How To stand and Fish Out Of A Kayak: Best Kayak Fishing Tips

by Julie | Last Updated:   October 9th, 2021
How To stand and Fish Out Of A Kayak: Best Kayak Fishing Tips


Kayak fishing is one of the best ways to experience being out on the water and immersed in the outdoors. Fishing from a kayak is more personal in the sense of how low and close you are to the water. It makes for an incredible experience that anyone and everyone should try!

If you are a beginner looking to give it a whirl and learn how to fish from a kayak, then we are here to give you some pro kayak fishing tips!

How to stand up on a fishing kayak

Two people fishing from a tandem kayak

Sit on top kayaks are highly sought after by experienced and inexperienced anglers. They advertise as the perfect kind of fishing kayaks because of their ability to stand up in them. However, the actual act of standing on your kayak is not as simple as it looks in the pictures.

This is because every angler has a different body shape and size. In the end, it is all about balance.

Yet, the convenience of being able to go from sitting to standing is highly desirable when it comes to kayak fishing. Let’s go over some tips and rules of thumb to go by for beginners and those new to this kind of kayak:

  1. Be aware of your comfort level and your balancing capabilities. Some people have a harder time maintaining balance, so standing in a kayak and doing some fishing may not be ideal
  2. All anglers have different body types and people that carry more weight on top will have a harder time finding their center of balance than those that are shorter and slimmer
  3. A wider kayak can help with stability, but your own balancing abilities are key
  4. If you’re a beginner, bring as little gear with you as possible in case you do flip. (You don’t want to ruin your rods or lose some of your tackle!)
  5. Going from sitting to standing while on the water is going to be tricky. Grip the sides of your kayak and push yourself into a crouch first so you can find your balance before slowly rising to stand.
  6. Your most stable position is to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  7. On this kind of kayak, your balance is going to be coming mostly from your ankles and feet.
  8. Don’t attempt standing in rough water: if there are waves or wind. Especially beginners just learning to kayak fish.
  9. Always wear your PFD (personal floatation device) at all times!
  10. Practice in shallow water first to find your footing.
  11. Once you find your balance, then you’ll have to practice maintaining it while casting and catching fish.

Kayak anglers who seek a fishing kayak with the accessibility to stand up will have to keep all of these factors in mind. It will take practice, and for some anglers, it will come easy, while others may determine it is not for them. If that’s the case, sitting may be your safest way to fish from a kayak. And that’s just fine!

Standing and fishing from a kayak is still a relatively new thing, and there is still a majority of kayak anglers that prefer to sit and fish, or just have a sit-inside kayak that they can’t stand on. Both styles of kayaks offer their own appealing features, it depends on your comfort level and preference for how you want to fish.

What to do with your paddle when kayak fishing?

Paddler fishing from a kayak

What do you do with your paddle while fishing? This isn’t something that is in the forefront of your mind when you’re heading out on the water. It always comes up after you get to your spot and you’re ready to start fishing.

Everything else seems to have a proper place except for your paddle on some kayak models. You’ll have storage compartments that you can fit your tackle box, net, and a dry bag with spare clothing in. Most standard fishing kayaks come with two inserted rod holders. But where does your paddle go?

It is far more convenient if you do have a paddle holder preinstalled on your kayak, but even if that is not the case you can purchase one to mount on it yourself.

Every kayak is set up differently but don’t worry! We will give you some clever ideas and alternate options if you don’t wish to purchase a paddle holder. To make it easier on you so you can store your paddle quickly and efficiently.

  • Some people will simply slide their paddle inside the cockpit of their closed-in kayak where it is still easily accessible and out of the way. You can even pull the paddles apart and use one to steer or move you every so often as you fish.
  • Others may even leave it balanced on the kayak in position to paddle, but if you’re sitting you’ll have to hold your fishing rod a little higher over it and be aware when you go to land your fish. You’ll have to shift it out of the way so it doesn’t get knocked off.

A paddle mount is definitely convenient, but not entirely necessary if you have the space on the floor of your boat to make it work. Some paddles can be taken apart too which will make it easier to get out of the way and take up less space.

You could still move, control and angle yourself with a single paddle while fishing if needed. You can also use it to your advantage to fish your way through a single spot in a cove, or tight quarters in a secret fishing hole.

Fishing styles suitable for kayak fishing

Paddling Kayak Fishermen

Kayaks are more versatile than you might assume when it comes to fishing. They are perfect no matter at what point you are in, in the walk of life. No matter what kind of fishing you prefer, you can do almost all of it right from a kayak.

It can add a new level of challenge too sometimes, and the excitement of fishing from a kayak appeals to nearly everyone. Some of the most popular styles you are likely to see are:

Bass fishing

Bass fishing out of a kayak

Bass fishermen love fishing from a kayak because you can get to those hard-to-reach places that you can’t otherwise in a larger boat. They have the option to stand in a kayak too if they wanted. It’s easier to fish weedy vegetation and shallow waters where bass will spawn in the spring/summer.

Also, you don’t disturb an area as much in a kayak, which results in a quieter and stealthier approach so you can land those big ones. In general, it is much more exciting and can be quite a challenge too when compared to shore fishing.

Fishing for panfish

Fishermen and kids that love catching panfish on worms or small lures will find that fishing from a kayak is a blast. You can glide silently right through the weeds to find a school of panfish to catch all day long. It’s a lot of fun too because even a small fish like that can pull your kayak around a bit since it’s so lightweight.

Those that like to keep their catches too will find it much easier and certainly more fun catching perch and crappie. Especially when you’re in streams that feed into larger bodies of water, which you can’t access in a motorboat.

Saltwater fishing

A man fishing in saltwater while on a kayak

There are many fishermen that love to fish in saltwater estuaries and mangroves with kayaks. There is no end to the versatility you can find in a kayak. Never before would you have thought you could fish saltwater in something like a kayak. Now it’s a popular sight in places like Florida.

There you can see kayak fishermen in the Everglades and along the plentiful coastlines. You can find that there are even people that will kayak fish further out in more open water too where some kayakers have even hooked into sharks!

Muskie and Northern Pike

You can even be a part of the group of fishermen that wrangle huge pike and muskie in kayaks too! That offers a whole other level of challenge for freshwater fishermen. Pike and Muskie are some of the largest, and aggressive fish to tackle in a kayak.

If you plan to tackle these freshwater monsters then it is best to go out prepared! A wider kayak for stability is a good idea since these fish can get up to 40 inches or more. Don’t forget a net! It’s best to keep your hands as far from their mouths as possible. Especially with those razor-sharp teeth they have!

Fly fishing

Then there are those who take kayak fishing to a whole different level: fly fishing in a kayak. It can be done, and there is a whole community for it! Just look it up, if that is a challenge you would like to take on. Fly fishing is an art form and mastering it from a kayak would only add to the enjoyment that you can find in the sport.

You’ll find fly fishermen in kayaks everywhere too, from freshwater to saltwater, and the beauty and skill of seeing them cast while floating on the water is a sight to behold. So, if you’re a fly fisherman looking to add some more variety into your fishing trips, then why not try it in a kayak?

How To Cast When Kayak Fishing

Man Fishing in Kayak

An essential skill if you wish to become a kayak angler is learning to cast. Casting from a kayak is a bit different from doing it offshore or on a motorboat. Most of the time you are sitting in a kayak. That means you’re sitting much lower than you’re used to. Being in that position can make it a little tricky.

There is nothing different about casting your rods except the position your body is in. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you go out to practice:

  1. Because you’re positioned so low, you’ll have to hold your rod higher to make sure you don’t hit the edge of your cockpit (if you are in that style kayak), or your paddle depending on where it is.
  2. You’ll want your pole held a little higher so that you can get more distance out of your cast. Starting out you may do more arcing casts to reach further out.
  3. When casting you’ll need to be aware of all the things close to you. You don’t want to hook or hit a part of your kayak. Like one of your rods in the rod holder, or mess up the cast by hitting the water beside you, which will be much closer than you’re used to.
  4. Be conscious of your body movements while in a kayak. It is less stable and you’ll rock or move a bit when you cast.

With these tips in mind; casting is the same as normal. It will take a little getting used to, but your first time out on the water you will figure it out very quickly. From there it’s just refining your own technique.

How to land a fish in a fishing kayak

A man catching a fish from a kayak with his fishing rod

Fighting fish from a kayak is the main reason why people love it so much. It is the draw and thrill of fighting a fish that is able to tow you and your boat. There is nothing quite like it, and in a way, it can almost feel like your own version of The Old Man and the Sea. Trying to land what feels like a fish of a lifetime almost every time.

Some key instructions to follow to successfully land your fish:

  1. The fish will pull you no matter what. Be prepared.
  2. Because it is pulling you: you’ll have to reel faster to maintain line tension.
  3. Keep your center of balance, don’t lean too far in any direction as you reel the fish in and retrieve it.
  4. Once the fish is close to the kayak, pull it alongside you.
  5. It may try to swim underneath so let it. Don’t lean over to try and pull it back out. Let it tire and take the drag out from your reel. Your kayak will turn and move in accordance with where it goes. Keep your balance!
  6. Keep the line tense, but have enough out that you can either put your pole somewhere secure or firmly grip it with one hand so you can grab the fish.
  7. Either with your hand, or a net would be far more convenient. Don’t lean too far!

Landing a fish in a kayak is guaranteed to get you a bit wet with all the splashing, but it is beyond rewarding when you successfully land one. Remember to be safe about it! The fish don’t make it easy to be caught and you don’t want them to flip you into the water because of it.

How to keep fish in a fishing kayak

Kayak Cooler

Floating Stringer

There is a fair amount of outdoors enthusiasts that love to keep what they catch. You can still do so when fishing in a kayak! You may not have a live-well, but you can make it work with a cooler.

That’s right, just a regular cooler. You can strap a cooler to your kayak either in the bow or the stern, whichever is easiest for you to access. Have ice in it and you can store your catch to keep it fresh.

For larger fish you may want to keep, a cooler likely won’t work. Instead, you can bring or make a stringer. A stringer is usually a form of rope or line you can loop through a fish’s mouth and gills so that you can secure it, and keep it alive in the water. You can tie the stringer to your kayak so you can haul your catch back to shore.

Key Insights & Takeaways

Person sitting on a fishing kayak with fish in right hand

Being so low to the water while kayak fishing offers a new sort of perspective, which could be one of the reasons so many love it. It feels more personal, more in tune with the environment. The only thing propelling you is a paddle powered by you yourself. It’s quiet, calming, and feels like more of an adventure!

At the end of the day, you’re often wet and reeking of fish, but it is SO worth it!

I was fishing before I could walk and it's been a family tradition for centuries. Fishing is my life, or at least as long as I can remember. In the Lake Champlain International Fathers Day Fishing Derby, not only have I won first place twice but also third place! Also, in addition to majoring in Wilderness Recreation Leadership, I also happen to be a licensed camping, hiking, and hunting guide for NY.