By Luke Williams
With winter coming up the bite will inevitably slow down but there are ways to keep your kayak season going. Many kayakers will choose to hang up their gear until spring. Instead, find a reason to stay on the water by possibly changing your focus. In the summer I almost always am targeting bass. I still occasionally try hooking into a few bass in the winter, along with the occasional trip for walleye. However, I typically struggle with bass in the winter when their metabolism slows way down.
So instead of dealing with the unavoidable bite slowing down, I choose to not even rely on the fish to bite. I go on the hunt with my bow for grass carp. Bowfishing has become one of my favorite things to do in the winter. This kayak season that isn't the most productive for bass fishing is easily the best for bowfishing. The water gets nearly crystal clear in my local Auglaize River. Along with the lower water level, which causes some annoying dragging, but it also helps by allowing you to find the carp easier. Also, it can sometimes trap them in a small stretch of the river basically making them sitting ducks.
In some of the local rivers I fish it is pretty easy to tell how the carp population is affecting the bass population. Carp quickly overpopulate an area especially in smaller areas by increasing the competitiveness for vegetation and space. Therefore, by bowfishing for carp you are helping many other fish populations including bass and crappie. So it's basically a win for everyone, except the carp.
You probably are expecting me to go into detail about bows, arrows, and reel devices. However, I don’t worry about my bowfishing gear nearly as much as my normal fishing gear. I simply use a bow and reel that I traded my brother's boss for my old iPhone. My reel is a Cajun Archery drum that requires me to physically wrap the string around the drum after every shot. However, any type of bow and reel combination would keep me happy as long as I'm out on my Jackson Coosa, even in the dead of winter with snow on the ground.
The really important type of gear is your safety equipment. First, there are the obvious things like a PFD and clothes to keep warm when the air temperature is possibly below freezing. After that, are the items necessary in case of tipping.
While I am bowfishing, I am almost never sitting on my Coosa. Standing and having a higher vantage point allows you to find carp much easier, but can sometimes put you in more danger of tipping if you aren't careful. I picked up some chest height waders and a nice waterproof jacket to get me through last winter. This past summer I added a Kokatat paddling suit to my collection that I will be using this coming winter. Also it is smart to keep other things like a fire starter, spare clothes, and other emergency items.
Whatever you choose to do in the winter is up to you. However, don’t let the slow bite prevent you from getting out on your kayak. Whether your alternative is bowfishing, changing species, or just going for a paddle, stay active on your kayak. Every kayak angler knows that itch you get when you haven't been on the water for a while, so avoid it and find a reason to get out chasing fish.