Using Fish Finders in Saltwater Kayak Fishing

by David Proudfoot

Nothing really beats the pleasure of a day out on the open water – where there is nothing but you, nature, and the soothing sounds of the sea, and of course, a hectic time with the fish. Electronics retailer Shabbir Nooruddin explains why using a fish finder on a kayak can contribute to a great day at sea.

Using Fish Finders in Saltwater Kayak FishingTo quote famous author Joseph Monninger, “I go fishing not to find myself but to lose myself.”

Fishing the deep blue from a kayak is a great way to have fun on a weekend – and it can also be a thrilling sport. Unlike freshwater fish that are smaller and comparatively calm, saltwater fish can be the “big game.” We are talking about 450-pound marlin, sharks, and giant tuna that can hours to tire out. These fish require stronger rods, stronger reels, and of course, a strong angler. For targeting bigger fish, it is usually recommended to use a large boat, and there are fighting chairs with straps and supports that you use when fighting the fish – so you are not pulled in yourself.

When you are fishing from a kayak, you need to be sure you are safe and are targeting the right species – lest you end up unprepared in an unexpected battle with a giant marlin or shark. That is where the fish finders come in – before you cast a reel, you can take a good guess at what is below your craft. When you couple this with the fact that your main advantage as a kayak angler is that you can reach areas that larger boats cannot – such as backwaters and salt marshes – you have a winning combination.

Plumbing the depths

Even though some of the more powerful fish finders can theoretically “see” down to 1000 feet, such a deep reading will be of limited usefulness on a small screen. Where fish finders really shine is shallower water – which is exactly where your kayak is best suited to fish. Luckily, mounting a fish finder in a kayak is fairly easy business – the main unit sits comfortably anywhere, but the transducer requires some creativity. There are four main methods for fitting the transducer; using a sucker cup and mount, on a mount near the rudder, through the hull and through a scupper hole.

When looking for a depth sounder there are a few basic things that you need to establish before purchasing. Firstly, what depth are you going to be fishing? There is no point in having a fish finder that gives great output at 20 meters if you are fishing in a deep sea loch where the signal does not reach the seabed. Next, the screen size, colour and resolution, on a kayak you may be limited to the smaller screen size or to grayscale because of the power required to operate the larger units but generally the bigger the better. Finally, do you want a combined GPS unit, handy for saving space. For more detailed information of sounder selection check out this guide.

When you are targeting shallow water with a fish finder that uses 3D SONAR, such as Lowrance DownScan or Humminbird Down Imaging, you can literally see a picture of what is going on beneath your boat. Now, you can spot structure such as drop-offs, cliffs, changes in the bottom, and submerged objects like boats, man-made objects, pylons, and reefs, which are all like magnets for baitfish. Wherever there are baitfish, larger sport fish will be hunting.

Using Fish Finders in Saltwater Kayak Fishing

When you use your 3D SONAR in shallow water, you can get a good idea of the size of the fish beneath your boat – so when you cast your line, you really know what you are up against.

Safety first

Some good game fish to target in the US as a beginner are; snook, red drum, and seatrout. All of these fish are of a nice enough size to be a catch you can boast about, but they are not so big as to capsize your kayak in the fight.

In European waters cod, bass and pollack are worthy adversaries in and around the coast waters. Like their US cousins, they can provide great inshore sport around reef and rocky pinnacles located on your sounder. The quality of display available on fish finders these days makes it possible to differentiate between rocky seabeds and softer ground and using this the angler afloat can target specific species.

Although most kayak anglers tend to stay close to the shore, there are those who are daring and adventurous who take their kayaks out on the deep sea and target huge gamefish or fish the Scottish sea lochs for massive common skate. This video of a battle with a giant sailfish is quite a watch!

One last consideration – and one of the most important in terms of safety – is to have a fish finder that has GPS capabilities built-in. These units will help find your way home in fog, although a compass backup should also be available, and can help get you back to the mark where the fish are or have been feeding in the past.

kayak pollack

The bottom line is that when you take time to understand the display of your fish finder they can considerably boost your prospects of a great day at sea and like Nicholas Valentin, enjoy some terrific catches.


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