Sometimes you’re having so much fun that you don’t want to go home. Or the fishing hole is so far away, you can’t reach it in one day. That’s when it’s time to load the kayak with a tent and sleeping bag and head out kayak camping. We tapped the Outward Bound fishing pros for their favorite kayak camping destinations. From weekend getaways to hardcore fishing expeditions, take your pick of a camping and fishing gem close to home.

7 Best Kayak Fishing Campouts

Mockhorn Island, Virginia. | Photo: Kevin Whitley

1 Mockhorn Island, Virginia

Virginia’s Eastern Shore features hundreds of miles of deserted islands, white sand beaches, salt marshes and sparse maritime forests. The only place camping is permitted is the Wildlife Management Area on Mockhorn Island. Saw-grass and scrub forest hide the ruins of an abandoned settlement. Dilapidated barns, derelict houses, crumbling breakwaters and rusted machinery haunt the cordgrass and twisted cedar trees. Set up your tent above the high tide line and rule the ruins like a king.

CAMPER: Kayak Kevin Whitley, Ocean Kayak pro, blog and podcast host.

ACCOMMODATIONS: The island is wild with no campsites, facilities or fresh water.

Mild  123number 45  Wild

ACCESSIBILITY: Four-mile paddle across fairly protected water.

Car Camping  12number 345  Everest Basecamp

POPULARITY: Birders and hunters visit during the day. Few people camp on the island.

Tourist Mecca  123number 45  Total Isolation

TARGETS: Red drum, flounder, croaker, speckled trout, striped bass, tarpon.

TACKLE BOX: Medium action rods, 30- to 50-pound braid, 30-pound leader, jigheads and soft-plastics.

METHODS: Sight cast for big reds in the seaside inlets. Bounce jigs through creeks and cuts for flounder. Deeper channels hold croaker. Cast soft-plastics for striper and speckled trout around marsh islands.

LAUNCH: Wise Point or Oyster launch ramp.

CAMPING KIT: Summer camping is lightweight. A three-man tent that doubles as a sun shade during hot days. No sleeping bag. Instead sleep on an egg carton foam pad with a light blanket and your favorite pillow.

DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT: Two gallons of water per day.

MUST SEE: One hour north, the famous horses of Chincoteague live wild in the dunes. Time your trip in July to catch the annual rodeo.

Mendocino Coast, California | Photo: Alamy

2 Mendocino Coast, California

The Albion Bridge is the last wooden bridge on Highway 1 in northern California. Built of scrap wood and steel during the height of World War II shortages, the 900-foot-long bridge crosses 150 feet over the Albion River. Today, the site is home to the Albion River Campground. Tucked between sheer cliffs at the edge of the river, the campground is a perfect place to launch for a protected paddle into the open Pacific. Target salmon, groundfish and Dungeness crabs while bobbing in huge ocean swells under a ceiling of thick fog. The water is 50 degrees nearly year round, but fishing is limited to strict seasons. Albion River Campground has hundreds of sites, a full-service campstore, restaurant and hundreds of like-minded campers drawn to the dramatic beauty and awesome fishing.

CAMPER: Annie Nagel, Ocean Kayak pro.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Tent, RV, hammock—choose your pleasure.

Mild  12number 345  Wild

ACCESSIBILITY: Drive up and camp.

Car Camping  1number 2345  Everest Basecamp

POPULARITY: Long way from anywhere, near the fishing.

Tourist Mecca  1number 2345  Total Isolation

TARGET: Lingcod, rockfish, cabezon, greenling and salmon, Dungeness crab.

TACKLE BOX: Seven-foot medium Penn Fierce 4000 spinning combo with 50-pound braid with 30-pound monofilament leader. Mooching rig with herring or anchovies for salmon. Four to eight-ounce jigs for bottomfish. Crab trap and fish scraps for Dungeness crab.

METHOD: Mooching for salmon. Deep jigging for bottomfish. During Dungeness crab season, find sandy bottom and soak crab traps while you fish.

LAUNCH: Two launch ramps in the campsite.

CAMPING KIT: Comfort camping. Sites have electric outlet and water. Bring air mattress and crockpot. Fire pits need grate for cooking.

DON’T LEAVE HOME: Rig an old rod and reel combo with a Seaqualizer pressure-activated decompression tool to safely release rockfish.

MUST SEE: Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. Sea caves at Van Damme State Park

Dry Tortugas, Florida | Photo: Peter Holcombe

3 Dry Tortugas, Florida

The Dry Tortugas were discovered by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1511. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Navy built Fort Jefferson to protect against pirates. The fort still stands as the largest masonry structure in the Americas, using over 16 million bricks. The National Park Service took over the archipelago of keys in 1935. Today, tourists, divers and anglers cross 70 miles from Key West by ferry or sea plane to pull exotic species out of crystal blue water.

CAMPER: Darin O’Brien, tournament angler and outdoor writer.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Bring everything in and pack everything out. The only luxury is composting outhouses.

Mild  123number 45  Wild

ACCESSIBILITY: A cushy ferry ride to the island leaves you 70 miles from Key West. Park Service is available 24/7.

Car Camping  12number 345  Everest Basecamp

POPULARITY: Despite being remote, the islands are a popular tourist destination. Ferries and float planes bring up to 180 sightseers at a time. Few visitors stay the night, after the last boat leaves the island is empty.

Tourist Mecca  1number 2345  Total Isolation

TARGET: Grouper, snapper, tarpon, permit, snook, amberjack, barracuda and sharks.

TACKLE BOX: Heavy jigging rods, 50-pound braid and vertical jigs. Medium spinning rod, 20-pound braid and 40-pound fluorocarbon leader with soft plastic flukes and swimbaits.

METHOD: Fishing is only allowed in a one mile radius of Fort Jefferson. The deepest water is on the east side. Find rockpiles and ledges then drop a jig. Or, sight fish in the shallow flats with light tackle. Keep a rod rigged with a scented shrimp imitation for finicky hogfish. Some of the park rangers are fishermen and they are happy to share fishing information.

LAUNCH: The ferry can only carry three kayaks per trip.

CAMPING KIT: Heavy-duty tent spikes for the sand-shale soil. Use an air mattress and sheet, no sleeping bag in the hot summer. Bring two gallons of water per person each day. Fuel stoves are not allowed, so bring charcoal and use the park grills. Hope to cook fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT: A depth finder and GPS combo for finding submerged structure that holds fish.

MUST SEE: Take a tour of Fort Jefferson. Treat yourself to lunch on the ferry boat, it’s cheap and offers delicious calories that don’t taste like charcoal.

Caddo Lake, Texas | Photo: Dustin Doskocil

4 Caddo Lake, Texas

Caddo Lake is named after the Caddo Native Americans who called the area home for thousands of years. The flooded forest allows kayak anglers to paddle among towering cypress trees draped in Spanish moss. Bring more than one GPS and plenty of batteries, because it is easy to get lost in this maze of vegetation and water. The dense trunks and channels hide secrets and mysteries: the nearest town is Uncertain, Texas and some people have even reported spotting Big Foot.

CAMPER: Dustin Doskocil, pro photographer.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Campsites consist of a fire ring and a clearing.

Mild  123number 45  Wild

ACCESSIBILITY: Camping is less than two miles from the launch.

Car Camping  12number 345  Everest Basecamp

POPULARITY: Don’t expect to see other campers.

Tourist Mecca  123number 45  Total Isolation

TARGET: Main target is largemouth bass. Also catfish, crappie and brim.

METHODS: Jigging the cypress knots produces bass up to five pounds. Spring and fall are the best time to avoid mosquitoes. The area is swampy and choked with salvinia weeds.

LAUNCH: Boat ramp at Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area.

TACKLE BOX: Heavy-duty line, rod and reel, it’s easy to get hung up out there.

CAMPING KIT: Sun Shower packs small and keeps angler and gear clean. Plus, it saves you from bathing in alligator-infested waters.

DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT: Use short rods when fishing heavy cover around Caddo Lake. Keep rods under seven feet long.

MUST SEE: Barred owls make their homes in the cypress trees and Spanish moss. They are easy to spot during the day and listening to their eerie calls at night will make your blood run cold. Watch out, the owls will attack topwater lures.

Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia | Photo: Chris Funk

5 Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia

The Okefenokee Swamp should be on every paddler’s bucket list. Its 438,000 acres of black water, lily pads, cypress trees and swamp prairie will keep a kayaker fascinated for days. Camp at Stephen Foster State Park campground or pull an overnighter in the swamp. Swamp camping requires a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to stay on one of seven raised platforms called chickees. Expect alligators and venomous snakes. The most voracious critter is the biting yellow fly. Don’t expect to see other people.

CAMPER: Chris Funk, pro photographer and blogger.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Easy drive-up camping in the campsite or rough it on elevated platforms in the swamp.

Mild  1number 2345  Wild

ACCESSIBILITY: Campground is easily accessible, while paddling into the swamp is more remote.

Car Camping  12number 345  Everest Basecamp

POPULARITY: Campground gets crowded on the weekends. Primitive swamp sites rarely see people.

Tourist Mecca  12number 345  Total Isolation

TARGET: Bowfin, chain pickerel, warmouth, black bullhead and green-speckled panfish called fliers.

TACKLE BOX: Use spinnerbait or jerkbait and a 20-pound leader for chain pickerel or a topwater frog for bowfin. A heavy rod and braided line will help get fish out of the thick vegetation. A gob of red wiggler worm on a small hook under a bobber will put enough warmouth and fliers in the box for dinner.

METHODS: Work a spinnerbait or frog on the edge of lilly pad fields or along current breaks for bowfin. These fish deliver a startling topwater strike and spastic fight. Dangle a worm in the cypress knees for panfish.

LAUNCH: Ramp located in the park.

CAMPING KIT: Bring the three-room, family big-top to camp in the state park campground, which also has RV sites and cabins. For swamp camping, a good sleeping pad softens the wood platforms.

DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT: Southern Georgia weather can go from summer to winter in minutes. Dress accordingly.

Bunsby Islands, British Columbia | Photo: Steve Thomsen

6 Bunsby Islands, British Columbia

The only way to reach Big Bunsby Marine Provincial Park is by boat. After making the crossing from Vancouver Island, there are no roads and no people. While the islands are isolated, they provide safe harbor from the open Pacific making the reefs, bays and inlets fishable in almost any weather. There are no campsites or hiking trails, but popular stops are marked with driftwood. Ocean currents curving up from the south keep the weather warm and wet, cloaking the mountainous islands with a dense rainforest. The islands are surrounded by kelp forests that host calicos and halibut while schools of salmon work the open water.

CAMPER: Rob Lyon, pro guide, outdoor writer.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Free and wild without roads, regulations or facilities.

Mild  1234number 5  Wild

ACCESSIBILITY: Paddle miles across open ocean. Survive the breakers to camp in the dense forest.

Car Camping  1234number 5  Everest Basecamp

POPULARITY: Attracts thrill seekers and adventurers.

Tourist Mecca  123number 45  Total Isolation

TARGET: Coho salmon, ling, black rock bass and halibut.

TACKLE BOX: For salmon, a 9-wt fly rod with 15-pound leader. Troll bucktails or cast flies to working schools of salmon. To target rock bass, use a medium-action conventional outfit. A medium-heavy combo will handle larger soft-plastics for halibut and ling.

METHOD: For salmon, troll with tandem Canadian bucktails or cast streamers to bait balls. Season is July through September. Look for fish schooling at river mouths in late season. Black rock bass, kelp greenling, calico bass and quillback hide in kelp forests. Halibut and ling lie below waiting for a big jig. Use lighter conventional gear to work jigs in the upper water column for bass or drop a heavier jig to the bottom for halibut and ling.

LAUNCH: Leave from Government Wharf in Fair Harbour, the last outpost before the marine park on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Paddle six hours to the Bunsbys, or catch one of the motherships that leave from several area ports.

CAMPING KIT: Serious wilderness camping requires a lightweight three-season tent. Bring water or filter from streams and rivers. Medium-weight sleeping bag.

DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT: A good tarp. Use it as a quick shelter or to catch rainwater. Expect strong storms and plan to be hunkered down for a couple days.

Lake Traverse, Ontario | Photo: Brooks Beatty

7 Lake Traverse, Ontario

Algonquin Park is three hours from Ottawa, making it a popular getaway for city folks. The park holds 2,400 lakes and 800 miles of rivers and streams that are dotted with campsites. Lake Traverse is part of the Petawawa River system that flows from the center of the park to the Ottawa River. The park lies on the meeting of northern coniferous and southern deciduous forests, creating habitat for a variety of wildlife and fish. Watch for moose, bear, deer, beaver, snakes, fishers and weasels.

CAMPER: James McBeath, Jackson Kayak’s director of marketing.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Cleared campsites and pit toilets.

Mild  1number 2345  Wild

ACCESSIBILITY: Long dirt road to launch and paddle-in camping.

Car Camping  1number 2345  Everest Basecamp

POPULARITY: A few anglers in tin boats on the weekends. Inaccessible to larger boats.

Tourist Mecca  12number 345  Total Isolation

TARGET: Largemouth bass and catfish call Lake Traverse home, but the most popular target is musky. Check legal seasons before fishing.

METHOD: Topwater frogs are a favorite for aggressive musky. We had more than 60 strikes in three days, but only hooked up with eight fish.

TACKLE BOX: Musky hide in thick vegetation on shallow banks. Topwater frogs are the best weapon to avoid snags. Trade the higher hook-up ratio of treble hooks for weedless frogs. Use a net to scoop toothy musky from the water and long-nose pliers to remove hooks.

CAMPING KIT: Pack personal gear like clothes, tent and sleeping bag in the kayak. Tow a standup paddleboard loaded with coolers of food.

MUST SEE: Be wary of moose. These huge animals are impressive at a distance, but downright scary close-up.

LOCAL EAT/DRINK: Fuel up on poutine—fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. Wash it down with local craft beer from Whitewater Brewing Company.

Cover of the Kayak Angler Magazine Winter 2016 issueThis article was first published in the Winter 2016 issue of Kayak Angler Magazine. Subscribe to Kayak Angler Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

Feature photo: Dustin Doskocil



  1. The Okefenokee Swamp is the highest on my bucket list. The overnight camping on the chickees sounds like an experience you’ll never forget. Also, living in Georgia the biting yellow flies are no joke lol. Thanks for sharing this awesome list!


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