UK Kayak Fishing – Sea Angling From Kayaks

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UK Kayak Fishing – Sea Angling From Kayaks

Kayak Fishing – Starting Out

UK KAYAK FISHING Sometime around December I, like many other sea anglers,purchase a tide book for the forthcoming year. My initial task on sifting through the months is to highlight the big spring tides with a day glow marker pen; anything above 5.5m on Scarborough tables.

These tides give rock anglers a chance to reach outlying scars and the dense kelp filled holes at low tide that predominate on the Yorkshire coast line, and therefore the prospect of at least of some reasonable fishing. Unfortunately the time we get on on these scars is limited, and as soon as the tide starts to make we are constantly watching behind us with intrepidation as the sea rapidly fills in the gullies.

I wanted to stay on these scars longer without the worry, I also wanted to reach these scars and fish holding holes on smaller tides.

I’ve heard of Welsh anglers donning wet suits to swim to such marks on their coast, so the thought process was not unique or completely unreasonable.

I could see the benefit of a wetsuit in that it required no extra luggage, apart from maybe a dry bag for tackle, but I was sure there was a better and more comfortable solution. If my idea was to become reality it had to be practical; it had to get to the waters edge without too much strain.

The natural choice was some sort of water craft; when I thought about it pragmatically I decided it was to be either a small dingy or a canoe.

I had used a canoe before and knew that they were quite light and could be carried by one person, a dingy I thought would be too cumbersome to get to the mark. I recalled seeing kayaks in the sea around Bempton so their sea worthiness was tried and tested. This was how I got into sea kayak fishing.

kayak fishing for pollockIt was early June 2006 and the summer was set in, we were in a heat wave and the sea was like glass; crystal clear, and inviting.

The perfect time to make the purchase and get on the water. I bought canoe and kayaker from Smiths where I saw a local firm Robinhood Water Sports from Leeds advertising their products that included sea kayaks.

It wasn’t long before I was there in my van viewing their impressive range, and purchased a Tarpon 100 kayak, together with a paddle, paddle leash and PFD (personal flotation devise).

The kayak was strapped to the roof rack with straps thrown in with the purchase and I headed back to the coast. The Tarpon 100 is 10 feet long and was much smaller than some of the other yaks but looked easy to handle and not too heavy; perfect for my purpose.

The maiden voyage took place about three days after. Living at Holbeck in Scarborough means that I’m fortunate in living very near to the pond and carried the vessel down the cliff through the gardens.

Like all things new it took some carrying, finding the shape more of a hindrance than the weight, but this would get easier with experience. Getting into the yak and onto the water also proved difficult at first, just a question of balance and finding the right technique, but these problems soon iron out with more trips.

It was great going along Holbeck that evening, the sea was clear and you could see the bladderwrack waving in the current, you could also pick out several small fish; I was soon entering the next bay Cornelian.

This bay is a series of gullies and reefs, it was awesome being in several feet of water then suddenly gazing beneath you find a cluster of boulders only two feet down. I beached the yak before attempting the next stage of the journey’s aim.

I was always concerned of how the yak would cope with the tide, it was a middling tide of about a five metres that evening, but the weather was perfect; it had to be done then. Broken rock gradually turned to kelp beds that were getting harder to make out, I could also see on the surface patterns made by the current; I was nervous.

It was a flooding tide coming down from the north so I knew which direction I would be working against. I let the yak drift down going where the tide dictated, keeping a respectful eye on the tide as it left it’s mark on the surface when it met a crab pot marker.

The pot markers served as a great point of reference as I made my way back against the tide; a task that the yak did with apparent ease.

I repeated this three or four times before making my way back home to Holbeck, quite happy with how sea worthy the kayak was. I was now thinking seriously of fishing in the tide as opposed to just extending my shore fishing range. Getting it up the cliff proved hard and I was sweating profusely ,still it beats going to the gym.

Kayak Is Inuit For Hunters Boat

having a breatherKayak is Inuit for “hunter’s boat”, making it the perfect and ideal vessel to fish from.

At first my tackle was rather unorganised, with leads, line and hooks all over the cockpit; I was trying to keep it order but space is the first luxury that is lacking in a kayak.

I found that safety was the priority so making sure the paddle was where it should be and correctly leashed was my first and foremost concern.

Also I found that twisting my body round to the rear tankwell where tackle and food and drink ideally should be stored caused an imbalance; but this dilemma, as with others, would be overcome later.

The rod on that first sortie was a rather stiff 30lb class boat rod of six foot. This was linked with a Penn 353 loaded with 50lb dacron; a very quick reel ideal for inside rock fishing. On the Tarpon 100 this outfit is attached to the yak on the left hand side by an elastic cord; I would later improve this method.

I was targeting cod with a single home made feather/hokia rig, attached to the bottom of a three ounce lead. The sea was like glass as the first venture but this time it was a beautiful morning, it must have been 20oc at six in the morning.

On the second drift I thought the hook had fouled the bottom, but as the bow of the yak turned around and moved against the tide, with the rod pounding, I knew I had hooked a decent fish.

It’s a surreal feeling when you see a plump six pound cod come up from the depths on a yak on your maiden outing; also one of great satisfaction. Your so close to the water your part of it.

Like all hooked cod it thrashed when it stubbornly arrived at the surface, proving difficult to land; when I managed to put my hands in the gills I lifted it into the cockpit.

A lovely looking fresh run fish caught at dawn, in what for me was the dawn of a new fishing adventure; yes I was hooked. The north sea eventually delivered five cod to the kayak that morning; the pull up the cliff was this time harder.

cod fishing in a kayakWith my appetite sufficiently wet for kayak fishing I hit the google button on the computer, that revealed an interesting search that I wished I had done earlier.

With my research I soon learnt the major manufacturers and models that kayak fisherman favour. I learnt my Tarpon 100 was, although a good sea kayak, not the ideal choice.

A longer kayak is much quicker and therefore better in the sea particular if you go for a length of time, they also have better storage. I felt a certain sense of attachment to the Tarpon as we shared an embryonic moment in my fishing career, but I wanted a more suitable kayak as I had plans for going further afield.

That said it was not long till I was back at Leeds purchasing an Ocean Prowler 15, which is fifteen foot, a third bigger than the Tarpon that had a fair overhang on the roof rack on the Corsa Combo.

This kayak was slightly heavier but not too much that you could not carry it single handed. The Prowler was soon kitted out with the accessories described below and the majority of the summer of 2006 was spent on board my “hunter’s boat”, gaining first hand experience of sea kayak fishing.

Safety Issues For Kayak Angling.

kayak trolleyThere are many safety issues to consider before you get involved in sea kayak fishing. I have found many on the numerous kayak fishing web sites, but many issues are gained from experience, that include mistakes made.

I don’t believe that there’s a substitute from time spent on the water. Also bare in mind that although kayak fishing is growing in the UK, it is still in it’s infancy.

Firstly the most important issue is to be aware that kayaking is a physically demanding activity, you have to question your body; is it capable of the physical exertions that paddling requires?

In an ideal world going out in pairs is advisable but if you go on your own tell someone where your going and roughly what time you’ll arrive back.

Before going out I always do some upper body exercises to warm up as you can easily pull a muscle. Always wear a PFD (personal flotation device) when your on the water.

You have to dress for the water not the air temperature. If you go in and are not protected you run the serious risk of hypothermia.

This can be either a wetsuit, dry suit, dry cag and dry pants, or waders with one or two wading belts and a dry bag. In the summer a shortie wetsuit is fine.

I also have a dry bag in the hatch that has a towel, tee-shirt and an old fleece in if something goes wrong. I’ve only been in the drink twice and this was on the way in during a surf at Reighton.

Once you get broadside in a surf your doomed. I’ve now mastered the technique by going in backwards. That way you can attack the wave as it comes; go into it.

When it’s past then you can begin again to paddle backwards until your back on the beach. Don’t forget your head, a fleece hat when it’s cold and a sun hat when it’s sunny.

The paddle is your engine, it needs to be attached to the yak or your wrist by a leash; lose the paddle lose your propulsion. Some people carry a spare paddle also.

Communication is made through a VHF radio, either fixed or handheld; mine is handheld that goes around my neck. Make sure that it’s fully charged before you go out.

Also a fully charged mobile phone is a good idea, both these pieces need to have some protection if they get submerged, so a dry bag is needed.

Purchase some flares and store them permanently on the kayak, again in a waterproof container. I also have whistle around my neck.

For navigation I use a hand held GPS; you can get a fixed one but either way check battery status, and carry spares if needed.

A compass is also an important backup piece of navigation equipment. I carry a small first aid kit; plasters, wipes, muscle rub. When the sun shines and reflects on the water a good pair of sunglasses are worth their weight in gold.

Make sure you check the weather forecast before going out taking note of wind and visibility. There are many good weather sites on the internet that are really good.

It’s better to arrange your fishing around the weather than around when you can go. If you think it looks far from comfortable it probably is, so stay put.

In the summer watch out for the sea breezes that seem to come from nowhere; in the morning and evening they are generally gone. Have some knowledge of the tidal currents where your going to fish, and how the weather may effect them. Be aware of any tide rips.

I find in summer these are the best times to be on the water. I sometimes put a flag at the back of the yak that is hi visibility so you can be seen if it’s poor visibility.

Always take plenty of fluids with you, water being the best; you can soon become dehydrated in the warm months. Common sense should prevail all the time, and always follow your gut instincts.

The very nature of sea kayaking demands these safety issues but if followed it is very safe, as responsible kayakers have responded to all eventualities.

Auxiliary Equipment – Fishfinders And GPS For Kayak Fishing

c tug kayak trolleyTo assist moving the kayak you need a trolley that goes at the back of the yak and you can pull the boat along.

Some make their own from all sorts of things but an old golf trolley seems to be popular. I made one decided to pack up going up the cliff. I have since bought a C- Tug kayak trolley from Robinhood Water Sports costing around 80 pounds. A fish finder is a great accessory that helps you see beneath the yak.

I use mine for seeing the contours and state of the sea bed rather than locating fish themselves. I have an Eagle Cuda 128 which cost 75 pounds. There are numerous ones on the market, and I think you pay for what you get. It’s important not to rely on these too much, I find that landmarks and knowledge can put you amongst fish.

Fish finders are great however for locating a shoal of mackerel that run under the kayak. Most of my kayak fishing in the summer is done on the drift.

When the offshore wind is blowing you need drogue to slow the drift down otherwise you would run over the ground too quickly. Attach the drogue to some chord and from the side of the yak, about 6 to 8 feet, and let the drogue drift.

you can buy these but I made one from an old tent sack which works fine. A fishing box is essential that fits into the rear tank well keeping all your tackle in some sort of order.

It should lock so if the yak turns over on landing or launching, or a surf entry, you lose no tackle. I always keep the filleting knife handy in case I need to cut if I’m snagged.

Some chord is also useful for tying stuff, or the yak, to make secure. Anchors are used, but you have to make a pulley system in order to secure the yak from either the stern or the bow.

There are methods to achieve this on numerous web sites. The ground where I fish is hard, I therefore use a snagging method. I implant some cheap hooks, about 3 into a 5 ounce lead mould.

The lead is attached to about 3 foot of chord (this stops chaffing), then a weak link of about 3 foot 25lb line, which in turn is attached to my main chord. When I want to move a good pull is all that’s needed to break the line and your free.

Tackle For Kayak Fishing

bass fishing at flamboroughWhen jigging in the summer I use a 12/20lb class boat rod, with a Penn 353 with braid. Most of jigs are 3 oz leads with a hokia attached by a swivel; I rarely fish with more than one hook as most cod are took on the bottom hook anyway.

A thing about kayak fishing over rock; when you get snagged you can’t pull like mad like when on a boat. If it suddenly gives you risk tipping over.

You have to compromise by having a weak line on the jig, and I use only 20lb. I find this gives me no problems when pulling out. You have to keep an eye on this as it chaffs easily so you have to change it. Sometimes you might lose a fish but you must lean towards the safety aspect; you don’t want to be in a snag broadside when there’s a strong drift on.

In summer I’ll always take a spinning rod with me, with some basic spinners like Tobies, and some plugs. The rod is only 7 foot as you don’t want long rods on a yak as they’re hard to control.

The reel for this rod is loaded with 6lb line giving reasonable sport if something big turns up. The important thing is to keep things to a minimum but don’t compromise; I always take at least 15 leads with me with the equivalent amount of hokeyes.

The Fishing

kayak fishing fish findersMost of my kayak fishing is done around Scarborough with the best time the Summer and Autumn months.

The sea is clear then and your lure fishing comes into play; the fishing is also better and more comfortable. The bays I concentrate on are Cornelian and Gristhorpe that offer great landrock fishing with jigs, only 1/2 mile off shore. This coming year I’m going to try shads and jellies.

I’ve also fished from Bempton a lot, and I hope to get to Flamborough a few times. If you want more relaxing fishing you can tie up to a kelp stalk and drop a big crab bait down and wait for an almighty pull. All these marks produce cod, pollock and wrasse.

The biggest cod on the yak is 15 lb at cornelian, and I’ve took plenty in the 6-8 lb bracket. When the sun starts going down in the evening, get close in with the spinning rod and target them pollock and mackerel.

This year I intend to get inside the gullies at dawn and dusk and target bass with a plug . I was coming in last year about 200 yards off when I heard fish breaking the surface that turned out to be mackerel hammering bait fish; needless to say I had some fun.

When fishing, and particular lure fishing, you sit “side saddle” with your feet in the water, giving you better control and easy access to the back box for you tackle and sandwiches. You simply can’t get closer to your quarry and nature than that. The launch sites I use are off the beaten track as I like the privacy away from the summer crowds.

Cornelian is my favourite as it puts me close to the fishing ground and is relatively peaceful. It is however not an easy access to the bay. The last leg of the ascent involves carrying the yak down the cliff which is ok when dry but a bit tricky when wet. But I now have the operation mastered after a few mishaps.

If the tide is out you also have to carry the kayak over rocks to you get to the inner lake. You can of course launch from the South or North bay but then you have a while to go to good grounds, but the choice is there. Indeed with a kayak you could launch wherever there’s a cliff path within reason; just let the roof rack do a lot of the work.

General Yakking.

kayak fishing under bempton cliffsI’ve only been fishing from a kayak for nearly a year, so I’m no expert but I hope the above gives some idea of what can be achieved and the fun that can be had.

I believe that shore anglers getting onto the water and exploring the inshore ground is just a natural extension of the fisherman’s inquiring nature. It is similar to the charter boat fleet going further out in faster vessels, targeting new species and employing different methods.

I love all types of fishing but there’s something primitive and romantic about paddling out into a summers dawn, it feels like this is how fishing should be done, and indeed was done all them years ago. With it you get a great sense of oneness with your surroundings and with that mutual respect.

I was once followed by about 20 seals at Gristhorpe all fascinated by their strange visitor. You can also pull in anywhere, at the base of a cliff or a reef, have a brew or a call of nature – what boat can do that?

You have the ability to weave in and out of rock marks without spooking fish. And to put a modern angle on sea kayak fishing it is totally “green”, no fuel costs, minor maintenance costs, no harbour fees, no engine failure. Like a lot of water sports it is popular in the south, a couple of yakkers last week went to the Skerries and caught several spring plaice.

It is extremely popular over the pond and in Australia and New Zealand. There’s an American web site with a picture of one guy playing a marlin 20 miles off the Florida keys, so the range of kayak fishing is not restricted to around the shore.

The cost of good sea fishing kayak is around 500 – 600 pounds, of course you get them cheaper on e-bay now and again. With other equipment you will probably need another 400 pounds bought new, but there is the second hand market. All in all about 1000 pounds will put anyone on the water safely. I hope therefore to see other kayakers out on the Yorkshire coast this summer.

Below : A cod caught from a Kayak By Scarborough angler Ray Maddison

Yorkshire coast kayak fishing

Below : Ray Maddison On A Drift Off Flamborough

Below : Article Write Iain Sellors Into Another Flamborough Cod

Article Kindly supplied for Whitby Sea Anglers by Iain Sellers aka Quint in the Fishing Forum.

By | 2018-03-23T08:48:56+00:00 May 5th, 2014|Fishing And Catching|25 Comments

About the Author:

Site Administrator Glenn Kilpatrick has a passion for all types of sea angling. Past winner of the Whitby Sea Anglers fishing club on 2 occasions, Glenn now mainly focuses on summer fishing with bass and pollack being his favoured target fish. Glenn now also prefers Kayak Fishing over any other type of Sea Fishing.


  1. steven dudley June 15, 2009 at 8:56 am - Reply

    used to love uk fishing until i came to new zealand and found the fish are bigger and harder fighters. i fish all year round in wellington on my kitted out viking 2 + 1 yak, which is stable for 1 or 2 man fishing. i have put a fish finder, burley bomb, rod holders, paddle holders, gaf holder And anchor system on this yak we just love it.
    if you need a break let me know!!!

  2. Nigel October 18, 2010 at 2:54 am - Reply

    You’d better hope those life jackets are super floaty because otherwise when they fall in their waders will fill up with water and they’ll drown. One of the worse things to do when fishing; wear waders.

    • steve August 21, 2015 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      I see that this is quite an old post but yes nigel you are right waders are a definite no no on my yak trips I wear surfboard shoes you can swim ok in these and climb onto rocks if needs be.

  3. tony June 4, 2011 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    Just bought a tarpon 100 for fun with the kids but I am interested in doing a bit of fishing but I am a complete novice. Fished a few times from my mates boat catching mackrell. I want a rod and reel simply to catch mackrell and anything else I can. Any advice on what would suit my Yak and limited fishing experience. cheers

  4. Robert Milton June 5, 2011 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    I am new to kayak fishing and this has really helped me out. Thanks

  5. Paul H June 15, 2011 at 11:25 pm - Reply

    Just bought a tarpon 120 yesterday and get it in just over a week. Can’t wait!! Any idea on rod reel combos.
    I want to use fixed spool though. any advice would be great. Wonderful article.

  6. paul brown July 15, 2011 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    what a fantastic write up. i have just bought myself a sok, and took her out in the sea at blackpool the other week. not fished on it yet but intend doing anytime soon. this has given me lots of inspiration , but also some great hints and tips…excellent …however, i do agree with nigel about the waders.

  7. Vincent ryan August 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    A fantastic write up on Kayak fishing. I started just last year in a Sevylor Canyon off the coast of North Wales, just a few hundred yards an in with the Mackerel. This year has been Mackerel, Bass, Gurnard, Bream and I even caught a 6 lb Cod last week. My e
    8yr old son got the bug too! Now I’m planning on a couple of hard hulls and all the extras from the above.

  8. David September 25, 2011 at 9:09 pm - Reply

    Waders? Drown? Nah. Just to find out we jumped inthe menai straits several years ago.

    Filling with water just made them neutral. this was the same for all sorts of wellies and waders. swimming was harder but not impossible

    There was more of a problem with them full of air, then you were legs up head down. that was a problem only solved by getting the air out! then again Drysuits have similar issues.

  9. Paul Bridges January 25, 2012 at 4:54 am - Reply

    The first time I did kayak fishing is way back 2006. At first, it’s hard for me but when I got use to it, it’s really fun and enjoyable.

  10. Jason Freeborn February 29, 2012 at 10:47 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the fishing info. From my sit-in kayak I’ll be using the paddle float to make it more stable before I reach for my boat rod. If you’ve not seen them, they are a float which clips over your paddle like a glove, then you put it through the deck lines so it sticks out at 90 degrees to the kayak, effectively acting as an outrigger. It’s impossible to tip the kayak over towards the paddle float once it’s rigged, though with special effort you can go over the other way. My narrow-gutted fibreglass boat is swift, but not stable compared to a SOT. I’ll let you know how I get on.

    Jason Freeborn
    Former Diving Officer, Royal Navy

    Oh, Waders? Drown? As the correspondent above writes, in the water they are fine, once the air is out. They come over all deadly when their water-filled weight means you cannot get back in to your boat or on to your rock, hence you drown or die of hypothermia and are found tied to your drifting boat or in amongst the shallow kelp. Sad but true. The cure? Be sure you can kick them off, then you’ll be OK wearing them. Also be sure you can get in to your boat if you fall out of it. Practice this with no gear in the kayak, then with all of the gear in the kayak. Stay safe, I’d like to paddle with you and share fishing stories! Cheers. J

  11. andy from grimsby March 1, 2012 at 11:22 pm - Reply

    really good write up, total insperation,, cant wait !!!

  12. cycling gps May 27, 2012 at 7:26 am - Reply

    I was very encouraged to find this site. The reason being that this is such an informative post. I wanted to thank you for this detailed analysis of the subject. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I submitted your site to some of the biggest social networks so others can find your blog. Globalsat GPS

  13. Chris July 25, 2012 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    I remember fishing 30 years ago in a 2 man canvas kayak my dad made when he was a youngster. We would spin for mackerel and pollock in south wales. Only dicey thing was negotiating all the people in the high surf bay. On one occasion me and my brother came in to find the kayak get buried in the sand with waves crashing into it.

  14. stuart September 1, 2013 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    Why are you whereing waders in a kayak :-@

  15. Glenn Kilpatrick September 5, 2013 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    We wear waders because we like to be safe in the knowledge that if we fall out were going to sink and drown and never see our families again.

  16. Wayne martin October 30, 2013 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    I’m looking to get into the sport.
    Looking for someone to go out with and gain the experience.
    Wiling to travel to Scarborough downwards if anybody’s interested

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  19. david February 3, 2016 at 1:05 am - Reply

    Me and a mate in a kayak club for a wile.and decided to buy sea kayak.we live in North East of Durham. And we be going out to try fishing on kayak for first time. Can anyone recommend any good places . Scotland looking good.

    • Glenn Kilpatrick February 3, 2016 at 7:30 pm - Reply

      Hi Mate, Can I suggest you join our fishing forum. There are a lot of members there who will be more than willing to answer your question. Also there are a lot of posts about kayak fishing already on the forum so they will give you a good idea of good places to fish.

  20. steve February 5, 2016 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    Great help, in process of buying one for SE coast in Kent. Cheers

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  22. Chris. Rogers April 30, 2016 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    Ive just found this site. I returned fron tasmania in 2010 where i fished and dived on my kayak regularly. Just last week i answered an ad for a kayak for sale locally which i was going to buy for my little boy, but it turned out to be a wilderness. Tarpon 120 in excellent. Condition.. Hardly suitable for a 5year old but bloody handy for a bit of fizhing.. Is it a good choice for lure and jigging on the east coast? Its riggex up with anchor systems etc and lifelines, so to me it looks ideal?? Any thoughts anyone?? I bought over my boating and kayking gear with me including pfds etc so I’m ready to give it a go. Any forums or advice would be really helpful. Do you guys meet up in summer for a bit of a social fish?? Ps i paid £120 for the yak!!

  23. william June 6, 2016 at 9:16 am - Reply

    Any recommendations for a two man sea fishing canoe/yak mainly used in an fast flowing tidal estuary in the south west.

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