When the water is shallow and the fish are sketchy, it’s time to get out and wade. But stalking fish on foot takes skill and requires safety. Check out these pro wade-anglers’ tips and tricks for walking on water.
Pro Tips for Wade Fishing from Your Kayak
Kayak fly fishing guide Steve Kean wades the waters of Cape Cod looking for striper. “If you’re not right on top of tailing fish you can wade closer,” says Kean, “because they’re concentrating on feeding.”
Kean uses a 10-pound fluke anchor to secure his kayak in fast current. “I want an anchor that could hold a ferry boat,” he says. He suggests using at least three feet of anchor line for every one foot of water depth. If Kean’s kayak breaks free while he’s wading an isolated bar, he would be stranded.
“Stocking-foot waders are more comfortable for walking,” says Kean. “Look for wading boots with small vent holes that prevent sand from collecting in the toe of the boot.”
“Don’t get caught by the tide,” Kean warns, “plan an escape route through deeper water so you can paddle out at low tide.”
“Fishing the flats is similar to still-hunting,” says Will Myers, an advisory board member of the conservation group, Texas Wade Paddle and Pole. “Walk quietly and slowly,” he instructs, “then stop and study the area carefully before moving again.”
Myers takes a different approach to anchoring. “I attach eight feet of nylon rope to a camp shovel and stick it in the mud,” he explains, adding that the light shovel doubles as a handhold if he needs to drag his kayak through the marsh.
Stingrays are common in Texas, so Myers recommends wearing knee-high ray guards. “Don’t skimp with the quality,” says Myers, “larger rays can hit you far up the calf, so even eight-inch-high boots would be inadequate.”
Captain Brian Nelli, of Pushin’ Water Kayak Fishing Charters, guides his clients to trophy snook around southeast Florida. “I’m looking for areas with current and baitfish,” he says, “like structure on the flat, potholes, mangroves and channel edges.”
Nelli recommends wading shoes with laces. “Velcro or zippers aren’t going to keep the shoe on your foot if you step into the mud,” he laughs. Nelli wears shorts instead of long pants, which he says absorb water and weigh him down when he gets into the kayak.
All three skippers stress safety when wading. Before taking a step, feel ahead with your toes for drops or rocks. A wading staff will help feel out the bottom and offer extra support in deep or swift water. The guides also recommend wearing a PFD while wading. Not only does a fishing PFD provide a place to carry tackle and tools, but it could save your life if you step into deep water.
These pros agree: walk carefully and wading will only be dangerous for the fish.
When the fish are finicky and the water is shallow, step off the kayak and fish on foot. | Feature photo: Ben Duchesney