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Scenic Kayak Touring and Fishing

By: Cynlos Ruiz

Borrowing technology and water mobility of the Eskimos, modern touring kayaking has become the fastest growing area of paddling sports. Although these boats are now made in molded plastic, Kevlar, or fiberglass, the boat designs are very similar to the earliest known kayak designs in North America and Greenland. However, unlike these earlier kayak designs, modern kayaks are shorter and lighter in weight. They come in lengths ranging from around 8 to 16 feet and weigh from about 18 to 100 pounds.

Today's touring kayakers use the boats for everything from scenic or fishing trips in rivers, bays and lakes, to ambitious open water crossings. One such kayaker even paddled from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii!

Southern West Virginia also offers spectacular kayak touring opportunities. One of the best locations is Plum Orchard, a 202 acre lake near Oak Hill, WV and Summersville Lake in Nicholas County. Paddling a boat across Plum Orchard or Summersville on a calm evening, with the Southern WV mountains reflected in the waters, will go a long way toward convincing you of the pleasures of this type of boating. If you are into fishing, pulling a big bass out of the shallow marches around these lakes that are only accessible from a kayak, will further convince you that the stealth of these boats are worth the extra paddling effort. In fact, these fishing boats and light, stealthy and downright healthy!

Kayak touring boats used for fishing have now become a major focus for many kayak manufacturers. More and more people fishing have discovered that kayaks counteract the effect of fish fleeing to deep water upon hearing outboard motors or trolling motors turned off and on in productive flats. These boats work well whether you are stalking bonefish in the Keys, tarpon off the Carolina coast, snook in the Everglades, seatrout off the Florida Panhandle, redfish in Louisiana or trout and bass in the West Virginia rivers and lakes, and provide the stealth necessary to catch fish in shallow water.

Any small boat has space limitations and a touring kayak is no exception. This is not necessary a bad thing as it forces you to take only the tackle or equipment that you know you will need. Depending on your ability and endurance, there is also a range limitation, but this can be offset by the ability to launch from remote, unpaved ramps or by carrying your boat to the water from the road. By driving to these unimproved sites you can launch early and be to arrive at shallow sites before others can motor there from distant and often crowded ramps that offer parking for the boat trailers. In addition you can get away from crowded flats altogether and immediately be in shallow water where fish are feeding.

The space limitation of a small touring kayak can also be offset by buying a tandem model designed for two people. I prefer to tour and fish from these tandem models and take more equipment along. Whenever possible, I like to fish with a buddy in another kayak. That way we can place cars at two different launch points and fish together between these shuttle sites.

Two skilled anglers in kayaks can cover more water and keep a school of feeding fish between them, bouncing them back and forth to each other, rather tan letting them escape to open water.

Touring Kayak Basics

As previously mentioned, these kayaks are lightweight, decked boats designed to be paddled, and measure from 8 to 16 feet and weigh between 18 and 100 pounds. Longer kayaks are faster and track straighter, while shorter kayaks turn more easily. There are two basic styles of touring kayaks. Recreational kayaks have a large hole in the deck which you and a lot of gear can fit into. You sit lower and feel more stable in this type of kayak and many models also offer large dry storage spaces.

The other style is called a "sit-on-top" and is much easier to get in and out of. These kayaks also have scupper holes that make them self-bailing. Fishing and/or camping gear is readily accessible and deck lids give access to more dry storage. The main disadvantage of the "sit-on-top" is if you are touring or fishing in cold water, this water circulates around your body as it bails which can be quite uncomfortable in these colder conditions.

Touring Options and Accessories

The state laws requires one Type-3 personal floatation device (PDF) per person on a boat. These touring kayaks are no exception. There are many mesh "shorty" vests available for fishing and touring and are more comfortable and stay out of the way.

You will also need a paddle. A standard rule of thumb is to get a double-bladed paddle about as long as you are tall. Many touring paddles break down into two pieces for convenience during travel and storage. Most touring paddles are offset about 60 degrees to one another to reduce wrist fatigue when paddling long distances.

A comfortable seat is a highly desirable option. Sitting for several hours will take a toll. Foam padded seats with backs are available and the best provide adjustable webbing for maximum comfort and support. Many seats also have storage compartments for binoculars or fishing gear.

A rudder is a great option to ensure that your kayak tracks to the direction you desire. When drifting the rudder provides subtle changes in direction without having to put your paddle in the water. The rudder is raised and lowered by cords at hand level and turned by cables attached to your footrests.

Other beneficial options include paddle holders, rod holders, compass, GPS devices and small dry bags. These options provide an additional degree and comfort and stealth that will enhance your touring experience and are good investments.

For more information on kayaking visit www.aaaAdventureOutdoors.com