Having recently moved 300 miles north, Kyle Waterhouse has had to find some new, regular, fishing venues. This article first appeared in Saltwater Boat Angling.
One thing I’ve had to come to terms with recently is the fact I’m now a fishing newbie on my local coastline. Since I moved up to Northumberland my satnav has never been so busy and though it’s a bit strange not knowing your way around, it’s also quite exciting!
I’m having to work for it again and having spent much of the winter sussing out some pike fishing further north, I’m now turning my attentions back to saltwater. Thankfully, much of what I’ve already learnt over the last decade of kayaking can be applied pretty much anywhere I choose to fish. I’m hopeful the few new spots I’ve found will produce some fish and I’m going to run you through my thought process on how I go about figuring it out. When it comes to choosing new venues on unfamiliar ground I tend to stick to the same tried and trusted formula.
The first thing I do when I want to kayak fish anywhere new is get straight onto google and get searching. It’s amazing what little snippets of info you can glean out of old forum posts, blogs and social media. It doesn’t need to be a full venue review, just useful hints that can focus your search onto a particular area that may have potential. Though it’s nice to go it alone from scratch it’s helpful to at least learn of any hotspots in your local area. I find a bit of basic research is also great for finding out about places to avoid and things like overly strong currents or dodgy car parks are things I’m not too keen on!
Like with any fishing, the first starting point is to work out how to get to the water near the area you want to fish. In kayak fishing, looking for a safe and efficient place to get your kayak into the water is probably the most fundamental aspect of opening a new spot. High cliffs, surf beaches and rocky shorelines are all present up here and though they can produce great fishing, they don’t necessarily make the best launch spots. It’s important to really think this part over and you want to look for places like harbours, marinas, estuaries, sheltered coves and shallow beaches that offer calmer water. This is where kayakers have the upper hand over boats as we can launch in some quite unlikely looking spots and with a bit of thought you can get in very close to where you want to fish without a massive paddle in.
Access to the water is the main part of the puzzle and I find google earth helpful to locate slips, footpaths and other potential routes to the water. You need to consider where you’ll park as you’ll need a bit of room to set up and pack away so try to look for somewhere off a main road if you can find it. I always try to keep some spare change in the car too to cover any pay and display machines as this has caught me out quite a few times in the past. There’s nothing worse than wasting time or losing a prime parking spot whilst you frantically search for a corner shop to change up a £10 note!
Some launch points can also involve a bit of a walk, through town centres, across busy roads and among tourists so it’s also worth accounting for this too. Do a practice walk first without the kayak to check out things like high curbs, parked cars and other obstructions to the water. Packing a suitable trolley like the Railblaza C-Tug will make life much easier as will stowing your gear properly so you don’t foul hook any children on the way to the water!
Once I have a suitable launch area in mind, the next place I like to check is on the Navionics boating app for what I’ll actually be fishing over. As far as mobile apps go, this one is brilliant, and it’s served me very well in the last few years. Though it does cost about £30 for a year’s subscription, it really is a must have if you’re a serious angler. Having the most up to date contour and tide data at your fingertips is so handy and being able to drop pins and check the distances to any offshore features helps you to immediately judge the viability of the venue.
Garmin BlueChart G2 Vision HD
Taking this to the next step I then like to load up my Garmin chartplotter and will often spend an evening in the living room simply panning charts and making waypoints. It’s great to get into the habit of familiarising yourself like this and to have some spots marked before you launch anywhere is always a confidence boost. Not only is it a more focused approach to fishing, it’s also safer too as you’ll know how far out you’ll likely be and where to avoid. By keeping a track or route running on the plotter during the session I also find it easier to keep an eye on my drift speeds, so I don’t go too far astray.
Garmin’s HD Bluecharts are very detailed, and I’m always impressed by how accurate they are when I’m out on the water. For me, one of the most exciting things to learn from last year was Garmin’s acquisition of Navionics. As a fan of Navionics, the prospect of them teaming up and combining content with one of my sponsors is great news.
We’re soon to see the first generation of their collaboration be released and the new Garmin G3 BlueCharts will integrate both Navionics and Garmin content into one piece of software. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this, more so for my freshwater fishing though I’m sure it will also improve the sea charts too.
I’m secretly also hoping there will be some integration between Garmin’s Active Captain app and the Navionics boating app. I have no idea if this is going to happen, so please take this with a pinch of salt though I use both apps quite heavily so it would be great to see this happen. We may have to wait to see how this new relationship develops over the next couple of seasons, though I’m sure there will be more surprises to come from these pioneering companies.
Tides, currents and weather
It goes without saying really, but tidal conditions and the weather form the backbone of all sea fishing. You can have the best launch in the world or the most appetising waypoints, though a 30mph wind against an ebbing spring tide and you’re going to have big problems in a kayak. When out on new venues for the first time I wait for clear weather and neap tides and very rarely make exceptions, especially if I’m fishing alone.
You can bend the rules slightly if pairing up with someone who knows the area, though in general I want to assess a new venue in calm conditions. This limits any potential surprises as smaller tides allow you to assess the drift speeds at their lowest levels. If it’s too much for you during neaps, then spring tides are definitely to be avoided.
Last but not certainly not least is to ensure that once you’re on the water that you are suitably dressed for being in that situation. This means wearing proper dry clothing designed for paddle sports or a thick wetsuit and a buoyancy aid. Carrying a means of calling for help, is in my mind mandatory, and I always carry three modes for doing so when out on the salt. A mobile phone, VHF radio and my Garmin inReach Mini Satellite communicator are all strapped to my PFD. Should I get into trouble or be separated from my kayak then I can raise the alarm very quickly. Keep an eye on the battery levels of your devices and always stick them on charge after use to prevent them letting you down. I wouldn’t recommend searching for new venues by yourself without at least two of these devices with you.
So that’s my plan for this spring and I already have a few launch sites sussed out where I’ll be hoping to get among some Cod and Ling with the lures. This isn’t something I’ve done down south so I’m quietly excited about a change of tact and I’ll keep you posted on how I get on. Tight Lines all.