Here are some of the best kayak fishing destinations from submissions to the 2013 Kayak Anglers Choice Awards. In no particular order:
Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania
Photograph provided by Juan Veruete
Running through 444 miles of central Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna River presents kayak fishing opportunities for a wide range of interests and target species. While the smallmouth bass fishery is legendary and rainbow trout populate many areas, more and more anglers are targeting muskellunge – and big ones! Muskies are one of the most aggressive freshwater species, and 40”+ fish are frequent catches.
Devils River, Texas
Photograph by Brady Sullivan
Paddling and fishing Devils River is not for the faint of heart! The Devils River State Natural Area is a pristine, isolated area with few modern improvements. Everything is carry-in, carry-out – food, water, and other supplies are limited to what you can carry. From the Texas Parks and Wildlife website: “…a Devils River trip is highly strenuous and recommended ONLY for experienced paddlers equipped to spend at least three days in a remote area.” Fishing in this spring-fed river would be an experience, surrounded by true wild lands.
Chesapeake Bay, Virginia
Photograph by Rob Choi
With 4,500 square miles of water (bigger than Rhode Island) and 11,684 shoreline miles (including tributaries), the Chesapeake Bay estuary offers incredible kayak angling opportunities. The Bay is a tremendous striped bass fishery that also features tautog (“tog”), a hard-fighting structure dweller that can be found on wrecks, rock piles, and pilings. The three Bay areas (Upper, Middle, and Lower) provide kayak anglers the opportunity for an epic day, almost every day. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT) crosses the Lower Bay and creates its own fishing environment where bull reds, tog, stripers and many other species congregate.
Kona Coast, Hawaii
Photograph provided by Andy Cho
Kayak anglers who fish the Kona Cost of Hawaii’s Big Island take “big fish fishing” to an entirely different level. Steep bottoms put deep water close to shore, and thousand-pound monster fish give this area its nickname: Land of the Giants. In addition to the tuna, wahoo, albacore, grey snapper and other large gamefish, tiger sharks (some over 2,000lbs) inhabit the area. Do your homework, bring your two-speed reels and heavy tackle, and be ready for the sleigh ride of your life!
Lake Guntersville, Alabama
Photograph by Chris Funk
According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 75-mile-long Lake Guntersville is the largest lake in the state. Over 69,000 acres of water create the top “big bass” fishery in Alabama, according to a 2012 survey. The reservoir is part of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) impoundment system, so check for lake level and water release information before heading out to launch. Lake Guntersville State Park offers camping and launch sites, but as always, some of the more productive fishing can be found in less-traveled areas.
Shelter Cove, California
Photograph by Jameson Redding
A small fishing village (that’s a hint) on the northern coast, Shelter Cove is considered by many to be one of California’s premier ocean fishing destinations. Albacore, ling and rock cod, halibut, salmon, and other tasty fish are all “possibles” for a day on the water. Shelter Cove hosts the Gimme Shelter tournament in May that draws participants from hundreds of miles away for a day of kayak fishing and fellowship. Cold water, “sneaker” waves, and rip currents add to the challenges, but proper preparation can lead to a great day on the Pacific Ocean.
Grand Isle, Louisiana
Photograph by Ben Roussel
The phrase “world class” is overused in tourism brochures and destination books – but in this case, it applies. Listed as the only inhabited barrier island in Louisiana, Grand Isle is considered by many to be the premier redfish destination in the Gulf of Mexico’s angling holy land. YouTube is chock-full of videos of kayak anglers battling monster reds, or fields of waving tails in the shallow waters. Whether you call them red drum, marsh donkeys, spottail bass, or just “reds”, there are few better places to find big ones – and lots of them – than Grand Isle.
Indian River Lagoon, Florida
Photograph provided by Dee Kaminski
So much has been written about the Indian River Lagoon that it’s difficult to find new things to say. A coffee cup map stain centered on Melbourne, FL would encircle three premier southern saltwater kayak angling areas. The IRL includes the Mosquito Lagoon, Banana River, and Indian River, encompassing 156 mi (almost 40%!) of Florida’s east coast. Much of the Lagoon’s shallow water is included in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The estuary is home to huge bull red drum (redfish), gator speckled trout, tarpon, and other species both fun and challenging for kayak anglers. There are many places to camp and launch directly into this year-round fishery.
Fort Fisher, North Carolina
Photograph by Chris Funk
The Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is located on North Carolina’s southeastern coastal corner. The surrounding area offers saltwater Spartina grass marshes, creek and channel areas, backwaters, and beaches to paddle and fish. Red and black drum, speckled trout, and flounder are popular targets. Be aware of the tides, especially in the back country. Changing water levels can leave you stuck for several hours, unless you’re prepared for a long slog through mud and oyster bars. Launch at the Federal Point boat ramp, or check out the trails to access points behind Second Bay, Buzzards Bay, and the Basin.
Columbia River, Oregon / Washington
Photograph provided by Oregon DNR
Even if you left the rods in the truck, the Columbia River would be worth a paddle. Just shy of 300,000 acres of water surrounded by incredible scenery in southern Washington and northern Oregon – what more could you ask for? If you’re inclined toward drag-smoking battles, consider the salmon and steelhead fishing during the annual migrations from the Pacific. Spring, summer, and fall runs of chinook, sockeye, coho, and steelhead make for exciting days of kayak angling followed by some excellent eating. Starting January 1, 2014, make sure you have the special Columbia River Basin endorsement in addition to your fishing license if you plan to target these species.