Fishing Kayaks vs. Recreational Kayaks: Everything You Need to Know

Deciding to fish from a kayak requires a hefty blend of consideration and sheer force of will. That’s because anyone that’s attempted the sport of kayak fishing has undoubtedly tried to do it in a recreational kayak of some sort, but it doesn’t have to be that hard. 

You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t every kayak a recreational kayak? Isn’t everyone using them for ‘fun’?” The short answer is no. Fishing kayaks exist (and we sell them). For the novice, the differences between a fishing kayak and a recreational kayak are pretty blurred. To the rest of us, the contrast is clear.

What is a Recreational Kayak?

Most people in the U.S., to my disappointment, will buy what is referred to as a recreational kayak. Recreational kayaks are generally wider than they are long, made of suspect plastics, have little safety features, seats that want to make you wish you were sitting on a tight grouping of knives, and usually include a paddle that weighs as much as your least favorite gym equipment.  

Paddling most recreational kayaks is like going for a tour on the “It’s a Small World” ride in Disney World but via the teacup ride. The scenery is really the only thing neat about it, and the journey is otherwise slow-moving, and your kayak is constantly turning its direction of travel toward each paddle stroke (left, right, left, right, not straight, left, right, left, right). 

Recreational kayaks are designed for people that either can’t swim, spend very little time in the water, don’t want to invest in the sport fully, and don’t realize that there is a better, less frustrating kayak to paddle for a little more investment.  

What Are the Best Recreational Kayaks?

Quite often, customers in this category experience one or all of the above. The real benefit of a recreational kayak is they are inexpensive and, in a weird way, offer the user a glimpse of what could be—if they decide they enjoy the activity and want to know more. The best customer for a recreational kayak is someone with middle-school-age kids. You can get multiples of them, put them on the water, and not care about if the kayak survives to the teenage years or not. 

However, not all recreational kayaks are created equally. We offer Hurricane kayaks for those that want the stability of a recreational kayak in a lightweight platform (usually around 38 to 40 pounds). These have some length on them for tracking, a comfortable AireStream seat, adjustable footpegs, bulkheads (for safety), and are longer than a truck bed to improve and maintain the direction of travel.  

Hurricane kayaks do a great job getting people to enjoy the sport genuinely. We’ve been a dealer since 2003 and do not expect people to stray away from this brand any time soon. With a few additional accessories, you can actually

even fish from a Hurricane (gasp!) and have a rewarding experience. They are faster than every other possible paddle and pedal-powered fishing kayak out there. More on this later. 

Where Can I Find the Best Fishing Kayaks? 

So, your ass hurts, and your head is spinning. Money is still a concern, but you enjoy the concept of fishing from a kayak and have been down the recreational boat path. (Maybe you’ve noticed that you can get into areas on the water previously inaccessible by boat or by land, and “sneak up” on your targets with wild success!) Buying a Ranger Boat is probably not in your life forecast, especially when used versions are commanding upwards of $75,000. What are the real differences between your beloved recreational kayak and an Old Town Fishing Kayak? Let me count the ways! 

Our Options for Kayak Fishing at Wind Rose North Ltd. Outfitters

Wind Rose North Outfitters trialed several different competing brands of fishing kayaks before deciding to move forward with Old Town fishing kayaks. We are a relatively new dealer to the brand but did so by thoroughly evaluating competing brands.   

Fishing kayaks can be paddle powered, pedal-powered, or equipped with battery propulsion. Stability is a key component for anglers considered a kayak. For most anglers, they probably have not been in a kayak, or it has been a number of years. Typically, kayak anglers have not had much boating experience in general (powerboats are relatively pricey). Most will need a quality craft where you’ll find your sea legs quickly. 

Old Town fishing kayaks and all of the Old Town canoe and kayak vessels are American made in Old Town, Maine.  Old Town fishing kayaks are generally 36 inches (3 feet) wide and anywhere from 10 feet, 6 inches to 13 feet long weighing between 80 to 120 pounds when empty. Pedal Drive and Minkota (sister company) powered options will weigh more, but the user can detach those accessories from the kayak when transporting. Fishing kayaks are truly the size of small boats.  

Old Town offers a combination of propulsion features, as mentioned, in a hull design that is stable and quiet. The polyethylene construction is the most impressive in the industry as it is thicker (more durable), and has the best ultraviolet protection out of any polyethylene brand.  

We recommend Yakima or Malone Autorack Accessories to protect and haul your investment and are a certified dealer for both. If it’s just you and your boat, then the back of a pick-up truck bed works just fine. We also recommend that any boat owner pick up a bottle of Marine 303, which is like sunscreen for plastic.  

Try a Smartphone App to Take Kayak Fishing to the Next Level

One way, in particular, to increase the fun with a fishing kayak would be to get connected on a variety of smartphone tournament fishing apps. The Tourney X app is just one of a growing number of apps that can get you connected with kayak anglers across the country, from beginner to professional. This month, one of our customers did a Michigan fishing kayak tournament through the app. He was fishing on a cut of the Menominee River, seemingly by himself, but in reality, he was competing against hundreds of other anglers just like him in a remote environment. What a cool experience to be in a remote location and yet be connected!  

Kayak fishing is the first sport to get anglers connected via smartphone apps. Think about it; you aren’t going to have a live-well on a fishing kayak. That would make for a pretty long day of paddling with a bulkhead full of water

and fish. The Head 2 Head Fishing Tournament in DePere, Wisconsin, in March used a smartphone app to connect professional walleye anglers in a catch-and-release-style powerboat tournament on the Fox River. Kayak fishing has and will continue to practice environmentally responsible catch-and-release fishing. A picture is worth a thousand words, and the fishing will only continue to get better!

Try to Buy - Test Drive a Kayak at Wind Rose North Ltd. Outiffers 

Wind Rose North Ltd. Outfitters staff offers on-water kayak trials to take the mystery out of kayak fishing.  We bring customers to Menekaunee Harbor, just a few blocks from the shop, where they are relatively sheltered from the wind. Then, we launch them with their kayak and let them get a feel for it. 

Fishing Kayak Accessories 

Choosing the right kayak for your body type and comfort level is one thing. Outfitting it with the latest gear is another. We carry a full line of YakAttack kayak fishing accessories including rail mounts, rod holders, VISICarbon Pro (visible safety pole for small craft), scupper plugs, shallow water stakeout kits, and more. All kayakers must wear a Coast Guard and Department of Natural Resources-approved life jacket. Sounds uncomfortable, but we have both Northwest River Supply (NRS) and Old Town Kayak Specific life jackets. They are even fishing specific, with tether attachments for forceps and hemostats, knives, and removable Velcro tackle foam patches. 

From choosing the right fishing kayak for you to outfitting it with options specific to the way you like to fish, to saving you money on shipping costs (up to $300 on some websites), we are here to help! We are the largest Old Town kayak and fishing kayak dealership in Northeast Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. Menominee, Michigan, and Marinette, Wisconsin, are home to some of the world’s largest walleye. The Menominee River is a world-class smallmouth bass fishing river that is fully accessible by kayak (and not always by powerboat or by the shore). 

We are a locally owned business providing you access to niche small startup businesses and national brands like Old Town canoe and kayak. To shop, view our entire selection of water sports equipment online or stop into our store. 


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