Several years ago, I was invited to go kayak fishing with a business associate. It was the first time on the water with him. He had relayed about grand fishing in a place that I’d never seen. -Night before the agreed trip, we were planning where we’d meet, etc. and he asked, “What Color is your Kayak?” I figured he would use that info as a reference when we were trying to meet in the Walmart parking lot at pre-dawn. But, he was worried about “those yellow kayaks that scare the fish.” Fortunately, my paddle craft color preference is khaki, so my boat was deemed acceptable. Since then, I have realized there are dramatically different ideas to kayak color, A couple of well known kayak guides share their thoughts on the color of Kayaks, Paddles, and Clothing/Life Jackets as it pertains to kayak fishing,
My personal thoughts are that the color of the boat doesn’t matter in shallow water. The visual angle of the kayak is very difficult for the fish to see. The profile in the water being only a few inches deep, and the quiet nature of the hull means that the fish are not looking for your boat. In deeper water, the fish will only see your shadow, and on a sunny day, your shadow may have a “color” but the overwhelming issue to the fish is the shadow, not the fact that it is colored!
Captain John Kumiski (www.spottedtail.com) guides kayak anglers in Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River. My first experience in kayak fishing was with Kumiski in the fabled No-Motor-Zone over a decade ago. We chased the famous monster Redfish and Black Drum. Late in the day while paddling to our put-in, I noticed a surface swirl every 6 feet. I approached the apparent manatee in my borrowed red sit-on-top kayak, paddling quietly. Closer inspection revealed a 48 inch Black Drum, -could have whacked it with the paddle. The cruising beast never noticed the bright red kayak following a few feet behind. And for several minutes, I was frustrated that my gear was stowed, with lures returned to the tackle box! Captain Kumiski replied to my questions about kayak color-“fish don’t care. I’ve hooked a fish with a leader in the tip of the rod (ie. 9ft away) in a yellow kayak. Kumiski recently wrote an article about “paddle flash.” On the water, a stranger cautioned him ”about getting too close;” the angler was complaining that Kumiski used brightly colored paddle blades and the color flash would scare the fish. Later, Kumiski would spray paint all of the blades flat black to eliminate paddle flash. Colored clothing or PFD doesn’t seem to matter, but Kumiski would like to wear something that could be seen by a boater. Kumiski also added that yellow and red kayaks take better photos.
Captain Steve Gibson (www.kayakfishingsarasota.com) is endorsed by Native kayaks and will frequently stand while fishing. This technique increases his ability to see fish at a distance, much like an angler in a skiff. When asked about kayak color he replied, “I don’t think color matters at all, but I don’t want a kayak that is invisible to boaters (power boats.)” When asked about paddles, Gibson uses paddle blades that are reflective silver to shine at the power boats for safety. “In very shallow situations, I usually use the push pole.” –and stows his shiny paddle. Gibson prefers clothing that isn’t “too loud,-subtle colors are best.” But, he still wants to wear something that is visible to boaters. Captain Steve Gibson guides in the Sarasota area on the salt water flats and also in the fresh water lakes of the area.
Kayak paddle color seems to be more important. Captain Phil Chapman is a Fly Tarpon Guide at Boca Grand during the summer. Daily, he makes a run in his skiff just before dawn when there is little light on the water. He relayed, “in Charlotte Harbor, kayaks essentially disappear in the chop, and are difficult to see.” But brightly colored paddle blades are visible at great distances on the horizon. So, they are good for visibility, but what do the fish think? My personal observation is fish spook quickly to a missed paddle stroke or clanking of the paddle on the boat, but I’ve never observed a reaction to a careful paddle stroke. Birds are a different matter. Bright paddles can spook a blue heron or brown pelican from a hundred yards! To the bird, we look like an attacking creature with a 230cm wingspan. –And fish are terrified of a large predator flying above them. My simple motto, “spook the birds, and you spook the fish.” Bright paddles greatly increase your visibility to both, power boaters and birds.
Armed with this info, I am glad that my lucky fishing shirt is khaki, and my lucky kayak paddle has black blades, and my lucky kayak is khaki……I’m ready to fish!
This artice was originally published in Coastal Angler Magazine -Lakeland Edition Sept-2009