First (Fishing) Kayak

I am in the market for a fishing kayak. Mostly what I want do do fish fish slower rivers/streams, large ponds, and smaller lakes. With this said I don’t want be limited and would like to fish bays and eventually the ocean. I live in PA and the Delaware River would probably be a lot of what I do. For those framilar it would be from water gap (trout and smallies) all the way down to trenton for strippers. Bays would be Jersey, LBI area. I am looking for some advice as to SOT or sit in and length. It seems as SOT/sit in is mostly a matter of preference. What are your opinions? As for length, what is the difference in speed between a 12, 14, 16 (assuming all other specs equal. I would like to stay on the smaller side for simple logistic purposes, i.e. storage and transport. If any of you have experience with both I would really appreciate your input.

Your are asking a single kayak to
perform several functions. A good river kayak may do fine in the bay, but probably not in the ocean. Unless you are willing to make sacrifices for ease of paddling…I get tired of the concept of speed in fishing kayaks, its sorta relative compared to the objective of catching fish…most kayaks used for river, lake, and bay fishing are not going to be the best performers in the surf. I assume you mean by ocean fishing beyond what we call the breakers down here in Texas, that’s the surf and breaking waves as they roll into shore, usually the breaking is caused by underwater sand bars or other obstructions.

Also, you may want to consider the winter temps of the water you fish. Sit inside kayaks are generally warmer and dryer for winter fishing. Some do quite well with sit on tops in the winter, but you may have to contend with water in the cockpit. Its less of a concern once the water warms up.

As for length, longer means, usually, more glide. Shorter usually means better maneuvering. Length generally increases weight and results in a different set of issues dealing with storage, loading and unloading, and transporting. If the rivers and streams you want to fish and paddle are twisty and have lots of obstructions, a 12 footer will work very well. Flatter water, you may want better glide, so a longer kayak will work beter. For the lake and bay, longer gives you the glide, but the 12 footer will work. The differences aren’t necessarily all that great, at least at the 12 and 14 foot length.

For going through the surf, generally a wider, shorter kayak…in the 11 to 12 foot length…is going to give you more stability and maneuverability. With fishing kayaks, the only way to go for fishing beyond the breakers is a sit on top. Fishing in the near ocean is not an activity one should do alone. Lots can happen, including angry sharks and other fish that can tear up equipment quickly, as well as cause injuries. Its best to find others in the areas you want to fish the surf and learn from them. That’s also a good way to get information on which kayaks are best for the type of ocean water you will be fishing.

As to kayaks, there are a lot out there. Among the sit insides, take a look at the Old Town Dirigo and Loon models. Wilderness Systems has two models of interest, the Pungo and Pamilico. Dagger sells the Blackwater. Hurricane has one or two models the work well and are lighter. Necky sells the Manitou. There are others that will do fine, those are the ones I’m most familiar with.

For SOT’s, Wilderness Systems, Ocean Kayak, Native Watercraft, Cobra, Malibu, Hobie, and Hurricane all have great kayaks. The Hurricane Phoenix models are significantly lighter for a given length than most others.

I suggest that you register and both lurk and ask questions on some kayak fishing sites. For your area, should have people who can guide you. My favorite is, not only because its home is my area, but because of the way the forum is set up and the helpfulness of members. Actually, because I exclusively fish freshwater, and most on the site are salties, its not the greatest for me, but they are good people and I’ve made some friends.

Big D and Shenadoah River Rat can clue you in to a fishing forum they participate in, If into fishing for smallmouth bass, its a great forum. The guys there know fishing kayaks too.

Try it first
I know this is likely not a popular idea on this site, but I really do not like fishing from a sit inside kayak. I am a flyfisher and in my experience it just does not work. I spend hundreds of hours a year flyfishing from a canoe and love it. I spend a couple of dozen hours a year in the kayak and always regret it. The fishing is for stripers in a OT Loon. I have never tried a SOT and expect it would be a lot better. I have also never spin fished from a kayak. One person’s opinion only, but it is easy enought to try it yourself. Rent a boat for the day and see.


Manta Ray 14
is a nice SOT for fishing and has good glide. Also has a nice dry ride for a SOT. Can get them with and without rudder and with or without the rigging. Lots of space in the hull and a big tank well right behind the seat.

Downsides are the weight at 65 lbs before rigging and the sides are a little high to sit sideways which some folks want to do.


As I said, there are a lot of good
kayaks. But, there really isn’t enough information for a good recommendation to be made. Sure, the Native Watercraft Manta Ray’s are good kayaks, but so are the other brands I mentioned. A 14 footer may or may not be a good choice. As for fly fishing from an SOT, I can point to several websites where the fly fisherman will tell you that a sit on top is the better way to go.

I paddle an Old Town Loon 138, a solo canoe, a tandem canoe a little 9.5 sit inside, but I can’t say any of those are right for the situations mentioned in this case. Trying boats is a good way to find out things about them. Its better if you can afford to rent and try them for a few hours at a time, or a day. 15 minutes in a demo pool with several different kayaks probably confuses new people as more than it helps.

Local conditions and style of fishing has as much to do with the kayak that’s best as almost anything. Looking for those who kayak fish in one’s area and picking their brains helps tremendously, whether in person or through a kayak fishing forum.

There are a lot of boats that can work well for fishing. Sometimes specific recommendations can help give someone something to compare to. Certainly he may have goals that lead him in a completely different direction, and your more general advice may be helpful there.

The Manta Ray is more suited to open areas than really small streams where a shorter boat gives you more maneuverability. Then, again if you are likely to paddle a couple of miles to a fishing spot, the MR or other longer boat will get you there a bit faster.

Having said that, I have turned my MR around in an area about 20 ft wide and under a foot of water. Takes more effort than a 9 foot boat, but I eventually got there.

The 12 MR works in small water too.
One guy I know works for a dealer, his choice for small streams is the MR10.

Two kayaks
To get a single kayak that does both small water and big water, you’re going to be disappointed with the kayak’s performance in one or the other, or possibly even have to compromise so much that you will be dissapointed in both environments. Not a good scenario.

I don’t remember how the Delaware is near the Water Gap, but I think it’s pretty small as compared to the Delaware in Philadelphia. If not, please disregard.

In that you are only “hoping” to some day fish the ocean, I would buy yourself a medium length a recreational sit-on-top kayak suitable for the upper Delaware and small lakes. If you decide to try crossings on big water or REALLY big water like the ocean, then rent for a day. Or better yet, join a good club and get to know some folks. That way when you go for the big water, hopefully you’ll be able to have someone along who is familiar with that kind of paddling AND be able to borrow a boat.

  • Big D

Kayak fishing
All the things the others have mentioned are good advice. They’ve brought up a lot of good points. One theing that wasn’t mentioned about kayak fishing in general that I’ve been disappointed in is that you are at such a low level, you cannot see things under the water as well as if you sat up higher. There are many more reasons to fish in a kayak that over come that. I have not paddled many kayaks except for my Wilderness Systems Ride 135. I hav e found it to be a good maneuverable yak. I can even stand and fish from it. Don’t get the idea that standing would ever feel like standing on a pier. You do have to keep your balance, but I don’t feel like I’ll topple out at all. I have tried a Heritage Redfish 12. It was a good feeling boat. The thing I like better about my WS 135 is that I have room for an office crate, and a 25 guart ice chest in my tankwell. I have mounted PVC on the outside of my office crate. That works well with salt water fishing, but would be a problem in small creeks with overhanging branches. I forgot to mention that my WS 135 is a SOT. I have only tried out one Sit in yak, but in my opinion, I like the SOT better. Also, since I fish in salt water creeks and am near the ICW here in NC, I have gotten in some fairly rough water. That is when I really like the SOT because the water that comes in drains out. You may want to go to the site. It has a site for kayaks in that. You can get lots of help and opinions from the people there. One young guy I fish with has worked with 2 or 3 kayak companies on helping develop better fishing kayaks. He has worked with the Phoenix models and has one himself. I think he will be featured in their 2008 catalog. He uses the ncwaterman site and could be of great help to you. He goes by druminator on that site. There are several more po=eople there that can help you, and most gladly do that. Hope this is beneficcial to your decision.

I forgot to mention that the PVC on my office crate is to store rods until I need them. I am 61yo and have some arthritis, so I like to prerig my rod and reels ahead of time so I don’t have to constantly tie on baits. Another thing I’ve found usefful that can be done with a SOT is that you can take a stake that will fit through a scupper hole to use to stick in the bottom to keep your boat in place while you fish, if the water is shallow enough. I fish for red drum a lot, so it is very beneficial to me.

One Boat
I have 2 fishing SOTs. A 16’ and a 12.5’. I mostly use the 16’ except when traveling with the RV. The 12.5’ is much handier to haul but was not designed as a fishing boat. I would not be afraid to take the 12.5’ on the ocean but I would be concerned about taking a large cockpit rec SinK on the ocean. For fishing, 12’ SOTs are the most popular size in sales and 14’ SOTs are close. Hurricane has brought out the Phoenix 13 which would be a good compromise and has had some good reviews. My daughter has a Phoenix 12 and loves it. There are some other 13’ SOTs out there like the Search and the Prowler. Keep in mind, the SOTs were originally designed to be dive boats.

I just wanted to thank you all for your advice. I think I will try a couple out. As I said I will be waiting to get some comfort and skill before I venture out to the Ocean or other Large bodies. I have spent a fair ammount of time on water and have done a lot of fishing, probably enough to know how much trouble one can get in without the proper experience (as a kid on my fathers boat we pulled four guys out of the water 20 miles of NJ after their boat stuck a barge tow-line and sank, two others died in the boat)

I am leaning to the MantaRay 12 but will wait til I can get in some others as well. I do fly fish but I will most likly only take the boat when I do longer trips, i.e. paddle, stop get out, fish, paddle, stop fish.

What area of the country do you fish? Do you fish the canoe solo?


You may also want to take a look
at the Native Watercraft Ultimate and Magic. Not good for the ocean, but they are quite popular among bay fishermen and work great for fly fishing.

If, however, your style is to use the boat to get to where you wade, an SOT will work best, a canoe second best, but Sit insides aren’t as good.

MR 12 is a good choice
It’s quite popular among river fishermen. The Natives aren’t as popular among river fishermen, I think because of the lack of draining the copious amounts of water that get in during a rapid of any size.

I’ve got a 12’ SOT that I use for river fishing and like it very well. It’s a slug attaining upriver, but stable as a barge going downriver. I can sit on it sideways dangling my feet into the water like a kid off his grand-dad’s pier at the lake. I have had it in up to Class 2+ rapids, where it did performed far better than I expected. I do recommend getting thigh straps if you intend rough water in an SOT.

  • Big D

Don’t overlook a solo canoe…
I’ve fished the Delaware several times from above the Water Gap down to Frenchtown, and I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t like a decent solo canoe. We’ve argued this here and on other boards before, but in my opinion, a solo canoe does everything a kayak can, and does a lot of it better. You sit higher, so you can see into the water better and probably fish better. It’s also more comfortable sitting for me at least. You can also get in and out of the canoe a lot easier than a SinK. You can carry a lot more fishing gear, a lot easier…I carry five rods, two tackle containers, and a cooler big enough to carry all my beverages and lunch in my canoe, and stowing all of it is simple.

If you need to paddle upstream or want to get somewhere in a hurry, you can use a double bladed paddle in the canoe, and move it about as well as any rec kayak. But you can also use a single blade paddle with the canoe, and with a single blade, it’s a lot easier to make minor, precise course and positioning strokes with one hand while keeping your fishing rod in the other.

About the only real advantages to kayaks when fishing that I can see is that they are a little stealthier, and they are less affected by wind (because they are lower and you sit lower). And they may be less expensive.

All in all, a solo canoe such as the Wenonah Vagabond or the Bell Yellowstone, or maybe the new Wenonah Wilderness (I haven’t paddled it yet) would serve you well on the Delaware or on smaller lakes. Get it in Royalex…that’s the quietest material for fishing.

Agree. NM

Come on over Bat
You’ll find mundo info on fishing Yaks on Riversmallies, and people who know stuff, more than me and D put together…bank on it.

And like D said, you’re asking a boat to do 2 diffrent things…probably not a good combo. A 12 foot SOT will do you fine on low-gradient rivers, lakes and ponds and possibily sheltered bays…but not open ocean. I have a bud who fishes out of a 12 foot Tarpon down at the mouth of the Chespeke around the bridge supports for Stripers and he has no troubleas long as there’s no chop or rollers bigger than about 1 foot. You’ll want something more stable and able to handle the big water once you get to the point you wanna try open ocean.

And forget the talk of speed…think handling and stability in a fishing yak.

I went with the Native Manta Ray 12. I took it out on the Neshaminy Creek (small local creek in Philly burbs) on Saturday to get it wet. It is shallow and I took it to a favorite fishing spot so I know the water quite well. Waders and GoreTex jacket were plenty to keep warm and dry. So far I think it will work well for what I am looking for. I am not experienced with SOT’s so the first couple minutes I felt pretty tippy. That didn’t last long though, once I found how far you can lean without going over. Tracking (mainly paddling upstream) was only issue I had, I do not have a rudder and am debating weather or not to add one. Again though with more practice on my paddling technique and I think this will be much less of an issue. My fishing buddy brought along his new Tarpon 120. He his only issue was manuverability. With his rudder up, which he had to raise it due to the shallow depth at many places, he had issues getting the boat turned quickly enough. Once I get more time in both mine and my buddies I will post more comparisons and opinions on the boat.

One more thing
I just wanted to thank David Bell and Steve @ Bel Haven Paddlesports in NJ. He gave me a good price on the boat and was very helpful and informative. I went to several stores in PA and NJ with varying amounts of help, pricing, selection and customer service. In all I found they were the best to deal with.