In-Depth

Kayak Fishing on the Chesapeake Bay

With more than 64,000 square miles, the Chesapeake Bay watershed is an incredible place to fish. From fishing for trout in small headwater streams to bull red drum at the mouth of the bay, there is something for every angler of any skill, experience level, or physical ability. There are many fishing piers in places like Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, Maryland or Kiptopeke State Park in Cape Charles, Virginia. However, fishing from the shore or a pier can be limiting in its access to the water and fish. A motorboat is one of the best ways to fish the Chesapeake’s larger water bodies. It is able to cover long distances and carry an almost unlimited amount of gear so anglers are ready for any situation. But boats are expensive and the costs mount up when it comes to fuel and maintenance (as some old fishermen have said, boat stands for “break out another thousand”). Then there is Goldilocks’ just right method to fishing the Chesapeake: the kayak.

Lightweight, manually powered, highly customizable, and much more versatile when fishing some of the shallower areas of the region, a kayak grants an angler greater access to the water than bank fishing, but, in turn, does not break the bank. Fishing kayaks generally range in price from around $300 for a barebones style that anglers paddle by hand on up to $5,000 for models that offer foot pedal drive systems, rod holders, fish finders, and anything else an angler could want. While it is true that an angler is somewhat limited in a kayak—unable to reach spots that are farther away and possibly hazardous to such a small boat, like fast currents, big waves, and large freighter ships—there are many benefits associated with the sport.

“Fishing from a kayak is so much more personal. You are closer to the water and your target species, in addition to being super quiet,” said Doug Greiner, a kayak fishing enthusiast who fishes on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. “I can also get into places that boats wouldn't dream of. This includes shallow water but also includes places such as rubbing against bridge pilings and in the surf zone of a beach.”

Without having to use fuel, all of the energy used to power the boat benefits the kayaker. This low impact exercise can improve cardiovascular fitness as well as strength in multiple areas of the body.

The size and weight of a kayak also makes them faster to launch, which means less time preparing the boat and more time on the water. “Kayak fishing offers simpler logistics than boat fishing.  I live 10 minutes from one launch point and 15 minutes from several other points. I enjoy the exercise, the ability to spend time on the water, the stealth, and the simplicity. I enjoy sneaking into shallow water spots that I could not reach by boat or by foot,” said John Veil, author of Fishing in Your Comfort Zone. “The Chesapeake offers many tidal rivers and creeks that provide beautiful scenery, the opportunity to view wildlife, and often sheltered conditions that do not require long paddles or pedals.  For those who are more gung-ho, there are many different types of habitats within two hours of my home in Annapolis that allow for many fishing opportunities.  I prefer to stay close to home and get to know certain bodies of water very well – I can learn how the fish and the water bodies change with the seasons.”

An angler hooks into a white perch off Matapeake Beach (Photo: Peter Turcik)

To learn about launch sites and water conditions, visit the Chesapeake Paddlers Association

Bald Eagle State Park

Bald Eagle State Park

The 5,900-acre Bald Eagle State Park is in the broad Bald Eagle Valley of northcentral Pennsylvania. The 1,730-acre lake laps the flanks of Bald Eagle Mountain, surrounded by forests, fields and wetlands.

Howard, PA

Bear Creek Lake State Park

Bear Creek Lake State Park

Less than an hour west of Richmond and nestled in the heart of Cumberland State Forest, Bear Creek Lake is the perfect getaway for the outdoor enthusiast. It has opportunities for recreation on the water and in the surrounding forest.

Cumberland, VA

Bel Air State Park water view

Belle Isle State Park

With seven miles of waterfront on the north shore of the Rappahannock, Belle Isle State Park features diverse tidal and nontidal wetlands, lowland marshes, tidal coves and upland forests.

Lancaster, VA

Canoers at Chapel Point State Park

Chapel Point State Park

Chapel Point State Park is an undeveloped multi-use park that boasts a waterfront on the beautiful Port Tobacco River, a tributary of the Potomac River.

Port Tobacco, MD

Codorus State Park

Codorus State Park

Lake Marburg, which predominates the park, has 26 miles of shoreline and is a reststop for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. The lake is also popular with sailboaters, motorboaters, and anglers.

Hanover, PA

Hikers at Elk Neck State Park

Elk Neck State Park

Elk Neck State Park boasts 2,188 acres of sandy beaches, marshlands, and heavily wooded bluffs within the peninsula formed by the North East River, Elk River, and the Chesapeake Bay.

North East, MD

Footbridge to Beach at First Landing State Park

First Landing State Park

First Landing State Park is located near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay close to the spot where Captain John Smith landed in 1607. First Landing is Virginia's most popular state park with over a million visitors each year.

Virginia Beach, VA

Greenwell State Park

Greenwell State Park

A recreational park along the beautiful Patuxent River that also provides special programs and facilities for the handicapped.

Hollywood, MD

Kayaker at Janes Island State Park

Janes Island State Park

Janes Island State Park encompasses 2,900 acres of Chesapeake Bay marsh, beach, and highland. The park is dissected by many small waterways, with 30 miles of trails marked for canoes and kayaks.

Crisfield, MD

Sunrise at Kiptopeke State Park

Kiptopeke State Park

Kiptopeke State Park's location near the tip of the Chesapeake's Eastern Shore makes the park a prime location for bird-watching. Migrating birds congregate at this point on the Delmarva before moving on to breeding or wintering grounds.

Cape Charles, VA

Picnickers at Leesylvania State Park

Leesylvania State Park

Leesylvania State Park is the location of the ancestral home of the Lee family overlooking the Potomac River. Today the park offers a range of recreational activities and beautiful views of the river, one of the Chesapeake's largest tributaries.

Woodbridge, VA

North Point State Park

North Point State Park

North Point State Park is a 1,310-acre Bay-front park with more than six miles of shoreline along the Chesapeake Bay, Back River, and Shallow Creek. The park offers public access, a wading beach, and crabbing and fishing opportunities.

Edgemere, MD

View of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from Sandy Point State Park

Sandy Point State Park

Spectacular views, diverse wildlife and fantastic beaches make this park a popular Chesapeake destination. The 786 acre park provides a variety of recreational opportunities such as swimming, fishing, crabbing, boating, and windsurfing.

Annapolis, MD

Smallwood State Park

Smallwood State Park

Smallwood State Park, along a tributary of the Potomac River, offers a unique mix of historical significance and modern-day boating conveniences.

Marbury, MD

Susquehanna State Park

Susquehanna State Park (MD)

Susquehanna State Park offers a wide variety of outdoor recreational opportunities as well as points of historical significance. The park is home to some of the most popular mountain biking trails in Maryland and the river itself beacons fishermen and boaters alike.

Havre De Grace, MD

Hiawatha River Boat on the Susquehanna River

Susquehanna State Park (PA)

This 20-acre riverfront recreational area is in the city of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The park offers boating, fishing, picnicking and cruises on a paddlewheeler.

Williamsport, PA

A sunset at Westmoreland State Park

Westmoreland State Park

The park extends about one and a half miles along the Potomac River and offers hiking, camping, cabins, fishing, boating and swimming. Visitors can enjoy the park's vacation cabins as well as spectacular views of the Potomac.

Montross, VA

York River State Park

York River State Park

York River State Park offers visitors an opportunity to experience the environment of a coastal estuary. The park is known for its rare and delicate environment, where freshwater and saltwater meet.

Williamsburg, VA

Peter Turcik

Peter is a media specialist with the Chesapeake Conservancy.  He has a journalism and writing background that includes work with Trib Total Media, the U.S. House of Representatives, National Geographic Society, and the National Park Service.

October 24, 2016

Main image: A young woman trolls for rockfish in site of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (Photo: Peter Turcik)
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