there is a tab in the lower left corner called “map labs”. If you click on it, several options pop up – “distance measurement” is one of them. Enable it, and set the default to miles to help figure out just how far that oyster bar is from the landing. I also look into nearby places to stay to see where I may set up a base camp and check out local provisions. It makes for a rough time if you have to travel a lot after you set up. If stores are a long way away, I know to prepare for longer periods without supplies.
After looking at the area and coming up with a game plan, I head to the forums to search. This is the area where folks mess up the most. Before clogging up a forum with general questions about an area, use the search feature. This will bring up threads with questions that have been asked in the past, which can provide a wealth of information. Pay particular attention to the dates of the threads; if you are researching for trip in the fall, it will do you no good to see what they were hitting on in spring. You may have to word your search several different ways to get your results, but it will be worth the effort in the long run. I look for trip reports and questions asked in previous threads about the area. Pay particular attention to species, specific techniques for the area, and any warnings about things like tides, current, or crazy boaters. Some websites - YakAngler in particular - even have launch locations that members have shared. This is a major help for people traveling to a new area to fish.
After diligent research you have to make a choice - either go on your own, or ask for help. For the longest time I ran solo on my adventures, but my cousin Pam Funk showed me the light. She knew I was in search of some new species in unfamiliar waters, and suggested I ask for help on YakAngler. I did as suggested and learned a valuable lesson: kayak anglers are a family (for the most part) and are very willing to assist. Not only did I end up with help for my quest, I ended up with new friends as a bonus. Let me add a major caution here - if an angler from another area offers to take you to a great spot, do not publicize their fishing hole. Be thankful you got to fish it and learn some of the area, and go from there. I have taken folks to good spots, only to see the name of our precious fishing spot flashing in bright glory on Facebook posts and forum threads the next day. Rest assured, those individuals are quickly placed on the TNT (Tell Nothing To) list. I am very thankful for the help I have been given, and freely give help until I see reason not to. Loose lips about fishing spots will ruin a good spot, and should be taken seriously.
The last of the online preparation is to keep me out of trouble. I research what licenses are needed for the area and where to purchase them. In some places I can get a short-duration license, and in others I just buy the year-long out of state if I figure I will return soon. In addition to the license, I try to figure out what will be in season and the limits of the species. This is especially necessary if you are planning on keeping any fish. Last year I was in the middle of a battle with a cobia, trying to figure out the season and limit. This was a bonus catch and not a species I knew to be in the area. I finally called a friend who looked it up for me. It was a good thing, because my cobia was 1” short of a legal keeper. Doing the research ahead of time helps me focus on high-percentage areas to maximize m time on the water. A little bit of homework can pay big dividends on a kayak trip. The only other part of the trip preparations is for the travel itself. Make sure your vehicle and trailer (if you use one) are up to the task, and that all of your tie-down straps are in good shape. Make a list of your gear and supplies to load, and work from it. In the flurry of activity, a good list will keep you from having to make a mad dash after you get to your destination. You are there for an adventure - don’t let a bad plan or lack of homework ruin it!