Kayaks come in two distinct styles--sit-on-top kayaks and sit-inside kayaks. The sit-on-top style allows you to swing your legs to the side and dangle them in the water while fishing. They can be fitted with rod holders, paddle straps and often have open wells for ice chests or the most-popular tackle holder--a milk crate strapped to the boat. Sit-on-tops are best for warm weather locations and warmer water since you will get wet. Sit-on-tops are the more traditional whitewater style kayak that has a skirt over your legs and the hole you sit in to protect you from the frigid water. Other required equipment are paddles (the lighter weight the better), a personal flotation device (lifejacket), a good seat (kayaks are often not sold with a seat), a whistle and a small anchor.
There are many fishing methods and most can be adapted to fishing from a kayak. You can troll, drift fish, pole fish (requires standing on the kayak while fishing), fish sidesaddle off the kayak, wade fish with the kayak tied to you off the bow, and fly fish. Bring only the gear you'll need on the trip and leave the rest at home to allow for more room in the kayak for a small cooler, snacks and room to store your catch.
Fishing in the calm quiet waters of a marsh can turn very exciting with that first bite. Often big fish are found in the shallow waters where kayaks are at their best and when one bites and spins the kayak around dragging you and your boat, it can be quite a rush. As with any style of fishing, let the fish wear itself out before bringing it on board the kayak. Remember not to lean out too far to bring in a big one or you may end up taking a swim. A few trips in your kayak will help you to learn where the tipping point is.
Fishing lakes, ponds and rivers from kayaks is very popular due to the boat's size and portability. Rivers are ideal for taking a kayak to areas that you cannot drive or motorboat to. If the river is flowing, it's best to put the kayak on shore and then step out and fish. Lakes are the best places to fish for families since often the amount of time paddling can be very small. Put your kayak in the water, paddle to the desired location away from the crowds and put the line in the water. No boat launches required.
If you're planning on fishing in saltwater, get familiar with the tides and tidal currents. The marshy areas can quickly become mud bogs when the tide goes out. Fishing off the beach and beyond the surf takes practice and skill to paddle through the breakers. Look for surf kayaking lessons from local guides since kayaking in the breakers is not only difficult but also dangerous.
Dangers of kayak fishing include sun exposure, dehydration, getting lost, drowning and weather. When fishing in salt water, also be aware of sharks, jelly fish and rays. If you're wade fishing in salt water, always drag your feet to prevent stepping directly on a ray. All these hazards can be avoided with planning. Watch the weather and tides, bring plenty of water and snacks, know where you're going and know how to swim.