4 Tips for Fishing in the Dark

Summer’s arrived in western North Carolina and a very wet spring means mountain rivers and streams are higher and faster than they were last year. While that’s a welcome change, the longer days and higher temperatures of July and August bring challenges for anglers.

Warmer water and bright sunshine drive fish into deeper cover, making for a longer and hotter day on the water. That’s what makes this a great time to explore evening-into-the night fishing! A kayak is the perfect vessel for taking advantage of this opportunity as it’s more mobile than standing on the shore and bounces off rocks much better than a fiberglass hull. You’ll also find just about as many fish biting as an early morning outing.

Night fishing isn’t for everyone and introduces new elements of risk such as loss of visual cues and predators that like to hunt in the darkness. It can be a welcome change for those with busy schedules and allows a fresh perspective on trips you may have taken dozens of time under the sun. Before you head into the night, take these tips into consideration.

Plan Ahead

When picking your night spots, stick to familiar areas. Any body of water will look brand new at night, even if you’ve paddled it many times before. Make note of landmarks and bring a buddy, if possible. Two anglers can cover more water and watch out for each other.

Grab the Right Gear

You’ll need a few basic tools, most of which you already have. Essentials include a PFD, a GPS to steer clear of rocks and pinpoint fishy water, a radio to communicate with fishing partners in case you get separated, highly reflective flag, and a good light. Light will keep you visible to other anglers, recreational paddlers, and boaters. A 360-degree light elevated from the deck of your kayak, headlamp, and floating flashlight are all good recommendations. A hand-crank flashlight or lantern isn’t a bad idea, either. You should always wear a PFD when you’re on the water, but going without isn’t even an option for night excursions. Even if you don’t plan to be out after sunset, prepare for it.

Turn on Your Lights Before It Gets Dark

Always check your gear before getting on the water to make sure it’s charged. Turning on your lights early means less scrambling as the sun goes down and less chance of finding yourself night swimming instead of night paddling!

Have Fun!

The best fishing usually occurs at least an hour after the sun goes down, so don’t get discouraged if you find it dying down. The fish will be biting again soon! Of course, this advice can only go so far. You’ve got to get on the water and try yourself.

Be sure to check local regulations about operating watercraft between dusk and dawn as they vary across the region. If you want to give several models of fishing kayaks a test drive (during the day), join Diamond Brand Outdoors on Lake Julian on July 16 and July 30 for free demo days from 10am-2pm.

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Kayak Fishing: Paddle vs. Pedal

Many of us got into kayak fishing because of its affordability, ease of entry, and overall simplicity. It’s also an eco-friendly way to have fun and get exercise. With the addition of pedal drives becoming more prevalent, choosing your next kayak is more complicated than it used to be. However, the innovation in design provides anglers with a better selection if they know what they’re looking for.

Pedal drives look like bike pedals and provide a lot of water propulsion and speed, welcome allies on a lake, river, or stream. You might remember paddleboats from family vacations at state parks. Kayaks have been incorporating a similar technology for the last 20 years for anglers and recreational paddlers. However, pedal drives really came into their own when Native Watercraft introduced their version with the Propel in 2008.

The Propel uses rotational pedals combined with a propeller rather than push pedals with fins. Pedal kayaks come with a higher price tag, one that might not be worth it to everyone. So, should you go with a pedal or a paddle when kayak fishing?

Pedal Drive Kayaks

Pros

  • Speed – If getting to your honey hole quickly on the weekend or after work is important, you’ll be able to cut across a lot more distance in less time than paddling.
  • Hands-Free Control – Managing the position of your kayak is one of the most difficult parts of fishing from a kayak. Pedal systems give an insane amount of control with your legs and one handed steering leaves a hand free at all times. You’re also using your legs, saving arm strength for fishing.

Cons

  • Underwater Clearance – This isn’t as much of an issue with larger bodies of water like lakes, but mountain rivers like the French Broad change depth quickly and often. If you’re familiar with your path, you can flip your fins or pull your drive up.
  • Cargo Space – The center deck of your kayak will be basically disappear, though many models have found new spaces to stash what you need for a day on the water.

Paddling Kayaks

Pros

  • Tradition – Paddling means less steps to get your boat on the water, less maintenance, and a general sense of simplicity. A pedal may also be less disruptive than a propeller, which is a major plus for kayak fishing over motorize boats in the first place.
  • Affordability – Pedal kayaks start around $2,000, while a traditional kayak starts closer to $500. A pedal system is probably something most anglers will invest in after spending at least a couple of seasons with the sport.

Paddle Cons

  • The Paddle – Juggling your fishing gear and your paddle is tricky, especially on a windy day or in a strong current. You’ll sacrifice full kayak control for your rod and reel and tire your arms quicker.
  • Speed – This might not be much of a factor if you’re already fishing with a traditional kayak. However, if you’re an angler short on time, you’ll spend more time getting to your destination with a paddle.

Like other kayak equipment, the decision to peddle or paddle is connected to your style and preference. You can’t go wrong either way, as they’re both more affordable and healthier alternatives to motor-powered boats. They also both offer access to water otherwise off-limits to powerboats.

If you’re ready to give kayak fishing a spin, Diamond Brand Outdoors on 1378 Hendersonville Road in Asheville rents pedal and paddle kayaks for just $25 per day.

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Fall Kayak Fishing Basics

The sun is setting on the summer of 2016. September is here and brings with it the start of the fall kayak fishing season. With the exception of a few weeks in from the latter half of June to the start of August, western North Carolina anglers don’t see the brutal heat of others in the South. However, the cooler temperatures and quieter waterways are a welcome change and provide the last chance for some great fishing before the kayaks go into winter hibernation.

The very best fall fishing is in October. While you might see fewer and smaller fish in early September, kayak fishing can change day-by-day and the sport offers relaxing exercise after work or in the dark of an early morning.

Expect to see lots of smallmouths on the river. Fall is time for your faster boat. Move fast enough to keep off rocks, but slow enough not to spook them. It’s a great season to explore new spots to fish that you might disregard in the summer. If you use a sit-on-top kayak, make sure you’ve got scupper plugs to keep cool water from entering your cockpit.

During fall, there are tips to remember to make your day on the water more enjoyable.

Light the Night (and Early Morning)

There’s no getting around the shorter days that come the closer to the end of Daylight Saving Time on November 6. If you like to hit the water after work, you’ll be lucky to get an hour or two in before the sun goes down. Thankfully, headlamps and lanterns can extend your time. We love the waterproof Spot Headlamp from Black Diamond for hands free lighting. Be sure to check for any specific rules about lighting after dark at your planned fishing hole. However, the experience of fishing after sunset is something every angler should experience.

Explore Your Layers

Fall is the season for layering. We still experience four distinct seasons in the North Carolina mountains, but the drop in temperature after about 3:00 p.m. becomes pretty noticeable. You can stick with your summer fishing shirt, but start with a base layer. The same rule goes for covering your legs. As temperatures drop even more in late September, you’ll need a bit more insulation and a dry suit is a great idea for colder nights. Wearing your PFD will keep you safe on the water, but use your common sense, too. If the weather is uncertain, just stay home.

The Exception Proves the Rule…

Just because it’s cooler doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to the sun. Yes, this goes against the first tip, but if you’re hitting the water for a full day of fishing on the weekend, sun protection is important (along with plenty of water). Apparel with UV protection can provide another base layer of warmth and protect your arms and legs. There are many options to keep your hands and face covered, too. Check out fantastic options from Columbia, Mountain Hardwear, Buff, and more.

Keep Fishing

Many anglers see autumn’s arrival as beginning of a few months off, but October and November offer some of the best time to get on the water. It’s a fun time to try new techniques and explore spots with fewer tubers and paddleboarders.

What’s the Deal with Kayak Fishing in Western North Carolina?

In the last decade, cleanup efforts have lead to an explosion in Stand up Paddleboarding, kayaking, and tubing on our mountain rivers and streams. Kayak fishing has taken off in Western North Carolina over the past couple of years as a relaxing and affordable way to get off the bank and access remote waters. Kayaks offer a stealth means of approaching easily spooked fish, but there are a few tips you should know.

Kayak fishing has gained popularity locally due to its broad appeal as an eco-friendly way to have fun and get exercise, as well as its relatively low cost of entry compared to motorized boats. The most popular kayaks for fishing are rotationally molded from polyethylene due to their durability and lower cost. The new generation of catamaran (twinhull) kayaks are stable enough to enable both paddling and fishing in the standing position, offering greater versatility and angling efficiency. This development solves some ergonomic problems that are associated with sitting for long hours without being able to change positions and frees you from the need to sacrifice speed for stability.

The French Broad River, which cuts through the region, offers great kayak fishing for small mouth bass, trout, and musky. The easy portability of a kayak gives access to waters otherwise off-limits to powerboats, which often means a bounty of eager-to-bite fish. A couple of hours of catch-and-release fishing after work or on the weekends provide some great healthy relaxation.

Unlike lake fishing, river fishing can swing pretty heavily with water conditions. When the river is high and currents are swift, it’s not a good time to be on the water – nor is fishing going to be great after a hard rain. Ideal conditions are when the river is slightly gloomy and low. (As an aside, the French Broad River is very clean. It’s rarely clear, but that’s because the banks are eroded, leading to sediment and runoff when it rains. However, it’s a designated drinking water source for more than a million people.)

A great place to put in is just north of Asheville city limits in Woodfin. There are several riverside parks along NC 251 with boat access. Since it’s past the wastewater treatment plant, you’ll find larger fish. There’s a lull in August and September, but it’s not uncommon to see one or two fish around 14-16 inches an hour during the rest of the year.

The latest generation of fishing kayaks can be found for $1,000 to $3,000. Beyond the substantially lower cost upfront cost, kayak anglers spend less on towing fuel costs, insurance, maintenance, and launch fees. If you’ve been debating getting into kayak fishing, there’s never been a better time to start than now.

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