What's the right inflatable vessel for fishing with a 3 or 5 year old?

Hi Community,

I have a 3 year old + 5 year old. They love the outdoors and we’ve been kayaking before, albeit in hard rental kayaks. My wife takes one and I take the other. My goal is to go fishing and general kayaking in the SF Bay + various lakes in California.

I’m looking at the Sea Eagle 385FTA with the “Pro” configuration. Part of my concern is whether I should bother with the “fishing” edition. And in general, if forward facing seats work well with a very young child? It seems like it might be awkward as it would be better to be side-by-side in a more traditional boat. The plan is to use the boat for the next 5+ years. At some point they would graduate to solo canoes.

I want to balance quality time, exercise, fishing with my little ones. Is the Sea Eagle fishing kayak the right one for the job? I’ll probably end up needing to get 2…

PS. I really dislike the huge lettering on the side of the 385FTA…

Here’s the one I’m looking at:

When you say “side by side”, are you talking with you or their sibling? Two kids can work side by side, but it doesn’t really work if they are next to you. It doesn’t allow you to paddle comfortably. Kids generally do fine in their own seats, and it looks like you maybe able to turn the front seat around in the boat pictured above. Trim will be an issue, but you can generally compensate with a little extra weight in front. How much you’ll need will depend on how much adjustability the rear seat has. I’ve used a collapsible water jug in the bow before. You can fill it to the level you need, and ten pour it out when you head home.

I’d make sure I was well trained before taking a child out in self rescue and rescue of others. I’d severely limit my exposure when paddling.

Guy in long island took his kid out in inflatable. Left the Nisseqouge River got pulled out to the Long Island Sound and drown. Kid survived.

The various bay area reservoirs and lakes and in the delta, an inflatable should be fine. But not sure where in SF Bay you plan to paddle, but keep in mind, not all parts of SF Bay are the same. Paddling the protected channels/sloughs or smaller bays off the main currents, is one thing. Paddling areas with open water and currents is a much different thing.

Here is a current chart for SFBay: Dropbox - Tidal_Current_Charts_SF_Bay.pdf - Simplify your life I would avoid paddling any place that has an arrow showing a current stronger than 0.5 on any of the pages (you really need to look at all pages, unless you can figure out the tide conditions when you would paddle and could look at just those pages).

Inflatable kayaks are very much impacted by winds - much more than a hard shell kayak. You should look to paddle when it is calm and/or where you have some protection. Spring and summer, this means mornings, as winds normally pick up in afternoon. Sticking to a west shore provides some protection from our most-common west wind (but, obviously, nothing from winds from other directions). If I looked at a weather report and saw winds approaching 10 mph, I would not take an inflatable out.

Keep in mind water temperatures also. Here is a site that has readings and estimates for some locations: NCEI Coastal Water Temperature Guide - Pacific Coast: Central table. If the water temps are below 60-65, any time in the water could be life threatening.

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Sitting backwards in a boat will make some kids (and many adults) seasick. And most kids will want to look where you are headed, not behind.

I wouldn’t pay an extra $100 for the “fishing” version but then I am not a fishing person. Perhaps the darker color is less startling to fish? I don’t see much else different. Note that dark plastics can heat up quite a bit on sunny days. Being in the water would tend to cancel that out as far as causing air in the bladders to expand, but on land it could lead to a blow out or having the gunwales uncomfortably hot. When I worked on archaeology field crews we had black plastic SunShower bladders that we filled with water and left in the sun every day so we could take hot showers at the end of each day.

I’m guessing when the kids are still small you could just leave the front seat out and let the kids clamber around as they wish in the front of the boat – hard to get them to sit still at that age anyway. Maybe get a couple of the square type flotation cushions for them to sit on in the hull (tether them – cushions, not kids – to the hardware points for the seat so they won’t float away if you dump.)

Get a couple cheap short canoe paddles for the kids. The boats are too wide for a small person to use a kayak paddle but as long as they don’t use single blades for combat purposes these would give them something to wield.

You might also consider the 385 version with the sailing accessory or the trolling motor option. Might take some of the effort off paddling the kids solo to have some wind or motor assistance, especially in coastal conditions or larger lakes where you may be fighting stiff breeze and/or currents.

By side-by-side - I mean that when the kayak is stopped, I assumed that being able to sit side by side and look out over the water would be best. I like an idea that someone suggested about taking the front seat out and just letting one or even 2 kids sit in the front. That gives alot more freedom. Great idea about the weight. I have a similar fexible 5 gallon water jug. Much appreciated.

Very good points. I’ve already had to save my little guy before in a duck pond. So I’ll be super conservative. For now, that means going on very warm days on very calm lakes. Probably wouldn’t risk my 3 year old in the bay unless it was in a shielded slough. Appreciate the warning.

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Hugely appreciate the info about the tidal charts. I’ll add that to my responsible dad toolbox. Great points about the winds. As I mentioned in another reply - I’m going to be ultra conservative: protected shores / sloughs + calm lakes only (I’ve got my eye on Quarry Lake in Fremont). I figure lakes will be warmer so I wouldn’t brave the bay much until it gets nice and hot.

Really great points here. I’d love to have both kids in the same boat with floatation cushions. Also I was worried about the double paddles so the oars are a great idea. As well, you’re totally right about the 385 with a motor or sail. Appreciate it.

Quarry Lakes is a protected place to paddle. They do stock with fish, so fishing should be good. Not large - I’d get bored quickly, but should be fine with the little ones. If I remember right, the various fees (parking, launch, invasive species inspection, etc.) are a bit onerous.

My grandson at that age insisted on being seated so he could see me in our canoe. He also liked to paddle. Got interesting a time or two.

Update: I purchased the Sea Eagle 465FT Pro Motor package. 2 seats + trolling motor. Since my wife is not 100% set on the purchase, I can take 1 child, or 2 kids + my wife (instead of buying (2x) 385FT’s.

Hopefully this will lead to good things. it’s back ordered until Mid-April so now we wait (water is a bit too cold anyways). Thanks for everyone’s help and advise. Excited about using the trolling motor since my son asked for a “speedboat”.