Much as flats boats did only a few decades ago, kayaks and similar human-powered fishing platforms have made a huge impact on the way Lowcountry anglers stalk their prey. They are perfect for getting the fisherman back into waters that even the skinniest of flats boats have trouble reaching.
“With all the waterways, shallows and mud flats we have, the kayak is the perfect watercraft to get out and explore,” said “Dolphin Dave” Hamilton, manager of Time Out Sports in Mount Pleasant.
“You can pull over to the side of the road and put in at a fishy looking spot and see what happens. You don’t have to rely on a boat ramp. They’re just ideal for inshore saltwater fishing here in Charleston.”
Not only are they perfect for stalking redfish, trout and flounder, kayaks also are perfect for freshwater fishermen after largemouth bass, catfish, crappie and bream.
In addition to kayaks (sit inside or sit on tops), the same breed of fishermen also employ canoes (old school) and stand-up paddleboards (the latest). The majority of fishermen like the sit on tops, which allow them to carry more equipment and, with the proper craft, stand up to look for fish.
“The biggest choice that is going on now is between traditional paddle-style kayaks versus the foot-pedal design,” Hamilton said. “A lot of people call it going over to the dark side, but I find myself leaning more and more toward the dark side these days. I’m able to spend more time with my baits in the water, not having to juggle between a paddle and a fishing rod.”
In the late 1990s, Hobie introduced the Mirage Drive, a system by which kayakers could propel their craft by pedaling, much like pedaling a bike. The concept was based on observing penguins swim at a West Coast zoo. Native is another major player in the pedal propulsion concept.
Hamilton said a good kayak rigged for fishing can be purchased in the $600 range, while the Hobie Pro Angler sells for about $3,200.
“The bulk of our fishing kayaks are in the $700 to $1,400 range,” Hamilton said.
Aside from cost, a major consideration for fishermen is the weight. Sit-inside kayaks are usually lighter than their sit-on-top brethren. Hamilton said most sit-on tops weight 60 to 65 pounds and anglers are opting for some type of cart or other way to assist in loading them.
Popular Charleston County saltwater kayak fishing spots include Copahee Sound and Paradise Island to the north and the Stono River (Limehouse Bridge) and Toogoodoo Creek to the south. And don’t forget the new Northbridge Park kayak launch on the Ashley River.