I’ve been fishing and duck hunting out of a kayak for the last five years and though, at times, it’s been tough paddling through questionable conditions, it’s been wonderful.
It requires everything you’ve got, physically and mentally.
There is the obvious work of rowing, but you also have to be mathematic about every move you make and have a systemized plan for every piece of gear. Everything has to be accessible without rummaging.
Whether it be grabbing the net, reaching for the gun, changing lures, switching poles, throwing decoys, or dropping the anchor, you have to work with no room to work in.
It requires precise execution to put birds and fish in the boat, and all the while you’re under the risk that any sudden loss of balance could land you in the lake.
All of these challenges add to the satisfaction of success.
My boat is sort of a hybrid canoe/kayak. It’s only eight feet long but its open like a canoe so it fits fishing poles and tackle or a gun and a dozen decoys.
In the fall it’s a fantastic portable duck blind, easily pushed into cattails or in the branches of fallen trees.
In the spring and summer it has proven its worth time and time again being able to get in the lily pads for panfish and the heavy slop for big bass.
In addition to my kayak’s stealthiness and limitless range, another benefit is the proximity to the water. When you travel by kayak you are in every sense “on the water.” Inches away. In the morning mist it’s as if there is no boat at all between you and the surface of the lake. It’s like rowing a cloud across the water.
But beyond all these advantages, both practical and aesthetic, I recently found my boat’s greatest gift. It’s accessibility to carry-in only lakes.
They’ve been a gold mine this summer and a refuge from the heavy boat traffic on larger lakes.
The less traveled, less pressured, smaller bodies of water that rarely, if ever, get disturbed by a motorized propeller have been producing fish and they’ve been worth every bit of work that it takes to get to them.
They often require a portage or a head jarring drive down the remnants of a logging road that is barely a trail, but once you get to them you reap the benefits of being off the beaten path.
I recently paddled the perimeter of a lake that had a completely wild shoreline. Not one house. Not even a cabin. Talk about calm and quiet water at dawn. It was like paddling across the eye of God.
And the fishing was heavenly. I caught largemouth bass, mostly legals, with almost every cast. And I mean every cast. There was one residing next to every patch of lily pads and every fallen tree, next to every rock and hidden in every submerged rows of weeds.
It didn’t matter, crawler or spinner, they crushed them both.
And the bluegills. Monsters. Most of them fighting every bit as ferociously as the bass. I without a doubt caught and released the biggest of my career out on that desolate body of water.
It’s not always like that. There are days I’ve rowed my arms off and gotten skunked, but that, of course, makes the days when they’re hitting that much more sweet and this summer has been full of them.
A small boat plus small water has equalled big action this season, so if the lake is a carry-in, count me in.
Jacob Friede may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]