Are the fish beyond reach from shore? Or are they in too shallow waters to reach by motorboat? Grab your oars, life-jacket, fishing gear and hop aboard! Jack Lai of Kayak Project Singapore is about to bring us into the world of kayak fishing in Singapore.
Enjoying the serene moment before the “battle” begins
It’s 7am in the morning and you are already out on the water with your kayak. Your kayak glides along the waves stealthily, not unlike a predator closing in on its prey. You rig up your trusted and battle-hardened lure. Solitude in the vastness of the ocean heightens your every sense. You can hear every splash. You can see every swirl. At that moment, a fish grabs your lure and takes off, your reel drag screaming in retaliation as the fish tows your kayak. After a short triumphant fight, your adversary lays on your kayak, defeated but still alive. A quick photo and the fish is released to fight another day. You lick your lips in anticipation of the next big one. Welcome to the world of kayak fishing.
Both different forms of fishing sharing the spotlight.
Years ago, the popularity of kayak fishing in Singapore was probably somewhere between mud wrestling and base-jumping. Thanks to the many pioneers here, kayak fishing is no longer a venture into the unknown. We are no longer looked upon as being crazy for heading out to the ocean with a 9-foot piece of plastic and a paddle. We are now getting smiles and waves from the boaters sharing the ocean with us.
So if we are not crazy, why then do we kayak and fish? If you ask ten of us, you will probably get ten different answers. I will attempt to narrow down to a few obvious reasons. Each form of fishing has its own allure, be it pond fishing, surf casting, freshwater luring. Kayak fishing is no different.
Exploring every nook and cranny with the aid of a kayak.
Fishing on a kayak means you are now able to explore different and previously unexplored territories. What was once inaccessible now becomes a short paddle away. You will be surprised how many unexplored fishing spots there are. With a kayak, you are now ready to find your own fishing haven. Some shallow waters are simply not accessible by conventional boats and your little fishing machine has no such problem. The stealthy nature of the kayak means that the fish are less likely to be spooked and more willing to take your lure or jig. There are also loads of different fishing techniques to be done on a kayak. You can lure, jig or even troll. The biggest benefit of fishing from a kayak is the ease of use and the affordability compared to owning a boat.
The satisfaction of landing a fish on a kayak cannot be discounted. I look at it as fighting the battle at the enemy’s own backyard. You are no longer fighting the fish from a jetty or a boat. You are now in their terrain, in the “hot-zone”, as they might say. The fish will take the battle to you, pulling your kayak in circles, raining blows after blows on your lure. The kayak is your most vital piece of equipment as it acts as a drag and tires the fish before it surfaces and surrenders, similar to the movie “Jaws”, where the vessel Orca attempted to drag the shark back to shore. (The boat unfortunately sank in the end. It’s probably not the best example, but you get the idea!).
Kayak fishing also brings you closer to nature for those who love a sense of adventure. No more noisy kids running around and no more lovers taking up your favourite fishing spot. It’s like watching the National Geographic Channel come to life when the occasional eagle swoops down right beside you. Heck, there are times when I expect the giant tail of a whale to come splashing out of the water! Be prepared to be awed by beautiful sights. In fact, you can even spend the night on an island if you brought along your camping gear.
Aside from fishing, from a purely practical point of view, kayaking is a good form of physical activity. There were times when we were so bushed that we could barely lift our heads to see where we were going. But no sooner after you’ve stowed your kayak back onto the car, you are already making plans with your fellow kayakers for the next trip.
Now before you run off immediately to get a kayak of your own, I’d like to share some tips gathered from the local community of kayak anglers. There are probably a thousand tips I can share here, but these are some of the more important ones:
First of all, you’ll need a kayak. A kayak is a small boat powered manually by a double bladed paddle. There are many variations but the basic models are sit on tops and sit inside kayaks.
A sit inside kayak comes with a cockpit and a seat inside the kayak. It usually comes with a skirt and you are protected from the elements. Certain kayaking techniques are required to exit and re-enter the kayak if you capsize. Meanwhile, sit on top kayaks are developed mainly for recreational activities such as fishing and diving. These kayaks feature a seat on top of the hull of the kayak. Such a design means it is easy to exit and enter the kayak but getting wet is pretty much a certainty. But if you are afraid of getting wet, then you really should look elsewhere. A sit on top kayak is by far the more popular choice for kayak fishing.
There are even kayaks propelled by pedals and which brings with it hands-free kayak fishing and all the benefits associated with it. An inflatable kayak is also a popular choice as it solves storage and transport issues. Other than the kayak itself, most anglers associate kayak fishing with loads and loads of gear. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of us tend to bring a full inventory of gears out while some prefer to go the minimalist route and only bring the essential stuff. Personally, I like to go as light as possible for my kayak and my equipment. I prefer to use minimum effort and time in both setting up and packing up.
Safety is obviously a major concern we cannot emphasize enough. A PFD (personal floatation device) is a must. We also strongly encourage kayak anglers to go out in groups and to check the weather, wind and tide forecast before launching. Have respect for the sea. You do not want to be caught in inclement weather out there. There have been times when we have set up all our equipment on the beach only to decide against going out when we spotted dark clouds approaching. A personal rule of thumb – When it looks like it’s going to rain, it usually does.
It is also important to be constantly alert and to look out for other boats. It is often difficult for large vessels to deviate from their course. Make yourself visible. Brightly coloured PFDs, paddles and clothing will help. As always, it is advisable to notify someone else if you plan on going out alone.
It is also a personal responsibility to know your own limits. I once read that kayaking is a solo sport best done in a group. There are obviously plenty of benefits with going out in a group but you are the best judge of your own physical limitations and you should not succumb to peer pressure to carry on.
Most of us are anglers first and then kayakers… well, maybe not even a close second. It’s fine if you plan to kayak fish near the shores or banks. But if you plan to venture out to deeper waters or crossing channels, it is best to familiarize yourself with capsize and re-entry drills and the proper paddling techniques. The proper paddling techniques (or pedalling techniques for kayaks with pedals) can get you to your fishing spot faster with less effort which equates to more fishing time. Generally, sea sports clubs hold kayaking classes. Alternatively, we have a strong local community of kayak anglers so learning the ropes is not that steep a learning curve.
I hope I have done the kayak fishing community justice with this article. There is a wealth of information and advice available out there if you are looking to join in this addiction of ours. Trust me, there is no turning back once you have embraced our world.
Welcome to our world of kayak fishing.