How to Catch Big Fish from Your Kayak Safely

landing a sail fish
(photo courtesy of Robwil Valderrey)

Catching large fish is always a thrill! But when you’re going after them from a kayak, there are a few tips you’ll want to keep in mind so you can do it safely.

YakAngler offers a few tips (read their full post here), and some of our ProStaffers and Ambassadors offer tips of their own:

1. Always wear your PFD and keep it fastened.

This should be a no-brainer, but we’ll mention it just the same! The first rule in paddling safety is wearing your life jacket.

2. Keep your gear secured to your kayak.

When landing a large fish, there’s an added risk of capsizing. You don’t want your expensive gear ending up at the bottom of the lake, river or ocean.

christine fischer with big fish
(photo courtesy of Kristine Fischer)

3. Use the right gear for big fish.

Examples of this can be a tough, quality reel and a lighter, more flexible rod. This’ll help absorb some of the strain of the battle and make it easier for you.

4. Always have a line cutter within easy reach.

Sometimes it’s worth calling it quits and sacrificing a lure if things get rough. Whether it’s simply gets out of hand or even turns dangerous, you want the option of cutting the line at any moment.

big fish from kayak
(photo courtesy of Andy Cho)

5. Know the right technique for big fish.

Don’t compromise your kayak’s stability while you’re reeling in. It may be better to align your rod tip with the front of your boat, rather than the side so you don’t end up in the water!

6. Only bring the fish into your kayak if you can do it safely, Part 1.

For that matter, only take a photo of your catch if you can do so safely. It’s just fine to bring it up enough so your Instagram followers can see its size, take your photo and let it back in the water.

josh dolin big fish
(photo courtesy of Josh Dolin)

7. Only bring the fish into your kayak if you can do it safely, Part 2.

If you plan to keep your fish for eating or mounting, again, only bring it on board if you can do it safely. It’s not worth danger to yourself, or losing expensive gear. Having a stringer along is one option, depending where you fish (probably not the best idea in gator or shark waters).

8. Have a gaff along and know how to use it, if…

If you plan to keep your trophy fish, using a gaff to help land it will help. Be sure and keep any sharp teeth pointed away from you!

shark kayak fishing
(photo courtesy of Justin Curtis Mayer)

Personal Tips from the Bending Branches’ Team

Yakman_Ont has a few tips for big fish anglers:

  • If your big fish is a toothy one, have gloves, fish grips, pliers and the right-size net.
  • I like to rest my BB paddle across my lap for quick access to be able to maneuver my kayak in the direction needed.
  • Big fish can pull you around and may pull you in a area that's not safe. Turning your kayak in a different direction can help stop that.
  • Always have something in reach to be able to cut your line if need be.
  • Do not rush landing your big fish. Know the where your hooks are at all times—sometimes big fish can flip around and cause chaos in your kayak.
  • Pay attention to your center of gravity, like a good kayak angler does.
  • Always wear your PFD.

Troy Stoeger says: “Devise a way to tether a big fish so it relaxes outside of the kayak. I use a fish grip on a retractor I can just toss over the side. Last thing you want is 20 pounds of angry teeth thrashing around in that small area!”

Jeff Jones shares this: “I use grips and then slide the whole fish over the side in one motion. Here’s a short video of my process with a 50 lb drum:

Mark Rine offers this advice: “I try to keep my head centered over the middle of the kayak while pulling larger fish out of the water. If my head goes past the edge of the kayak with the additional weight of the fish, then I should be prepared for a swim.

“Another suggested method would be to have a large enough net for the species to calm down in before cutting or gently removing the hooks. If getting to the bank is an option, then that is my #1 preferred method for the safety of the fish and myself.”

landing a big fish
(photo courtesy of Mark Rine)

Josh Tidwell suggests: “When using a net, don’t try to lift a big fish until you bring the net close to the boat. The added length of the net handle can cause you to flip.”

Tanner Speidel recommends: “Always leash your paddle and/or have mounts to secure it to the kayak while fighting fish. Big fish on deck are a handful and the ability to get the paddle out of the way quick/securely really pays off.”

Dee Kaminski offers her expertise:

  • Never try to land a fish into your net that will not fit into your net. If it's too big, the tail will hang out and it will slip right back out, causing you to have to land it again and again.
  • Be careful when landing a fish that has treble hooks. The hooks may get caught up in the net and if the fish thrashes in the net, you may get hooked yourself.
  • When landing a big fish with razor blade teeth (kingfish, wahoo, etc), make sure you face his head away from you. Something might get bit off or it may bite your leg!

Thanks to all who offered their wisdom!

Need help finding your perfect kayak fishing paddle? Get in touch with our Wisconsin-based customer service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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