I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been river fishing in a kayak. Growing up, we would go on multiple camping trips a year to the river, where we would start upstream and float back to the campground.
I’ve continued this tradition with my wife and daughter, which has made me appreciate the guidance I had from my dad.
I’ve learned firsthand that fishing a river can be a scary experience if you don’t follow a few simple rules.
The following kayak river fishing tips will keep you safe and have more fun on the river!
Kayak River Fishing Tips
I would much rather get home safe and not catch anything than a tragedy occur on the river; that’s why I’ll start with a few safety tips, continue with a few rigging tips, and end with some river fishing advice.
Tell Someone Your Plans
Creating a plan for your river trip is vitally important. You need to know where you’re putting in and getting out and what you’re fishing for, and you should also have a rough estimate of how long it will take you.
Once you’ve made your plans be sure to tell someone; that way, if anything were to happen, you would have people looking in the right area shortly afterward.
The motto, “hope for the best but plan for the worst,” is a good one to stick by when river fishing.
ALWAYS Wear your PFD
The best way to stay safe while on the water is to wear your life jacket. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. This is the essential kayak fishing tip!
Wearing a PFD on the river is a good idea because you never know when you might get knocked out of your kayak. You will encounter ripples, rapids, logs, and hidden rocks, all of which could turn dangerous.
If you’re not wearing a life jacket, some currents can pull you under, even if you’re a strong swimmer. This is an even greater necessity in cold water.
NEVER Turn Sideways
The most dangerous position for a kayak floating down a river is sideways or perpendicular to the current.
It’s best to face upstream or downstream because when you turn sideways, you can get pinned against a rock or tree, and the water will fill up the kayak or flip you.
This will happen faster than you can react, trust me, I’ve had personal experience with this scenario while kayaking and canoeing with a group of friends.
Get The Right Kayak
Picking the best river kayak will help keep you safe and have more fun on the water. The right kayak for river fishing helps you stay organized and is maneuverable.
Being organized is important because there are times when you need to be able to react quickly to the approaching situation. That might be having your paddle handy in case you need to paddle to avoid an object, or it can be having a net handy to land a big fish.
Maneuverability is one of the most critical aspects of kayak river fishing. Unlike lakes, you need to be able to make quick adjustments in a river.
Keep Your Gear Low
Most built-in rod holders have your poles sticking up. This is great when you’re in the wide open, but fishing small rivers and creeks with overhanging trees is a problem.
One of two things usually happens. You get hung up in the overhanging tree and lose the lure or break a rod tip.
I’ve had both instances happen to me while on separate river adventures, and I wouldn’t recommend doing either.
That’s why I try to be the highest point in my kayak. That way, I know if I make it under the branch, so does all of my gear.
Use The Right Gear
I always recommend using the proper gear for the situation when kayak fishing. Not only is choosing the appropriate river kayak necessary, but having the best kayak tackle box, paddle, and fishing pole goes a long way toward helping you have a successful day.
Some adventures might require a depth finder, while others don’t. I try to be prepared for any situation, yet I try to keep things as simple as possible and pack light for my fishing kayak setup.
Identify Where to Fish
Knowing where to fish is more important than knowing which lure to throw. I love fishing in a river because it condenses the amount of water you need to cover. There are only a few places fish can hide, and they tend to congregate in these areas.
One of the best places to fish is in an eddy. Anywhere there is a break in the current, fish will use it to spend less energy while looking for food. This can be downstream of a rock or log or when a sandbar sticks out into the water and causes a swirl.
The channel is another spot fish will hang out in a river. The channel is the deepest portion of the stream. Often fish congregate in the deeper areas of the river.
Lastly, any structure that you see fish it. This can be a downed tree or a large boulder; I’ve even caught fish around sunken cars.
Sound travels well in the water, so avoid bumping into rocks and trees as best you can. My biggest problem is dropping my paddle onto my kayak; it will roll off my lap while I’m fishing and create a loud sound most fish can hear a county away.
Being as stealthy as possible will help you land more fish and the bigger, more elusive fish.
Kayak river fishing is my favorite way to fish. Once you’re aware of and know how to avoid the dangers, it is a lot of fun. I know these kayak fishing tips will help you be safer on the water and catch more fish because they’ve worked for me repeatedly!
Wesley Littlefield lives in Northeast Oklahoma where he has spent the majority of his life in pursuit of the outdoors.
Growing up he was introduced to several different styles of fishing by his dad. In college he joined the bass fishing team where he learned competitive fishing is not for him.
However, he discovered how much he simply loved being on the water.
He has followed in his fathers’ footsteps, introducing his wife and daughter to the incredible adventures the great outdoors offers!