In the previous issue I outlined a few safety issue to bear in mind when kayak fishing. I referred to explaining a method that can really help if a kayaker gets caught in a very strong tide at a later date. Like most other safety issues it involves a small financial outlay but your purchase really will be worth its weight in gold. Small, folding grapnel anchors are really handy pieces of kit for the kayak angler, practical for fishing applications and at times they can be relied on to keep you safe when you paddle. Coupled with the anchor, an anchor trolley is essential for kayak anglers. The anchor trolley is not what it sounds like – a pair of wheels for transporting an anchor – and i’ll explain what it is and how it works later on. Firstly I would like to deal with the anchor.
My anchor kit consists of a 3lb/1.5kg folding grapnel anchor, six feet/two metres of heavy chain and one hundred and twenty feet of 550lb/250kg paracord. To any boat owners that are reading this, i’m sure that a 3lb/1.5kg anchor sounds very small but the for the kayak, being a very light craft anyway – mine weighs 52lb – an anchor this size is more than ample. Besides, the few feet of chain I have added give a bit of extra weight. The chain serves a second function too though, making sure the anchor is pinned to the sea or lake bed, allowing it to make purchase on the bottom a lot faster than if you had just tied your anchor rope direct. The rope is, as mentioned, paracord and this material can be easily sourced from many army supply or outdoors shops. The paracord is braided, very strong and its relatively low diameter helps to cut through stronger tides. Another advantage of it being low diameter is that it will not take up much space and I store mine by wrapping it around a shortened length of a broom handle to keep it neat and save it from tangling around other items on the kayak*.
As with any boat, when you drop anchor you should pay out at least triple the length of anchor rope for the depth of water you are fishing. If you are fishing in forty feet of water than you should pay out at least one hundred and twenty feet of rope, one hundred and sixty would be better again. There are a couple of reasons for this; firstly, the more acute the angle between the anchor and the boat or kayak, the faster the anchor will dig in and take hold especially if you have included an anchor chain. Secondly, and this applies particularly to kayak anglers at sea, a rope with plenty of extra paid out will allow the kayak to ride the sea swells if or when they pick up during you excursion. With too little rope paid out and a very tight, steep line between the anchor and the kayak, the swells will just pull the boat down in the water leading to it being swamped with water at best. Make sure you use more than enough rope when dropping anchor. Learn how to use the anchor and it will increase you catches. Some people like to fish at drift, I do too if it is bait I am searching for but when I set my sights on something bigger I much prefer being able to remain static and allowing the bait to create a scent trail which, in a running tide, the fish can follow from some distance right up to my hooks and on a kayak dropping anchor is the only way to do this.
The second practical use for having an anchor on the kayak is to help you if you happen to make a mistake when studying the tides before you set out. I wish I had an anchor with me on one of my early explorations. Along the area of the east coast that I live, close to Bray, County Wicklow, the tide flows in a northerly direction when it floods and in a southerly direction when it ebbs. In my early kayaking days I mixed the two directions up and while I was never in any real danger, a stronger tide than what I had experienced on the day could have easily resulted in trouble. I launched the kayak from a position just north of Bray Head and I intended to paddle south towards the old harbour at Greystones. New to the game and not realising that I had gotten the tides wrong, I was very impressed with myself when I made it to my destination within a twenty five minutes, without even breaking a sweat. Of course, the tide had carried me there and I had found it easy going.
I pulled the boat up onto the shore and had a quick bite to eat and then thought about the return journey. However this time I was pushing against the tide and progress was painfully slow. The same journey took me just over an hour and a half on the way back and to say I was tired when I finally landed would be an understatement. The thing that really bothered me about the return leg was not the slow progress that I was making against a flowing tide but the fact that whenever I stopped for a thirty second breather I was literally swept five hundred metres back the way I had just paddled. If I had an anchor in my possession it would have been a simple case of just dropping anchor to catch my breath, pulling it up quickly after my rest and the result would not be a huge amount of wasted paddling. The anchor is a great accessory to improve your catches but it is also an essential item that you can rely on if you happen to get caught in a tide stronger than you are used to.
I mentioned an anchor trolley earlier and anybody using an anchor on a kayak should install one of these devices. Why do you need one? When you are out fishing in any type of boat you have the advantage when you are anchoring up of being able to move to the bow or stern of the boat to do so. The anchor is dropped and the boat swings on the flow to face into it. On a kayak, the paddler sits in the middle and they cannot move to either end of the boat. The anchor is dropped in the middle and if it is secured here then the kayak sits side on to the flow. This is very dangerous in any type of flow and is one sure way of resulting in capsizing. The anchor trolley is a system which allows the kayaker to position the anchor at either the bow or the stern of the boat without having to leave their seat, and facilitates the kayak to sit stationary with the end of you choice facing the flow. A far, far safer option than sitting side on to it.
The components utilised in this system are easy to find in DIY stores and the installation of it is handy enough. Mine took about half an hour to make and secure to my kayak. It consists of a couple of carabiners, a couple of small pulleys, about fifteen feet of paracord and a small length of bungee cord. At each end of the kayak I riveted a u-shaped pad eye. To each I connected a small loop of bungee cord to which I added a pulley each. I ran the paracord between both pulleys and brought it back to the centre of the kayak where the loose ends were attached to the hard plastic triangle. When I drop anchor, I pay my rope through the plastic triangle and tie it off to a cleat that I placed inside the kayak. Once the anchor has caught the sea bed it is a simple case of pulling the paracord on the anchor trolley system which will allow me to push or pull the anchor towards either end of the kayak, depending on which way I want to face when I am fishing. It eliminates sitting side on to a flowing tide and allows the kayak to ride any waves or swells that come my way as well as not get swamped by the tide’s pull. This system allows me to get out and fish comfortably in even quite choppy waters safe in the knowledge that I will not be capsized by a running tide and a bit of a swell. I would never attempt to go out in these types of conditions without the anchor trolley and the anchor.
The last thing I bring out that concerns anchoring is a small marker that I can clip to my anchor rope. This is as simple as an empty five litre plastic bottle. It needs to be suitable for attaching to your anchor rope, so if you do need to unclip yourself and start drifting in a hurry you can attach the marker and return later on to retrieve your anchor. A lot of people may deem this as unnecessary but if you like the thought of catching big fish on a small craft then I would urge you to include it in your kit. Now that I have gotten to grips with the kayak angling I have been targetting tope. I have caught a couple while at anchor now and even a 20lb fish will pull a kayak around. I think your best option if you happen to hook a tope is to unhook yourself from the anchor rope and enjoy being pulled around the coast by a small shark! You can return to the marker and the anchor at your leisure when the fight has ended and the fish has been released and if you are on the drift and your drag is set right a tope has no hope of pulling you sideways or under.
Fighting Large Fish
It may not be for the faint hearted but I think the tope I have caught from the kayak has possibly been the most exhilarating angling experience I have enjoyed to date. The trick if you are getting towed is to keep the rod tip close to the bow of the kayak and where ever the fish runs, you will follow it in a straight line. People have told me they think I am a little bit mad to be chasing small sharks on a kayak but I have seen videos of lads successfully landing 350lb+ marlin on similar craft so if marlin can be beaten on them, so can tope. Apprehensive about getting my camera wet when out on the kayak, unfortunately I do not have any pictures of the capture but just last week I managed to get my hands on a waterproof camera so if the weather behaves itself I may just get a picture of one in before the autumn is over. One of them was witnessed by my girlfriend who at the time was a little nervous to be so close to such a powerful looking fish, when she had decided to take her non-fishing kayak out for a paddle while I fished a couple of weeks ago.
Kayak fishing has opened up a whole new dimension of the sport to me. I urge anybody that is in a position to try it to do so. You will not regret it. The only thing that I cannot stress enough is to make sure that you pay strict attention to all the safety procedures. When you are fishing from a small craft only inches above the water line a mile from the shore you really start to realise just how insignificant you are out there. The least you can do is make sure that you are prepared for any eventuality.
If anybody has any comments or queries than please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
* I have upgraded my anchoring system since writing this piece. I now use a diver’s reel and the attached cord for my anchor line and a hi-vis marker buoy has replaced the empty bottle.