More anglers are using kayaks, so there has to be a reason…or maybe lots of reasons.
Every day, thousands of folks commute across Mobile Bay on their way to work. Some of them don’t pay any attention to the water and the wildlife of the Delta as they whizz past while others wish they were on the water fishing instead of driving to another day of work.
For those folks who do observe what’s going on in the Delta, they are beginning to see more people fishing from small, narrow paddle boats. Although kayak fishing is a rather recent development, it’s turning into one of the fastest growing segments of the fishing scene. In fact, the Mobile Delta is becoming a hotbed of kayak fishing.
Why? Well, let’s see what makes kayak fishing on the Mobile Delta so special.
My Recent Kayak Fishing Trip on the Delta
The current of the Blakely River, one of the five rivers of the Mobile Delta, was slow but steady, and a live shrimp on the end of my line was bumping its way down the river as I drifted with the current.
Maintaining control of the drift of my bait was easy in my kayak. A small paddle stroke kept my kayak and line in proper alignment, so I was able to detect any sort of response from fish below.
“Once again, I was reminded of one of the real advantages of fishing from a kayak. When a big, strong fish hits and runs, a kayak is light enough so that the fish never gets a solid, line-breaking pull.”
As I neared a row of familiar old dock pilings on the eastern shore of the river, I felt a rush of adrenaline because I had a good idea of what was about to happen.
In anticipation, I tightened my grip on the rod handle and made one more small paddle adjustment to my slow drift. My rod tip jerked violently down into the water. The reel’s drag made a very nice sound and my kayak was pulled strongly toward the middle of the river. I was on a classic Mobile Delta sleigh ride.
Once again, I was reminded of one of the real advantages of fishing from a kayak. When a big, strong fish hits and runs, a kayak is light enough so that the fish never gets a solid, line-breaking pull. Instead, it moves both boat and angler.
And this strong fish was moving me and my kayak along right well.
It took me ten minutes or so but I used the drag of the reel and the weight of the kayak to wear my hooked fish down. A fine 12-pound redfish soon rolled at the side of my kayak where I could carefully grip its lower jaw. I took a few photos before removing the hook and setting the big red free.
And this was only the most recent red I had caught from my kayak that morning. Several more of different sizes came to me and my kayak that day.
If that scene appeals to you, then perhaps kayak fishing on the Mobile Delta might be just the thing for you. But first, let’s see how Delta kayak angling is done.
What Kind of Kayak?
Brian Carson is a member of the Mobile Bay Kayak Fishing Association, and he fishes the Delta area quite often. He provides us with some timely information about the kayak fishing game.
Selecting a kayak for fishing need not break the bank. “You don’t have to start out with a high-end kayak,” he says. “My wife fishes from an old ten-foot-long Perception kayak that she purchased on sale for about $250 a few years ago. You can find some really good used kayaks on your local Craigslist.”
“The biggest question is what kind of kayak are you comfortable in? Most fishing kayaks are sit-on-top, which are self-bailing. There are also two methods of propulsion-paddle or pedal. Kayak fishing can be the most economical means of fishing. Once you have purchased your kayak, your main expense is essentially over.
“The fact that you do not have to register and tag it annually, purchase fuel and oil, perform annual maintenance, and so on is what makes it an inexpensive means of fishing.”
Kayak angling is so much fun that I have five different kayaks which range from a pretty much top-of-the-line, peddle-powered boat (a Christmas present from my wife and daughter back when I had been very good) to small plastic beginners’ boats or wooden kayaks that I build myself.
Their commonality is that I catch fish from all of them. So, don’t dote on your boat. If the kayak floats, it can be used for fishing.
Where Can I Put In?
Basically, if you can drive to a spot on the Delta, you can put a kayak in and go fishing. There are several launch areas on the Causeway that are perfect for kayak anglers, and the ramps don’t have to be in great shape, either.
Kayaks can be carried, dragged, or simply lifted from the back of a truck or off a roof-top carrier and moved to the water.
Farther up the Delta, multiple fish camps and marinas make kayak launching easy, and public places like Byrne’s Lake north of Spanish Fort give Delta anglers easy access to the fishing.
Kayak anglers can simply drive up either the eastern or western shore of Mobile Bay and look for places that offer access to the water. Caution: don’t cross private property without permission, but a great many public areas allow anglers access to the fish.
Carson says, “There are plenty of places where a sandy spot can provide access that is not necessarily dedicated to launching canoes and kayaks.”
A well-protected ramp that gives good access to the lower parts of Blakely River is at Meaher Park, just off the Causeway. This park has a $3 launch fee, but most of the ramps on the Causeway itself are free to the public. And they can be found from the Mobile side of the Causeway over to the Spanish Fort end.
Finding kayak launch spots is not really much of a problem on the Delta.
Can I Really Catch Fish in the Delta? How?
Brian Carson gets excited when he talks about catching fish from his kayak. “You can definitely catch fish from a kayak in the Delta!” he says. “While a kayak lacks the speed and range of a power boat, it has several tactical advantages over them. The first being stealth. A kayak can be extremely quiet, and you can easily fish a school of skittish speckled trout or redfish on the flats along the Causeway.
“The second advantage fishing kayaks have is the ability to fish what is referred to as ‘skinny water.’ Even the largest of fishing kayaks can easily be paddled in water less than a foot deep. One other significant advantage to kayak fishing is where you can launch. It’s possible to launch into ditches, small creeks, ponds, and right off the beach.”
Carson continues. “There is really no fishing technique that you cannot perform in a kayak. You will find several people along the coast who fish with fly rods in the rivers, bays, and even the Gulf. Everything from bream to sailfish can be and have been caught from a kayak.”
Kayak anglers can catch a wide range of game fish in the Mobile Delta. From the bottom of the Delta, around the Causeway, all of the saltwater species—redfish, speckled trout, flounder, jack crevalle, sheepshead and more—are commonly found. You can expect to encounter them.
As the angler chooses to launch farther north, the fish species become freshwater. Bass, bream of all kinds, catfish (some very large) and crappie are all common in the middle and upper Delta.
Of course, there is always a very good chance that a Delta kayak angler will encounter both freshwater and saltwater fish at the same place and the same time on the same bait. It’s lots of fun catching a nice largemouth bass on a cast and then hooking and fighting a speck or a redfish on the very next cast.
Kayak anglers need to keep in mind that some very big, strong fish live in the Delta. And they are not particular about what kind of boat is being used by an angler. When a big redfish or catfish takes a kayak angler for a ride, it’s fun and a little bit scary, too, but it’s a trip that will not be forgotten.
How About Hazards?
Anytime we go on the water, dangerous situations can develop. This is true of kayak fishing, too.
“First, a kayak has a much lower profile on the water than a power boat and can be harder to see,” says Brian Carson. “This can be somewhat overcome with a mast or pole featuring a high-visibility, colored flag. Another hazard to kayak fishing is the dreaded roll-over or ‘turtling.’ It is often said that there are only two kinds of kayak fishermen; those that have rolled over and those that lie about it never happening to them. With the advent of larger and more stable fishing kayaks, the chances of this happening have been greatly reduced.”
On a personal note, I’ve found that rolling a kayak is not the end of the world. I did it several times, and it’s just a matter of getting the kayak back upright and then climbing back in—no big deal. Just have your rod and reel and other gear secured to the boat so it won’t be lost, and you’re back in business.
“A couple of hazards in the Delta that can specifically affect kayak anglers are the muddy bottom and the smallest wildlife there—bugs.”
Carson continues. “There are always questions and fears from beginners about the alligators in the Delta and fishing near them. Typically, they are passive. They could not care less about a kayak fisherman. Simply give them plenty of room and do not make them feel threatened.”
Weather can also be somewhat of a hazard, as in any activity on the water. Kayak fishermen have to be a little more wary of high winds as this can make it more difficult to return to the launch in a timely manner. The rougher water that can accompany wind, especially around the summertime thunderstorms here can make for a hard paddle back in.
A couple of hazards in the Delta that can specifically affect kayak anglers are the muddy bottom and the smallest wildlife there—bugs. Kayak anglers and anglers of any kind should never attempt to get out of the boat and wade while in the Mobile Delta. The muddy bottom of the Mobile Delta is deep and very sticky. Stay in the boat.
The Mobile Delta mosquitoes can be impressive at times, and kayak anglers will want to have good bug spray on hand to help keep the little biters at bay.
How Can I Get Started on This Delta Kayak Fishing Thing?
Brian Carson says, “If you are interested or think you might want to try kayak fishing, there are several places you can go to get information and help. My personal favorite is the Mobile Bay Kayak Fishing Association’s website and forum.
Another favorite of mine is the Great Days Outdoors Forum. The Inshore Fishing Section has plenty of kayak fishermen posting there. All of the local kayak shops have friendly staffs that are more than willing to help you with advice and information.”
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