Last Saturday I had the pleasure of occupying a sunny perch along the Harbor Springs waterfront at a kayak demonstration day sponsored by The Outfitter of Harbor Springs
. No surprise there were a multitude of kayaks in a multitude of day-glo colors. Short kayaks, long kayaks, sit-in kayaks, sit-on kayaks, all of which you could paddle to your heart’s content, by the way.
Most of the kayaks looked pretty much as you’d expect them to look—bright and sleek and fun--but one in particular caught my eye. It was lime green, bristled with fishing rods and was tricked out with a fish finder, a tackle box the size of a laundry basket and other stuff that keeps fish-gear freaks dreaming. I knew that kayak fishing had been catching on, but I didn’t fully grasp the level to which it had apparently evolved.
I headed over to talk to the owner, Lucian Gizel, a fishing guide and member of the Ocean Kayak Pro Staff. Gizel, it turns out is one of those people you imagine might be out in the world somewhere, but can only wonder about: he makes a living fishing and kayaking.
Gizel was only too happy to show off his boat to me. There was a special place molded to fit the fish finder. The rods mounted in special holders that were located super conveniently. The rectangular cargo hold behind the paddler was sized just right to fit his gigantic tackle box.
The aspect of the boat that surprised me the most, though, was how much cargo it could hold. Gizel had just returned from a seven-day fishing trip down the Au Sable River, during which he lived out of his boat. The Au Sable is a great river to explore the fishing capabilities of a kayak, Gizel explained, because it covers the range of water, from cold, running river water to warm, flat lake water. One reason fishermen like to fish from kayaks is they float so shallow you can get into places even canoes can’t go. During the trip, Gizel caught the largest smallmouth bass he'd ever landed, 7 pounds-plus.
But Gizel is comfortable in his boat out on the big water too—if a wave washes over the cockpit area, the water self-drains. And the boat is so stable fishermen can stand on it to fish when the water is calm.
Gizel and about a dozen kayak fishing devotees gather in September at the D.H. Day Campground in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to hold a salmon tournament in Lake Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Bay. What’s that like battling a big fish in big water from a little boat? “You just have to play it out, get it tired before you get the fish to the boat,” he said. The boat itself becomes part of the drag system as the fish hauls you around the surface.
One thing I like about kayak fishing is that it marries a part of Michigan that is deep and rich in tradition-- fishing--with a part of Michigan that is new and growing and gaining momentum--exploring our waters by kayak. And of course, you don’t have to rig your boat to quite the degree that Gizel has rigged his. Try it out by just renting a kayak, slipping it into a quiet lake somewhere and tossing out a lure. Simple.
Learn more at the Michigan Kayak Fishing
Explore Harbor Springs with the Petoskey, Harbor Springs & Bay Harbor Vacation Guide
Jeff Smith is editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine. firstname.lastname@example.org