Although it sometimes seems like a new idea, many of the earliest kayaks were used primarily as hunting and fishing craft. Fishing is actually the reason I started kayaking in the first place. I liked to fish in places that were difficult to reach. Less pressure from other fishermen meant more catching. A kayak allows me to get beyond those areas that I could easily reach by walking and launch where there isn't a boat ramp. For ocean fishing, I could reach areas that were too far to comfortably run in a powerboat and even fish in protected coves when it was too rough to run to or enter from the outside.
I still have a perfectly good power skiff parked in the garage, But I found that it is so much easier to load, launch, rig, land and then put everything away after kayak fishing that I seldom use the power skiff anymore. While kayak fishing, I've caught salmon, trout, rockfish, lingcod, cabazon, greenling, grayling, perch, barracuda, mackerel, bass, pike, shad, crawfish, crappie and crabs. I've even used a kayak to get out to dig giant clams on virgin mud flats that I had all to myself.
Kayaks for Fishing:
If you already have a suitable kayak it will only require a few accessories to get it ready for fishing. If you don't yet have a kayak, I would recommend one that is stable enough so that you don't risk capsize whenever the paddle isn't available for a quick bracing stroke. Depending on how much tackle you like to carry, you might be able to get along fine without hatches or a tank-well where others might carry boxes, bags and buckets of tackle. You will want to consider where you will carry your catch. A tethered mesh bag that you can set in the tank-well works fine for most instances. You might be able to drag fish on a stringer but don't expect to be able to paddle very fast with a stringer of fish dragging in the water.
Many fishermen prefer to use sit-on-top type kayaks but traditional style kayaks are fine for some types of fishing. Sit-On-Tops usually provide lots of places to mount accessory gear and clips. So far as I know, a SCUBA tank-wells (a good place to carry your catch) are not available on any sit-inside cockpit kayak. For ocean fishing, sit-on-tops are often preferred chosen because of safety concerns. They do not have the high risk of flooding if accidentally capsized and are much easier to re-board from the water. I recommend that you practice self-rescues. Otherwise you would have to do your best figure it out, when cold, wet and startled by your first accidental capsize.
Do you want gear hatches? I don't like to carry much tackle if I can avoid it. I try to carry whatever I might need in a vest that is large enough to wear over my PFD. You should consider where you might want to carry some lunch, and do not forget to take plenty to drink! Opening hatches out on the water can be hazardous so I would only carry those things inside a hatch that could wait until I paddled ashore to reach.
You want some wide flat surfaces to mount a rod holder or two. Flat surfaces on the top and sides also make adding clips and accessories much easier. There is an accessory called a Rhynobar that gives any kayak angler a space to mount rod holders, fish finders or other accessories.You can also add hatches if there are suitable locations. Many kayaks have been designed for optional hatches and this certainly simplifies adding them.
A suitable kayak for fishing will be determined by several factors. The water and conditions that you intend to fish in (warm water, cold water, lakes, fast moving rivers, bays or an exposed coastal area are one consideration. Your size, balance, and the distance you intend to paddle will also affect your decision. You will also want to consider how you will transport the kayak. Lighter (and shorter) kayaks might make transportation less of a chore.
A fishing kayak will probably be at least 11 feet long for adequate tracking and carrying capacity. If the kayak will be used primarily for fishing in fast moving rivers, I would then look for something short enough for good maneuverability and I would avoid boats with any kind of keel.
The kayak will probably be at least 24" if it is to have enough stability to use for fishing. Wider boats generally offer greater stability but less paddling efficiency. Although fishing will seldom require much speed, if you expect to paddle more than a mile or so to your fishing spot, you might want to avoid anything more than 28" wide. If you are much over 200 lbs., you may however, need greater beam to get enough stability (and butt-room) to be comfortable.
The best way to tell is to paddle enough different boats so that you can develop a sense of what feels best. After you have begun to settle on a model, I would take it out for at least a one-hour paddle to confirm your decision. Once you begin to feel tired, what may have seemed like minor differences may feel more significant
Specific Kayak Models:
I would recommend almost anyone begin their search by looking at either a (12’ X 29" X 56 lbs.) Scrambler XT by Ocean Kayak (OK) or a (13’ X 28" X 62 lbs.) Ride by Wilderness Systems (W/S.) These two kayaks are very stable, both have a tank-wells are easy enough to paddle and comfortable for most people. If you want something a bit faster, look at the (16’ X 28" X 63 lbs.) Tarpon by W/S or any of the (15" X 26" X 56 lbs.) Scupper Pro models by O.K., one has a tank-well. Paddlers who want an efficient hull in a slightly lighter (and less expensive) package might try the (14" X 26" X 48 lbs.) Scupper Classic. Curiously, even large paddlers may find the shallower seat of the Classic more comfortable than the Pro (but they will need better than average balance to stay upright.) Smaller paddlers who desire a lighter boat might also consider the (11’ X 28" X 45 lbs.) Scrambler (NOT XT) by O.K. If you are a XXL+ paddler, you might consider the (12.5" X 34" X 58 lbs.) Drifter by O.K. or even a (12’ X 35" X 61 lbs.) Malibu II, a double kayak which can be paddled as a single. If you are thinking of drift fishing in fast moving rivers, the (10.5" X 30" X 53 lbs.) Yahoo might be what you want. Other manufacturers make some good fishing kayaks too. These are models we sell and I know them best.
Sit-Inside Kayaks:These can work fine, particularly if you are not going to paddle through any rough water and you HOPE to stay dry. Regardless of the type of kayak you choose, you should not neglect the possibility of a capsize. (Do not paddle a kayak anywhere you are not prepared to swim.) You might consider these type of kayaks so long as they feel stable to you. A large cockpit opening like the (12' X 29" X 49 lbs.) Pungo by W.S., is fine but not essential for fishing. If you intend to take a sit-inside kayak into conditions where there is a significant danger of capsize, you might want to consider equipping the kayak with inflatable sponsons. When sponsons are properly installed and inflated, they can add a great deal of stability and reduce the likelihood of capsize. They can deflated and even removed for normal paddling.