For kayak anglers of the Mid Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico, spotted seatrout, gray trout (weakfish), redfish (red drum), and black drum are among the most sought after saltwater species.
These species are all members of the drum family of saltwater fish. Although each of these fish has its own unique life cycle, it is not uncommon for anglers to encounter multiple species during a single outing.
The two smaller species, the spotted seatrout and gray seatrout are commonly caught together. Adults of both species typically weigh 3-4 pounds, with 10 pounders occasionally being landed.
In the northern part of their range, seatrout prey extensively on Atlantic blue crabs. They also consume small baitfish and juvenile fish such as spot, and Atlantic croakers.
From North Carolina to Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico coastline, warmwater shrimp are an important prey species for seatrout. Baitfish are also important prey in these areas.
The larger two species, the redfish and black drum share similar habitats and sometimes feed on the same prey species as seatrout. The most striking difference in feeding habits occurs with the black drum, which tends to feed on mollusks more than its smaller relatives.
Anglers fish for seatrout and drum with live baits, cut baits, and artificial lures, including saltwater fly patterns. The best baits and lures for these species vary somewhat by region. In northern areas such as the Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay, peelers or soft crabs are the most popular baits. Below Virginia, shrimp tend to be effective natural baits.
To target one or more of these saltwater gamefish, kayak anglers must locate and target habitats where these fish feed. Fishing can vary considerably depending on location as well as weather, wind, barometric pressure, time of day, tide, and other factors.
For many anglers, a fishing strategy usually revolves around reaching productive areas and being persistent. On some days the fishing can be non-stop while on others, bites can be very hard to come by.
Being well equipped is important, especially for larger fish. In some cases, preparing for a successful trip does not require a large arsenal of tackle. To land these fish successfully, attention to detail often outweighs a huge tackle inventory.
Components such as drags, line, knots, baits, and hooks are all important and each item may require inspection and preparation before a trip. For artificial lure enthusiasts, the color, size and type of lures must be selected. In many areas, the top-producing lures are subject to change from day to day, and even from hour to hour.
Baits can also require close scrutiny. As with other kayak fishing, advance preparation is often critical. Strip baits may need to be cut and stored before a trip. When live baits are chosen, it may be necessary to equip the kayak with some type of livewell.
Once the angler has prepared for the trip and located fish, several challenges still exist. Although most fish are manageable, kayak fishermen occasionally encounter trophy class seatrout, redfish, or black drum. Either of these fish can push equipment to their limits. To help land fish, a lip gaff, hand gaff, or sturdy net may be required.