When I pack for a kayak trip, there is a list I always run through in my head to make sure I don’t forget the important things. You know, things like a lifejacket, paddle, water, seat, whistle, sunglasses, etc. That list gets even longer when I’m packing for a kayak fishing trip. I add in gear like fishing poles, spare lures, fishing license, net, and rod holders.
But this is the story about why packing a knife is now always at the top of my list. Let’s start at the very beginning…
A tale of two brothers
My brother and I have been fishing together since we were about 4 years old. Our grandfather got us started by taking us off a dock to catch little bluegill and the occasional catfish with some bread. This led to a lifelong hobby of fishing together, starting a fishing website, and an annual kayak fishing/camping trip.
Since we’re both now grown and don’t live in the same city, we make an effort to get away once a year and go on a kayak fishing trip. We try to go to a different place each year and mainly stick to inshore saltwater fishing on the east coast of the United States. We really like catching redfish, trout, snook, and flounder. This particular year, we stayed in our home state in Florida and went to one of our favorite spots in Mosquito Lagoon.
Mosquito Lagoon is world-renowned for sight fishing big redfish and is great for kayakers because of the lack of any large tide movements. You’re basically on a saltwater lake that has an amazing variety of fish. Not only that, but it even has designated “no motor zones” which is something all of us here can appreciate.
Not scared of no gators
We started the day as most anglers do with an early morning alarm, hitting the bait shop and trying to be the first ones on the water to get our perfect spot. However, when we woke up, the weather had changed a little and forecasted winds up to 15-20mph. Since it was our only day to go and we were already there, it was not going to stop us. We figured we could find some coves and be protected from the wind.
That’s exactly how the day started. We hit the water and started paddling on a beautiful morning with a slight breeze. A few hours in and we had both caught our first redfish at one of our favorite spots.
If you have never been fishing in Florida before, let me give you a quick tip. There are going to be alligators in the water. It’s just the way things are. The good news with kayaks is most of the time you can slap the water with your paddle and they’ll get out of your way.
Growing up in Florida, we learned to have a healthy respect for alligators, and most of the time they leave you alone and are more scared of you. But that doesn’t make it any less nerve-racking to be reeling in a fish only to see an 8-foot gator trying to grab your trophy before you can get it in the boat.
Mosquito Lagoon is no different from the rest of Florida when it comes to alligators, even though it is brackish water. This particular day, we ended up moving spots after we caught our first few redfish because we saw three alligators watching us from a distance. This is when our troubles began.
A windy day leads to trouble
When we started to paddle to a new area, we found that we really had been sheltered by the wind, and as soon as we got into open water we were being blown around like sailboats. However, we saw what we came for – a school of feeding redfish. There were about 10-15 fish going after mullet and hadn’t noticed us paddling up to them. It was time to get a double hook up.
My brother stayed back to catch the front of the school, and I started paddling around to hit them from another side. It all happened so fast. I was so focused on paddling quickly and quietly around the school of fish that I didn’t think about the wind. I got to where I wanted to be, threw out my kayak anchor, and grabbed my fishing pole.
Before I had time to make my first cast, the wind blew my kayak over the anchor and my kayak tipped me out. I was underwater with a kayak anchor line trying to wrap itself around my body, and my brother was not close enough to help out. I quickly remembered the unusual amount of gators in the area and started to panic.
Luckily, my kayak fishing knife was hooked onto my lifejacket and I was able to quickly grab it, cut the anchor line and free my body. I swam over to my kayak still being blown away and got in faster than I ever had in my life. Besides losing my fishing pliers, a few lures, and my dignity. I was able to get back to the safety of my kayak unscathed. But who knows what would have happened if I had not had my knife that day.
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My brother was able to paddle over to me pretty quickly and help me get resettled, but once he saw I was ok and safe, he was able to laugh. We got resettled and saw the school of redfish had moved on. Something about a big commotion in the water had scared them off – weird.
Two lessons I learned that day
We ended the day back in another cove to have some lunch and try to catch a few more before it got too hot. All in all, it was a pretty great day of fishing. But there are two things I hope everyone can learn from this story:
- Bring a knife and keep it accessible when you are kayak fishing. It’s worth it.
- Plan kayak trips with your brother/friends/family. They usually end in great stories that you’re able to keep for the rest of your life.