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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,” says John Veil, a local fishing expert who has fished from kayaks for 14 years.
“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.”
To learn about launch sites and water conditions, visit the Chesapeake Paddlers Association.