If you ever wanted to discover whats below the surface I cannot think of a better more affordable way to discover this than to use your kayak as a snorkeling platform. weather its for education or to hunt and gather the world below the surface will leave you wanting more every time. This intro is written more with the hunter gatherer in mind as my motivation to take the plunge for the first time was purely for the purpose of gathering a feed of scollop’s.
For the hunter gatherer having an understanding of the underwater environment will aid your chances of landing your target. A couple of years ago I decided I would take a snorkel and mask with me on a kayak fishing trip and get in the water to see exactly what I was fishing over. I am not a diver and had limited snorkelling experience up until then so did not know what to expect, it took some courage to leave the safety of my kayak that first time.
What I found from this first experience totally changed my understanding and awareness of the ocean floor. I am now an active free diver, using only my kayak for transport, hunting crayfish, scallops and any other shell fish available at the time, also doing the odd bit of spearfishing. Being under the water often means I get to see more of the structure, what fish species are in the area along with the potential prey they are chasing. I have been able to identify areas that I thought held good fish, only to see the reason I could not land these frustrating fish was because they were the wrong species for the technique and gear used or a smaller pest species.
As a result I catch a lot more fish and lose far less gear. I know some of you reading this are thinking “good for you, but not for me, happy to stay on top of the water thanks!!” that’s exactly how I felt, it was only that I had a friend joining me who was also doing this for the first time, that saw me with the courage to have a go (safety in numbers?…I knew I could swim faster than him if Noah turned up, made me feel better anyway!). The great thing about combining kayaks with snorkelling is that anyone of any fitness level can do it as long as you can swim and can hold your breath you can have a go. Having your kayak as the platform means you always have safety close at hand and a place to put anything you gather from the ocean. I recommend that every kayak fisherman, especially those targeting coastline areas, to give it a go just for fun.
I only snorkel with a buddy and seldom venture into waters any deeper than 10 meters, good crayfish can be found in water less than 5 meters and a lot of good reef fish can be found in close to rocky shores. Check out my short crayfish and snapper video
For those of you who have done a bit of snorkelling or diving here’s how I use my kayak to assist in the hunt for scallops’ and crayfish. I will either paddle out or snorkel straight off the beach to the spot I want to search. By attaching a length of rope to my kayak and holding the other end I can simply tow the kayak behind me, (the length of the rope will depend on the depth you can snorkel). I find an anchor running rig attached to the kayak useful as the attachment point on the kayak. The end attached to me can either be hooked to my spear gun, to my weight belt on a quick release clip or I will attach it to a small anchor which I hold in my hand.
Once I have located either a scallop bed or crayfish hole I will then drop the anchor to mark the spot. This means that I can follow the anchor line down to accurately find the target, avoiding wasting energy looking for a spot that I may have drifted off while recovering. When on the surface recovering for the next dive the kayak can be used to conserve energy until you are ready to go again, simply by holding one hand on it to take the weight off.
When spearfishing I tend to anchor the kayak close buy, usually this is due to being close to shallow reefs where having the kayak attached to you can be a hindrance.. The kayak is always close enough that when I have shot a fish I can put it straight in the rear insulated storage compartment or bag.
Sharks and safety
In the last 4 years I have been doing this I have never seen a shark, lots of stingray and close encounters with protective moray eels but no sharks. That’s not to say I am not aware that they are there and I advise precautions to avoid encounters such as don’t dive in water that has poor visibility, do not dive on dark when sharks are known to feed and always take a buddy with you.
The biggest threat to any free diver/snorkeler is lack of knowledge and experience. I strongly suggest that people educate themselves first, read up on the subject of free diving and eventually take a course. Get the right gear and never push your limits, that said taking a snorkel and mask and simply laying on the surface looking below is safe and will be very rewarding for you. This is also something you can share with your family; my 5 year old son can snorkel better than many adults thanks to me introducing him to snorkelling from the kayak. If he can do it so can you.