Kayaks good for fishing and touring

I’m very much a kayak newbie who lives near a number of mountain lakes in California’s Sierra Nevada. I’d like to buy a kayak that’d be suitable both for touring and for angling. I realize, of course, that the former puts a focus on a craft that tracks and glides well, while the latter puts a focus on stability and manueverability. Recommendations for a suitable kayak, or for specific characteristics (length, beam, etc.), would be appreciated.

A lot would depend on the kind of
touring you want to do. If its saltwater, fast touring kayaks are fairly narrow and, while you can fish from anything that floats, those are not the most stable platforms. You can fish from anything that floats, but just have to get used to its characteristics and in a narrow boat, be ready to get dunked. In deciding which kayak, the first thing you need to do is ask which is more important, touring of fishing. If its the former, get a touring boat that best suits your need for the style of touring you want to do. If its fishing with capability of touring, then a craft suitable to fishing is probably the best choice.

The Old Town Loon, my kayak, the Wilderness Systems Pungo and Pamlico, and almost any recreational sit-inside kayak can do both well. You trade speed for stability, but retain storage if its overnighter or longer you have in mind. These are fairly wide kayaks. If more speed is your interest, then look for a kayak that is 24-26 " wide. You also need to consider if you need dry hatches or can just stuff your stuff in the hull in dry bags.

Its all about what you really want to do and where you paddle. If you paddle bays and/or the ocean, the sit-insides mentioned above and their brethern can be good for bays, but not the ocean. There, you want to look for either a sit on top that will take you over the breakers, not all will, or a sit inside designed for ocean kayak…that means a smaller cockpit which means less room for fishing stuff that’s easily accessible. For sit on tops for bays, the Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 and 15 may meet your needs and will also work in fresh water as long as their aren’t any significant rapids. The Wilderness Tarpons in the 14-15 foot range are also excellent bay boats, can work well in fresh, and give you some speed, though speed in a wide kayak is relative.

Thanks for the reply.
What would you consider the ideal length(s) for a freshwater touring boat that one also uses for fishing? I’m wondering if 10 feet is perhaps too short,16 feet too long…

I fish and tour in coastal gulf of mexico. Have tried many kayaks both SOT and SIK and found the following characteristics make for a compromise boat that is effcient and yet comfortable to fish from.

15 - 16 feet in length width 23" - 24" maximum I have a preference for composite boats over plastic boats but that depends on your budget.

A cockpit that does not have the keyhole shape is easier to fish from. Also, a peaked deck is nice to access gear from cockpit and easier to get in/out of.

A 10 foot boat is too short for real
touring, maybe alright for a 4-6 hour paddle. Some have used them for longer trips, but short kayaks don’t always track well and take more effort to paddle because they don’t glide very well and because of the lesser tracking ability, you have to do more paddle corrections. A 16 footer is not too long if you can handle loading and unloading and the place you are paddling is fairly open water…like a river or lake.

Most 10 footers aren’t going to allow you to carry much overnight. You identify yourself with a fishing name handle, so I take that you are more interested in fishing than touring. If that’s the case, then take a look at the Old Town Loons, especially the “Classic” models. If you need a shorter kayak, the Loon 111 is a good one. My preference is for the “Classic”, large cockpit and a sliding seat so that you can move it forward for better access to stern storage. Good fishing craft too and, from what all say, handles well for a short boat. Mine is the 138, an older model with the 55" long cockpit and sliding seat. Couldn’t ask for more room.

With most, not all kakays, longer means better tracking and more speed. It also means more storage for gear. If touring is your interest, but mainly one to three days, then you shold be happy with a kayak in the 12 to 14 foot range. But, the 16 footer will have advantages. If you paddle small creeks and river a lot, a kayak in the 10-12 foot range is going to be a bit more manueverable. Basically, if you can, paddle a few boats, try different size ranges, and decide. Be sure to include sit on tops in your trials. Many canoe/kayak dealers often will allow you to paddle boats, though some may charge, then take off the rental at purchase. Some outfitters and big box stores have paddling days where they set up a pool and allow you to try various kayaks out. But, don’t allow yourself to be sold by the first dealer you visit. You may wind up with a great craft, but it will benefit you in decision making to look at, if not try, a variety of crafe.

What jerlfletcher said…except he
didn’t mention the Wilderness Systems Tarpon series, One advantage of a SOT, like the Tarpon 140 or 160i, is that they are great to flyfish from. Slightly higher than SIK’s, which helps keep the flyline out of the water of front and back casts. Also, nothing to have the stripped line catch on, unless you add accoutrements, of course.

I use a Tarpon 160, for rivers, creeks, lakes and tidal estuaries, and have no problem maneuvering. Buy the scupper hole wheel cart, and put ins and take outs are excellent.

What lakes in Nor Cal? Large impoundments like Comanche, Clear Lake or Tahoe, or medium sized ones like Del Valle or smaller ones that dot the Gold Country, like White Pines (Near Arnold…30 miles from Angel’s Camp, past Murphy’s).

Good luck.


But Yak, I did mention the Tarpons in my
first response, mentioned the 14 and 16 foot lengths. But my expertise, if you can call it that, is with Loon 138’s and a 9.6 Necky Sky. All I know about Tarpon’s and Prowlers are what people who own them tell me. Prowlers, good bay boats and can do beyond the breakers, Tarpon’s great bay boats, but not quite as good in the surf as the Prowler. But, both brands/styles are great boats.

Speed seems to be a top consideration with touring boats. If speed is what you want then you’ll want to look at the Tarpon 160TW and the Prowler 15. Based on what I’ve been exposed to those are the two fastest fishing kayaks. Only exception is the Hobie’s w/ the mirage drive. They’re faster.

Thanks, everyone,
for the useful responses. They’re a great help in narrowing my choices.

Yakonthefly, I live in Truckee, near Lake Tahoe. Despite the advantages of an SOT for fly-fishing, Tahoe and other local impoundments can be quite cold and choppy much of the year, so I’m inclined toward buying a sit-inside craft.

Truckee…Argh…how I miss that place.
SOT’s aren’t as wet as many claim, and in the Tahoe area, you could easily wear a shorty wet suit most of the year. I wear one in the winter months here (Dec-Mar). Another possibility is to wear your waders, if gortex, when you paddle, with fleece in the cold months, but without in the summer. Just remember to wear both belts, in case you do swim…

I take it you fish Donner Lake alot then!


In cold
waters you must dress for possible imersion regardless of yak design.People die from hypothermia every year thinking they can get away without a dry suit in SIS’s.Simply doesnt work that way.I think the Tarpon 160 would be great for what you describe.I have the old style with two large hatches and love it.

Just about any recreational

– Last Updated: Jun-02-06 10:48 AM EST –

The things to trade off are the following:

Length - Generally speaking and all other things being equal, longer length means more glide and less effort. With the same caveats, it also means more difficulty turning. Longer also means faster. Shorter, less fast, more maneuverable, less glide.

Width - Same caveats. Wider kayaks will generally have more initial stability (i.e, feel less 'wobbly'). Any recreational or kayak advertised as a day tourer will have enough width to fish from. Wider, less glide. Not sure how width affects turning. My widest kayak turns best, but it has a radically different hull design, so don't know whether its the hull design or the width causing it to float higher and have less resistance to the water.

SOT vs. SINK I fish from both. I've found the SOT to be LESS wet than the SINK when I pull the scupper plugs. I don't always wear a skirt on my SINK, and with the huge cockpit of most recreationals, drips and splashes can get things wet pretty quick. Wear a skirt, and that can solve some things, but also diminish your access to the floor of the kayak which is where I keep much of my tackle when fishing. The SOT just drains the splashes out. I fish up to Class II+ water, so on a lake this is probably not much of a concern. SOT's sit higher. SINK's sit lower. Higher is better visility, but a little more "tippy" feeling because of a higher center of gravity. vice versa for SINKs. Some folks just feel better in SINKS because they do offer a little more feeling of protection. In the case of the sun when wearing a skirt, the feeling of protection is justified. They do offer good sun protection.

A general comment on tracking. ALL recreational boats and day tourers will track well with even a half-decent paddle technique. I highly recommend learning a good paddle technique from the start to rely on YOU to give good tracking rather than on your boat. You'll have far more flexibility in what and where you can paddle that way.

Also stability, there's two kinds, initial and secondary. Generally speaking, they're a trade off. Initial stability means that it doesn't tend to roll or flip, secondary stability means how easy it is to recover from going too far. For fishing, you want reasonably high initial stability - just like you'd find in a recreational kayak or day tourer. That said, if you're a complete newbie, don't let the "tippy" or "wobbly" feeling dismay you. You get used to it in about ten minutes on the water. When I introduce someone new to fishing, I make them sit and wobble the boat as hard as they're willing to do on purpose (in shallow water with me standing by) to show them how unlikely it is that their comfort level of tippiness is greater than the boats ability to handle. No one has ever gone too far and actually taken the boat over on one of these demonstrations. Just remember to wobble from your hips and not your shoulders. Keep your head and neck over the center line of the kayak and swing your hips up and down like you're lifting your butt cheek to fart or belly dancing. You won't take a recreational over in still water that way.

As far as a recommendation of a model, you'd have a hard time going wrong with the Dagger Blackwater series. It comes in three lengths, 10.5, 11.5, and 12.5 feet. Any are fine for what you suggest. Sit in and see which one is comfortable for you. I'm 6'3" and 230# with a 34" inseam. I was a little cramped in a 10.5 but not so cramped that I couldn't paddle it for six or seven hours on a fishing trip. That's only one recommendation. There are many, many boats well-suited to what you want to do.

- Big D

Figured I’d throw
this out there. I just got back from fishing in a lake here in the PNW. My poly Necky Eskia is 16ft long and is 25" wide. I feel comfy and stable in it and have used it for 3 and 4 day touring trips on the sea. It’s pretty heavy at 63 lbs, but hey, it’s got stability up the wazoo. Did really well trout fishing this week as the cockpit is very roomy so I had enough room to open and close my tackle box without fear of losing it over the side. I’m interested in trying out those Pungos, though, since I have 2 touring yaks. One never can have enough boats. :slight_smile:

Short trip tourer and mountain lakes
Your going to have similar water temps to us here in Michigan. Even warm weather will not equat to warm water temps so I am assuming you want a sink versus a sit on top. We use our Loon 138 for short overnighters and it is incredible as a fishing boat. Best of both worlds in those categories. For longer trips though it would fall short unless you had a canoe coming along that could carry some gear for you. Speed too could come in to play. If you are contemplating touring with longer, narrower boats you may not be able to keep up to their paddling speed in a Loon 138.

We sure enjoy ours over the 6 years we’ve had it though.

Ain’t that the truth. Paddled my Loon
for about 7 hours today, not the speediest boat in the water, but, man does it track. Seldom have to make a corrective paddle. For up to three or four nites, teh Loon 138 is fine for carrying stuff one person needs, with emphasis on no excess. For fishing, there aren’t many, if any, sit insides that offer more.

Fishing Yaks
I was looking at the Loon 138 yesterday vice the Pungo 120. I noticed that the cocpit opening is a little smaller in the loon. For fishing has that presented any problems for any of you all.

The older Loon 138’s had a bigger
cockpit, 55". That’s what I have. The Loon 111 Classic also has a cockpit of that size, not sure about the 120. Though a bit smaller, the new 138’s cockpit shouldn’t pose any problem unless you are like me and carry/fish three or four rods at a time without rodholders, or carry two soft sided drink coolers, one for bait, one for drinks/sandwich. Or any of the half dozen other goofy things I carried and didn’t use. Damn, I need a bass boat.