Like most of you reading this, I spend a ridiculous amount of time in the off-season scouring Google Earth for new areas to fish for the spring run. Unfortunately, what I’ve found is that so many of these ideal areas are inaccessible by foot alone. Flashbacks of memories fishing from shore while epic feeds popping off (well out of casting distance) come to mind. This is where having a means of aquatic transport comes in handy.
I mean, fishing from a kayak or a canoe is nothing new. In fact most fishing kayaks these days feature high quality pedal drive systems, rod holders, and large storage capacities specifically marketed for anglers.
But, I have one problem: I live in a small apartment in Boston where storage is limited. With a bit of research into other options, I came across some videos of anglers down in Florida fishing for tarpon from stand up paddleboards (SUPs). Let me tell you something: IT. LOOKED. AWESOME. Consequently, I ended up purchasing an inflatable SUP for my own fishing adventures. Here’s some of the pros and cons associated with fishing from a SUP.
1. There are two main types of SUPs: inflatable and solid hulls.
Inflatable hulls are generally made of a durable PVC coated drop stitch fabric, and they tend to sit a bit higher off the water than solid hulls. Solid hulls usually have a foam core and are layered with epoxy or fiberglass. You also will want to consider the width of the SUP. Wider boards are more stable, but slower to move, whereas narrow boards are less stable but faster through the water. Another consideration is storage/portability. Solid hulls will require a truck bed or roof rack to transport, whereas inflatables can roll up into a bag that can fit into the trunk of even the smallest sedans. When I received my inflatable SUP, I was surprised by how heavy the thing is (60-80 lbs). So don’t get the impression that inflatable means you’re going to be hiking up mountains with this thing on your back.
2. You need to have balance….sort of
Before I brought any of my fishing equipment on my SUP, I practiced the basics. How to get on the board, how to paddle efficiently in stronger winds, and how to counter balance waves and wakes. It’s definitely worth the extra time to get familiar with your SUP before loading it with gear. YouTube is your friend here and has a vast library of videos for the beginner paddleboarder. Keep in mind, these things are really stable on the water, and while you definitely need a bit more balance than if you were sitting low in a kayak, I think most able bodied individuals won’t have too much of an issue getting used to fishing on a SUP.
3. Accessories to outfit your SUP
I’m just going to say that it’s an absolute necessity to have some kind of tackle rack/rod holder assembly on your SUP. Leaving your expensive equipment on the deck while your hands are busy paddling is just asking for trouble. Some companies make tackle racks designed for SUPs, but you could also make your own using a hard shell cooler and some universal rod holders. And hey, the cooler can also function as a seat you can paddle from as well. Something else you might want to consider is a small anchor to help hold position in faster currents. Another helpful accessory is a shoulder strap to sling the board over one shoulder and use your other hand for you rods while walking to the launch spot.
4. Hull Features
When buying a SUP you plan to fish with you need to evaluate the deck space. You’re going to want tie down points for things such as coolers, extra layers, tackle boxes, etc. You’ll need a place to stash your paddle so look for cross bungie cord storage or paddle sheaths. If buying a used SUP, look for chips and dings in the epoxy/fiberglass if it’s a hard hull, and rips or signs of delamination if buying an inflatable.
5. Types of Fishing
It’s important to consider what kind of fishing you are intending to do on a SUP. I’ve found that a SUP is suited well for light tackle fishing in estuaries, ponds, and flats. In particular, these boards are practically built for fly fishing. Plenty of open deck space for your line, and minimal risk of snags and tangles on the hull. For spin gear both fresh and saltwater, you can even troll if you set up your rod racks appropriately.
6. Safety equipment
Virtually all of the same laws that apply to kayak fishing are the same for SUPs. You need some kind of approved PFD, and it’s also a good idea to have a whistle and a light beacon in your pack. This is especially important in the Spring and late Fall when the water is bone-chillingly cold in the Northeast. The specially-design high-back kayak specific PFDs are comfortable enough to wear all day and won’t weight you down with bulky additions.
7. We are here to pump YOU up
So it’s time to inflate the SUP. You’ve got two options here: A manual pump, or an electronic pump. Pumping up an inflatable SUP takes about 5-10 minutes of constant pumping to achieve the required 10psi for adequate inflation. You’ll break a sweat. If this doesn’t sound like your thing, an electronic pump is the way to go. Most of them will plug into your car’s electric outlet and will get the job done in roughly 5 minutes.
8. When in doubt, kneel
This probaly goes without saying, but standing up on a paddleboard makes you less stable and more prone to falling over, especially when that googan in a shiny new bow rider comes blasting through the no wake zone. If you’re about to take on a wave or when you need to land a fish, kneel down and you’ll be much more stable. It’s also helpful to kneel while paddling against the wind as your body won’t be acting like a sail pushing you in the opposite direction.
9. It’s a bit of a workout
Paddling a SUP is a lot different than paddling a canoe or kayak. The day after my first practice session on my SUP I woke up with an entire body of muscle aches. It’s definitely more of a full body movement on a SUP. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you don’t mind burning a few extra calories while out on the water.
10. Catching Fish!
When you hook into a fish be prepared for a bit of a sleighride. Even a schoolie striper can pull your SUP around a bit. As a result, it can be tricky to maintain a tight line while fighting a fish, so it is extremely important to fight the fish using the butt section of the rod and be very mindful of the direction the fish is traveling. Standing can help you gain leverage over the fish, but when the leader is near it is much easier to land the fish from a kneeling position.
If you’re a light tackle angler who wants something portable, convenient to store, and fun to fish from, a SUP is a great option. If storage and transport aren’t an issue and you want something you can easily add a fish finder to, or take a bit further offshore with peace of mind, then a kayak may be better suited for you.
Tight lines and smooth drags.