Landing a Fish in a Small Boat

Landing fish from a small boat is easier than hooking them. It is hard to loose a fish right at the boat because you are unprepared or do not have the know how to land them.

It is a challenge to land a fish from a kayak or paddleboard. These types of boats will tip easily. Add the weight and pressure of a fish and you will be unbalanced. Know where your weight is during the entire process. You will not be able to lean over and look at a big fish while landing it.

The rod, the fish and the net or gaff are all in play during the landing. Organize your gear so you know where it is and synchronize all three for a succseful outcome.

A medium handled net or gaff of 12 – 16″ is the best size for a small boat. It is easy to store and will not cause the boat to become unbalanced while landing a fish. Long handles make for a lot of leverage but you will need to lean too far against the other side of the boat to catch the fish. Short handles force you to lean to close causing a potential for capsize. Nets are best used for softer finned fish. Anything spiny or with teeth is better landed with a gaff.

The work begins when your fish is hooked. Getting a strike is exciting but landing a fish by yourself is hard. Keep even and steady pressure on the line. Pulling or allowing slack to form are sure ways to loose fish. Drag should be set loose enough to allow the fish to take line but tight enough to allow you to gain line. If you are trolling it is important to keep paddling once you get the strike. The boats forward momentum will help insure a solid hookup.

Reel the line in until the rod tip can be held straight above your head. You need this leverage to move the fish towards the net or gaff. The leader or about 6′ of line is a good indicator.

Once the fish is ready to be landed use your left hand for the rod and your right for the net. Lift the rod high so you can move the fish to the waiting net or gaff. Trying to swipe or reach for the fish will cause them to spook and make a run. It is better to move the fish to the waiting net. Patience is a virtue here. Once the fish is in the net or on the gaff bring it into the boat and save the keepers or release the fish.

A billy club is effective for the tough fighters. A quick smack and the fish is out. You don’t want an active fish to cut you up while in a vulnerable position. Fish tend to flap and fight more when landed than when they are in the water.

Landing fish from a small boat by yourself requires patience and know how. Once you get organized the process will be rewarding.

Paddling for Trout is a great reference for kayak and SUP anglers. For more info and reviews, products and more check out The Fishing Geek