Best Kayak Fishing Accessories to Help Land Big Fish
Most kayak anglers learn very quickly that safely handling big fish of any kind at boat side is a little bit different from most fishing situations. Kayak anglers are sitting, and they don’t have the full use of their legs and backs to help control a big fish. Kayak anglers are very close to the water and the fish, and kayak anglers can’t jump out of the way obviously limiting our mobility. That means that when it comes to safely land big fish, the best kayak fishing accessories are simple, dependable tools to make the operation safer for both angler and fish.
Best Kayak Fishing Accessories – Lip Grippers
Kayak anglers can find a wide range of very effective lip-gripper type landing devices, and they all work to help subdue fish that are to be released unharmed. A good pair of lip grippers should be on the kayak for every saltwater fishing trip since we never know when a big, strong fish is going to show up.
These landing tools operate on the principle of a pair of pliers can help control the head of a caught fish and to keep the fish from dropping into the boat and onto the angler.
I’ve used a wide range of gripper type landing devices, and my favorites are the ones that float. Metal grippers with scales and “pull-down” weighing features are nice, but I tend to drop stuff overboard and, unfortunately, the metal grippers don’t float.
Lip grippers work very well for kayak anglers on big redfish, kings, and even deep water red snapper. Gripper devices keep fingers away from sharp teeth, and with the head of a big fish controlled, a kayak angler can usually deal safely with the rest of the fish.
And lip grippers even work well for hardhead catfish. I once landed a fat three pound hardhead catfish by hand, and I brought the slimy thing into the kayak with me so I could remove the hook and cuss the catfish.
Without using a lip gripper, I couldn’t control the fish, and it dehooked itself and fell onto my leg. It was an interesting moment when the super-sharp, super painful top fin of that nasty old catfish punctured my knee. Of course, it could have fallen into my lap, so things could have been worse, but that little accident would not have happened if I had used lip grippers.
Best Kayak Fishing Accessories – Gaffs/Spears/Clubs
Sometimes kayak anglers go after very big, very strong, potentially quite dangerous quarry, and for these times, gaffs and single point spears are very effective for safely landing a big fish. When a gaff or spear is applied properly, the fish experiences shock and internal damage that tends to quiet the fish down immediately.
For kayak use, gaffs need to have short handles with non-slip grips, and the business end of the gaff needs to have a good protective guard. A long handled gaff can become a club to beat the angler in a kayak if a big fish is not gaffed properly.
Big brown cobia are popular kayak angling targets when they migrate along the coasts of Florida and kayak anglers are getting very proficient at hooking and playing these hard-fighters from the small boats.
Cobia to be kept should be gaffed, and then when brought alongside, a healthy whack with a club or fish bat should be applied to the head. This might need to be repeated.
Cobia are very strong, they have ferociously sharp and stout spines on their backs, and they are known for being very difficult to manage when brought into a boat of any kind. Having an angry, thrashing cobia landed in my lap when I’m on my kayak is not something I want to experience- therefore, using the bat to terminally quiet a cobia is a good idea.
Big king mackerel might also require the gaff and bat combination.
Best Kayak Fishing Accessories – Landing Nets
Traditional wide-mouth landing nets work well, but they can be a pain on kayaks. Wide nets tend to get in the way, and they are very good at getting caught in backcasts and creating terrible tangles which must be cleared.
There are some very good net options specifically for kayak anglers.
Landing nets specifically designed for kayak angler often fold up into a much smaller unit or the pouch part of the net can be pulled up into the handle. In both cases, kayak anglers have a net that can be quickly and easily put into working shape and then used to get that big fish into the kayak.
When using a landing net in a kayak, it is a good idea to have a handle long enough that when the fish is caught, the handle can be slipped under the angler’s backside on the seat where it will be secure, and then both hands will be free to deal with the fish and accessories.
This article first appeared in the July 2019 print issue of Great Days Outdoors Magazine. For more great hunting and fishing content for the deep South, subscribe to Great Days Outdoors print and digital editions or click the image to download this issue.