Want to go offshore for the first time? Read Me First!

jcanracerjcanracer Posts: 4,267 Moderator
I’ve seen so many of the same questions pop up repeatedly, it seems like a good time to combine input from a few past threads into the one sticky that all new kayak anglers should read. This is only meant to be a summary, so comment or drop me a PM if you want to add constructive advice for our new forum members.

Kayaks: Where do I begin? What type of kayak to get?
If you are looking to buy a kayak with offshore in mind, the consensus around here is to buy a sit-on-top kayak. A sit-on-top kayak is self-bailing and will not fill with water (like a sit-inside-kayak would) when, not if, you roll/capsize. Width of the kayak determines how stable it feels and wider usually means more stability at the cost of speed and increased weight. Length of the kayak determines how efficiently it can be paddled or pedaled in a straight line. Debates for this question go on, but the average recommendation for minimum length is 12 ft.

Kayaks: Pedal or Paddle?
I don’t want to create a bias in new members, and I’m not recommending one over the other, but look at the pros and cons from a high level. Pedal kayaks like the Hobie Mirage drive and Native Propel kayaks allow you to use your feet for propulsion while your hands are free for managing lines/gear/rudder; the downside is that these kayaks can be heavy and carry a premium price over their traditional counterparts. Traditional paddle kayaks like Ocean Kayaks, Jackson or Wilderness Systems kayaks tend to weigh less, cost less and rely on traditional paddles for propulsion and can be upgraded with foot-controlled rudders. Paddle kayaks are just as capable offshore as their pedal counterparts, and it boils down to which you are more comfortable using because when you go offshore you WILL need to cover some long distances.

Kayaks: OK, so what brand do I get?
As you can guess from the above, brand should not be your #1 concern. Traditional wisdom still rules: You get what you pay for. The $400 kayak from Walmart/****’s is not the same as a kayak from a reputable company with a history of successful kayaks which may cost 2-4 times as much. The cost difference goes into manufacturing quality, quality of fittings, manufacturer warranty. Try to buy from a store that specializes in paddlesports so you can get a demo ride of the kayak you intend to buy. These stores are also invaluable resources for upgrades and repairs.

Kayaks: Paddle selection
If you’ve chosen to Pedal, great, you get a sufficient paddle with your purchase. If however you have chosen to Paddle, you might want to put more thought into choosing the right paddle for you. First oddity you will find is that they are all listed in Metric, so you will see measurements like 220mm or 240mm paddle length. Find one that is comfortable in your hands as the right fit will vary from person to person depending on torso length and width of the kayak you are using.
Paddle material will also make a difference in how much energy you will need to spend per stroke due to weight. You will see choices ranging from Aluminum to Fiberglass to Carbon Fiber. Lightness usually comes with higher expense. Here are 2 articles on paddle selection:

Kayaks: Safety!

#1 rule for first timers is to never go offshore alone!

Secondly, choosing the right kayak doesn’t make sense if you don’t invest in sensible safety gear!
Get a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) that is comfortable enough for you to wear it at all times on the kayak, if the traditional foam is uncomfortable or holds in the heat, get an inflatable.
Do not go offshore without a safety flag! Try to imagine how difficult a kayak is to see when the waves are 2-4 ft, the kayaker is sitting in the trough of said waves, and a boater is rapidly approaching at 20+knots. For the same reason, a little bandana on a 3 ft pole is not going to cut it! Try to get a flag pole that is taller than 4ft and a flag that is brightly colored (eg: pirate flag is a stupid choice) and can be seen for at least quarter mile.
If you are going out in the pre-dawn, ensure that you have a bright white light that is visible from 360 degrees around you. A flashlight or headlight would also be a plus to signal approaching boaters in such dark conditions.
A noise maker such as a whistle or air-horn is also required for signaling boaters or to signal for help.
Make sure you secure your gear properly (paddle leashes work well as rod leashes) in case of a roll-over and make sure you can get back into your kayak in the open water if you do capsize. Practice this without gear in a pool or at the beach. Even having a buddy along will not help if you cannot get back into the kayak.
Ensure that all hatches are closed and all drainage bungs are tightly secured. Forum member PottyMouth had a good thread on this topic: http://forums.floridasportsman.com/showthread.php?153851-Check-list-for-heading-offshore
Last but not least, take enough water/sportsdrinks with you to stay hydrated! Alcoholic beverages actually dehydrate you faster, so save the hard drinking for when you get back to land.

Weather: plan around it
Don't be the guy we read about on the news who went out to sea without checking the forecast and got caught in a storm or was exposed to waves you couldn't manage. www.noaa.gov has coastal reports, and you will find others to help you determine when its safe to go. I would start off looking for times when the wave height is 2ft or less and the wind is around 10mph or less. www.windfinder.com is also a good resource.

Current: the weather you can't see
Ocean current can literally work for or against you, and is hard to predict beforehand. For example, when kayakers that launch from Boynton Beach, they regularly drift with the current approximately 6 miles north to the Lake Worth pier and call a cab to send part of the group back to where the trucks are parked so they can shuttle people/kayaks/gear.
Current can also make it hard to paddle great distances if you are trying to go against the current. If this happens, head closer to the beach where the current is not as strong. Always watch your landmarks to see how fast you are drifting and ensure you have enough energy or a plan for returning to land.

I make a big deal about current because it is a safety concern. However, current can also be a game changer for fishing. Typically: no current = less fish biting on the wrecks, little current = better fishing, strong current = lottery (but don't waste time trying to target specific spots or wrecks in this condition because you will spend too much energy trying to maintain position).

Ready for action: What fishing gear do you need?
OK, that's a subject of many general forum discussions. I do NOT want to clutter this thread with a debate. Suffice it to say, you generally want a few setups and some optional gear:
- Vertical Jigging gear: can be spinning reel or conventional, minimum of 300 yards 30-40# braid, mono/flouro leader 40-60#, a selection of vertical jigs ranging from 4oz - 7oz.
- Trolling/livebait gear: can be spinning reel or conventional, a good starting point is 20# mono with 40# leader. Remember to use wire leader if you're going for kingfish.
- Optional: Pitch-bait setup. Two rods are difficult enough to manage/store on some kayaks but if you take a third, make it the one you are comfortable casting with in case you see the water start boiling with bait or you see birds diving.
- Optional: You will want a fish finder if you are going to do offshore often. In the beginning though, it would be good enough to go with a buddy who already has one.
- Make sure you take a pair of pliers for dehooking, a fish grip for the smaller fish and a small gaff for the bigger fish, this ain't no bass fishing!
- Want to take live bait with you? A 5 gallon bucket with a battery operated bubbler is good enough for a half day trip. Cheap and effective.
- Don't bring a heavy cooler filled with ice, you neither have the space or weight allowance to spare. If you think you're going to keep something, bring a soft catch bag with some ice or frozen water bottles to keep the catch cold. Don't use a stringer unless you want to become shark bait.

There is so much more information to find on this forum, so please use the search functionality. Learn from the forum, your fellow anglers, and exercise good sense out there on the water.
Tight Lines,
Hobie Kayak angler for life!


  • jcanracerjcanracer Posts: 4,267 Moderator
    Other good stuff to have/know, courtesy of previous forum posts:
    - A hand pump is good to have for emergencies when you've taken on water. A large sponge would suffice if you've only got a cup or two of water in the hull.
    - A handheld VHF radio is a good thing to have with you. See the VHF protocol sticky.
    - File a float plan with someone onshore (such as family or wife) so people know where you will be and when to expect you back. If something doesn't go according to that plan, they will know if/when to call the Coast Guard.
    - First aid kit is good to have. You'll be exposed to sharp hooks and sharp teeth out there, prepare yourself accordingly.

    Also a piece of advise from veteran kayakers: keep your distance while fishing. You might paddle out together closely, but once the fishing starts remember that some anglers will not only want a reasonable space in between group members, but they may have a live bait out on a flat line which you may get tangled with. Getting your lines tangled with another anglers' is never fun and can definitely be prevented.

    Hope I covered most of the basic points. I'll open the thread to comments and suggestions now.
    Hobie Kayak angler for life!
  • Dude-On-A-KayakDude-On-A-Kayak Posts: 256 Deckhand
    Great Post. I have a few comments to add:

    -VHF Radios / Cell Phones - If you can afford it, a hand held, floating VHF with GPS capability is the way to go. Ideally you would want it strapped to your life vest. Also, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S6 are IP67 rated. They can be submerged for short periods. It might not be a terrible Idea to have that in your PFD. I am assuming your PFD has pockets. You would have to have the skills of a sea otter to make use of a cell phone floating on your back in the open ocean, but it's better than no cell phone or VHF.

    Here is an extremely unlikely hypothetical to prove my point: a rouge 20' great white shark sends you and your kayak into the stratosphere when you are miles offshore (happened to a dude in a PA14 in California. Google it Sir!). Anyway, you would probably want to get back to the kayak, BUT! if you couldn't it would be nice to have the VHF/GPS to call for help and be able to give an exact position. I kayak solo most of the time. I wear my really hot an annoying PFD with a handheld VHF ( Yes. I was too ignorant and cheap to buy the GPS type). I do have an S5 on me also.

    I should add that much like Stephen Colbert's irrational fear of bears, I have an irrational fear of great white sharks.

    Experience => Efficiency - When you first get into this sport, depending on your personality, you will probably have too much gear and be very slow getting it all down to the water. You are likely to annoy the more seasoned kayak fisherman. You will also annoy yourself with all of the gear you brought and forgot to bring. It will get better. The more you fish, the more you will know with certainty what you need and don't need to bring. I'm still pretty bad at it, but I am light years from where I was when I started. The key is to have flexible gear for most conditions, not specific gear for specific conditions. If you are heading offshore, most of your gear should be ready 24 hours in advance. Don't wait until the night before at 11PM to learn a new mono to braid knot on Youtube. You will catch more fish if you are ready when you hit the beach. If you can't catch bait or the bait shop is out of gogs, screw it. Just fish artificials and jigs. The important part is to get offshore early when the fish are hungry for breakfast.

    Sure, this was a motivational speech to MYSELF, to be ready for this weekend...but hopefully I gave some new kayak fisherman some semi-helpful insight.
  • jcanracerjcanracer Posts: 4,267 Moderator
    Some good points there.
    I especially like your point about not trying to learn new knots or getting your gear ready late night before you go out, been there done that haha!
    FWIW I also have a waterproof cell (S5 active) and a floating VHF radio, both of which are in or attached to my PFD.
    Hobie Kayak angler for life!
  • RickysreefRickysreef Posts: 394 Officer
    Thanks for sharing all that info!!!
  • FLCoyoteFLCoyote Posts: 271 Deckhand
    I realize that this is about offshore, however after nearly killing myself on a mud flat within the past month, I recommend you read the "Thought I was a goner" post in this forum. The mouths of creeks and bayous frequently have large/deep mud build ups. If you manage to get on top of one, the suction can stick your kayak very firmly, if you get out to push you may find yourself thigh deep in mud/silt and find it nearly impossible to move. Since that happened to me, I've talked with two other local folks that had just about the same experience. I'm 70 years old and have been on the water most of that time and this was the first time I really feared for my life. Hard way to learn. Just like your mama said "Don't play in the mud". FLCoyote
  • crackedconchcrackedconch Posts: 358 Deckhand
    Very good info! Thanks for sharing!! All of my fishing is inshore and a lot of that still applies. I have thought about doing some close offshore fishing, but haven't done it yet. My first time will definitely be with a group.

    Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things!!

    Pioneer 197 Sportfish
    Suzuki DF150
  • GarysmoGarysmo Posts: 425 Deckhand

    I see that someone already mentioned rod leashes but I'd suggest you leash everything including your paddle. Things can get away without actually flipping so it is better safe than sorry. As for leashes, you can actually make some pretty nice ones out of weed wacker line. Go to youtube and you can find videos on how to make them. They work well and are easy to make. I do like the store bought ones for my rods but that is personal preference.

  • paddleharderpaddleharder Posts: 179 Deckhand
    I went out off Sanibel Island a few years back. I managed to drop one of my rods overboard and when I reached down to retrieve it the canoe flipped over. I was trying out an electric motor with a small tractor battery. Since everything was still connected to the back of the canoe I could not flip it over. I was going out with the tide in the Gulf and no one was around. I put my cellphone and keys in a zip lock bag and they popped up next to me. I called 911 and I also gave them my wife's number just in case my cellphone died, about an hour later they sent a helicopter and two boats to save my ****. I learned my lesson that day. Thank you Lee county SO for saving me.
  • John McKroidJohn McKroid Posts: 1,583 Captain
    I went out off Sanibel Island a few years back. I managed to drop one of my rods overboard and when I reached down to retrieve it the canoe flipped over. I was trying out an electric motor with a small tractor battery. Since everything was still connected to the back of the canoe I could not flip it over. I was going out with the tide in the Gulf and no one was around. I put my cellphone and keys in a zip lock bag and they popped up next to me. I called 911 and I also gave them my wife's number just in case my cellphone died, about an hour later they sent a helicopter and two boats to save my ****. I learned my lesson that day. Thank you Lee county SO for saving me.
    When my kayak flipped, my new phone, car keys and my wallet sank in the waterproof container because they were attached to my chair that somehow came off.  The vhf radio also went down with the chair.  I activated my Personal  Locator Beacon that was attached to my lifejacket.  A USCG helo flew by 20 minutes later and did not see me.  I drifted the 1.5 miles back to the beach before anyone rescued me.  Had the the wind been blowing offshore, I may have been out there a lot longer.  When the wind blows strong offshore, I head for the beach.
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