Yaks on top
  |  First Published: January 2015

A recent fishing adventure reinforced to me a couple of the advantages of fishing from a kayak.

Firstly, I reached out of the car window and patted my trusty vessel as we drove past a crowded boat ramp, selecting a deserted section of white sand to launch from. Standing on the sand prior to launching, I noted the big summer tide, a flotilla of vessels criss-crossing each other’s wakes and the jet skis enjoying the increased boat traffic that Christmas brings, launching their machines as they cut a path from boat wake to boat wake.

It doesn’t sound like a perfect picture for a quiet day on the water, but this is where the second advantage of my compact plastic craft came into play. All of this action was taking place in the main channels, as if fenced in by the navigation markers, while my eyes turned to the shallow sand, weed and rubble flats, devoid of boat traffic and with enough water to camouflage the feeding fish that cruised across them. The kayak’s low profile casts minimal shadow and when combined with the almost silent ‘stealth factor’ and its ability to travel in very little water it meant that I could hunt these flats, away from the crowds that holidays and weekends can often attract.

‘Plan A’ was a large yabby bank, lined by mangroves on the shoreline and fringed by a deep channel on its outside edge. This sand flat had produced quality flathead, bream and whiting in the past, as they emerged from the depths on a flooding tide to search the flat for small baitfish and crustaceans. I generally prospect these flats with small 1/12oz and 1/8oz blades, and lightly weighted 2-3” soft plastics.

Today, the importance of having a ‘Plan B’ was reinforced to me as I found the flat covered in seaweed that had been lifted from its resting place, along the banks and amongst the mangroves, by the big tides. A quick search of my basic tackle kit revealed that I hadn’t packed any weedless jigheads, a good backup plan when you find yourself confronted with the dreaded weed, and so I pointed the yak toward a rubble flat where the current flow was faster and where I had previously had good success on both bream and flathead. The search for stronger current flow was based on past observations that the weed doesn’t tend to settle as much due to the tidal push, clearing off the flat quickly as the tide begins to recede.

My ‘Plan B’ turned out to be a good one. As the tide changed and began to drop I was surrounded by a mass of weed, but it was quickly swept away with the current, leaving it relatively clear for me to prospect. Watching the sounder as I pedalled toward the shallowest section of the flat, I noted the rise in the bottom to less than 1m of water, stopped about a cast distance from the main rubble patch, flicked over the bail arm on the light spin outfit and fired the 2.5” soft plastic paddle-tail to the far side of the rubble.

The current was racing, the breeze blowing with the tide and I was drifting fast, so I had a 1/4oz jighead tied on. Many would consider this too heavy, but for the bream it allowed me to punch a long cast and I could lift the rod tip and slowly roll the plastic for 3 winds, before giving it a few small twitches during the next 3 winds, then back to the roll for 3 and repeat. This kept the plastic up off the bottom and moving across the flat for the bream, while still having enough weight in the jighead if I chose to allow it to hit the bottom on a few occasions in search of a flathead.

As the water depth decreases and if the breezes are lighter, the jighead weight can be dropped to 1/8oz or 1/12oz to create more ‘hang time’ for the plastic and a more natural sink rate and presentation.

A subtle tap greeted the first cast, as the fish was attracted by the paddle-tail and twitches produced by the rod tip. Once they were on the lure I switched to a slow roll and let them continue to tap at the plastic until they found the point of the chemically sharpened hook and the rod loaded up.

It soon became apparent that the subtle taps were the bites of a solid bream and it screamed across the flat on the light braid and 8lb fluorocarbon leader. With the tide dropping I noted a couple of dozen boats anchored on the channel edges, while I was up on top of the flat with the rod bent, drag screaming and a big cheesy grin on my face. I slid the net under the fish, took a few snaps and then re-organised the yak for another assault on the rubble patch.

I could have probably anchored on the spot, but an advantage of a pedal yak is the ability to quickly move back into position, while also having the flexibility to alter your position to effectively fish the whole flat if one section isn’t firing or stops firing. It’s also handy to make note of any points of reference when you hook a fish as it makes it quicker and easier to get right back on the spot. A sounder with GPS is handy for this, but a tree on a bank, channel marker, building or in this case a crab pot float, can also be an effective landmark.

Once back in position I fired another cast and within half a dozen winds and a few twitches it had attracted the attention of another solid bream. Within an hour I had landed 10 solid bream and dropped a few. The most memorable was a fish that tapped the plastic right beside the yak as I lifted it from the water. I lowered the plastic back in, a few inches below the surface, gave it a shake and a solid fish nailed it! The rod buckled, drag screamed and after a few laps around the kayak (another advantage of not anchoring), the largest fish of the day measured over 40cm to the tip on the Swivel’s Fish Measure. If only they bit this aggressively every day!

I have since returned to this flat a couple more times, targeting the run out tide as the fish hunt for a last feed before being forced back into the deeper water, landing bream on both occasions in under half a metre of water. I have also had that same smile on my face as I have observed the number of boats on the water, kept at a distance from me by the navigation markers that often dictate their direction of travel and areas they can fish on a dropping tide. Why not take advantage of your yak, get out on the water and get up on top of the flats?

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