Much like golf, kayaking and kayak fishing have a set of rules.These kayak rules are not published in a book but rather learned on the fly. Until now.
The following kayak rules are what everyone should know before venturing out on the water.
1. The water is a shared space
No matter how much you wish it were the other way, public water is shared space with other boaters. Understand going in that you will most likely encounter jet skis, wake boats, ski boats , and bass boats. If you don’t like the crowds, a small river or pond will serve you better.
2. Wave at other boaters
Some kayakers and boaters are social; some are not. A nod and a wave will usually suffice. If someone has time and/or wants to chat, they will break the ice. If you don’t have time or don’t want to chat at that moment, be courteous, answer the boater and let them know you are heading up stream. It takes some practice, but it is well worth it to let people know you’re not a rude kayaker. We don’t want that stereotype.
3. Share your adventures
Getting on the water by yourself can be scary, especially for the first time. If you talk about kayak fishing as much as I do, you have probably met some people who are interested in going out in a kayak. Take them out and do so with the intention of being the “guide”.
If your goal is to catch fish, you’re doing it wrong. The goal should be for them to catch fish. Help them with technique, stay close for questions and encourage them along the way.
4. When upset, take a deep breath
Most of the time, the person fishing where you were wanting to fish isn’t doing it because they are vindictive spot stealers. Most of the time they paddle by, think a spot looks fishy and decide to throw some bait at it. The second kayak rule here is a good starting place. I’ve seen kayak anglers invite another to join them and even tie up to them.
5. Karma is a real thing, don’t mess with her
Believe me when I say there is such a thing as Kayak Karma. She is angry and vengeful. If you push people away from kayak fishing, she will get you. If you chew somebody’s tail for no good reason, she will get you.
Be nice out there because Kayak Karma is not only vengeful but she is the sister of the Fishing Gods and she will tell on you.
6. Leave your brand warfare off the water
Show some excitement when someone tells you about their new Pelican kayak they bought. They wanted to kayak fish and now they can. Be happy for them. Don’t tell them their investment is a piece of trash or too hard to paddle.
Avoid making purchase recommendations for different kayaks right after a purchase has been made. We all start somewhere and not in the same place. Tell them, “Welcome to the addiction,” or something along those lines. I could probably rename this rules as the Anti-Bullying Rule.
7. Safety is your first, second, and third priority
Make sure you are always obeying state water safety laws but above and beyond that, don’t be stupid. Don’t try to race across an inlet with a power boat headed at you on plane. Be careful with wakes around bridge pilings.
Have the proper lights and maybe even more than required if fishing at night. Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. There are many more but the bottom line is, be safe.
8. Teach others as you were taught
If someone has shown you how to do something, pass it on! In the medical field, they have a mantra that I like a lot: “Watch one, do one, teach one.” This keeps the fountain of knowledge flowing to future generations of kayak anglers.
It may take some time to teach and it may result in less fishing that day, but Kayak Karma also smiles brightly on your good deeds.
9. Lend a hand
If someone looks like they are struggling loading or unloading, if someone drops some gear on the way to launch or if someone is looking puzzled while staring at their kayak, ask if you can help. It’s pretty easy, most of the time they really appreciate the question, even if they decline help.
I have had many a trip made easier by someone helping me put my kayak on my car. The kind deeds to other kayakers come back tenfold.
10. Have fun out there
Kayak fishing is supposed to be a fun sport. Don’t try to over think it. If you struggle, ask for help. If you find yourself not having fun, talk to someone about it. Take in the nature around you. Listen to the sounds that are so rarely heard in a power boat. Watch how close fish and birds will get to you.
Take pictures! Above all, make sure you enjoy it! That’s what these kayak rules are here to help you with.