Trolling Fishing Guide: Fishing Tips For Sea Kayakers

Kayak Fishing vs. Fishing While Sea Kayaking

First, lets get one thing clear. This is not a kayak fishing guide. Wait what, but is says so in the title? This is a guide for people who do sea kayaking trips and want to catch a few fish for dinner along the way using trolling fishing. This is quite different from kayak fishing.

Kayak Fishing

Kayak fishing if all about fishing, bringing all the right gear, going places where there are fish at the best fishing times. And then sitting in your kayak with lots of fishing rods, with a cooler, maybe even a fish sonar and fishing. Very likely the kayak you are sitting in is also a special kayak made just for fishing. And when you stop fishing you go home. This guide is not about that. There are plenty of guides and fishing tips like that on YouTube and on the web.

Fishing During Your Sea Kayaking Trip

This guide is for people that like sea kayaking. We go sea kayaking to enjoy the sea, the nature, to exercise, to see new hidden places along the coast, to reach places you can only reach from the sea, to stop and go swimming and snorkeling. We set up our tent on a hidden beach and we lie in the shadow of a pine tree, we stop in a coastal town to get ice cream or to climb the island hill to get a nice view. We paddle to a remote islands just so we can say we were there and to see how it looks like from up close.

I’m sure there are plenty other reasons why people go sea kayaking. Whatever the reason, the time and the path you choose is most of the time not connected to fishing, but to other things. But then at the end of the day, on some empty beach watching the sunset, we make a fish BBQ if we were lucky enough to catch something on the way. And even though fishing is not the point of sea kayaking, there are plenty of tips and tricks to help actually catch something. And this is what this guide is about.

To be honest, I am in no way an expert kayaker and I’m not an expert fisherman, just a mere beginner. Maybe this way I remember better all the questions I had when we first started fishing during our sea kayaking trips. And yes, we do catch something from time to time.

Trolling Fishing

Okay, so now that we know what we are talking about, the first thing I should mention is that as far as I know, there is only one kind of fishing that is suitable for sea kayaking trips. And it is called trolling.

Trolling is a method of fishing where you have a fishing line that has an artificial lure at the end and your draw that through the water. When you pull the artificial lure through the water it starts moving and when it’s moving it looks like a really tasty fish that all predatory fish just have to catch and chew on. I think it is because it imitates a wounded fish and it looks like it will be an easy catch.

In case of sea kayaking you obviously draw the bait behind your kayak while you are paddling and going where you want to go. This is why trolling is perfect for sea kayaking. The point of sea kayaking is to get somewhere, not to sit on one place the whole day and since you are already moving, you can drag an artificial bait behind your along the way and if you are lucky, you will have fish for dinner.

How To Set Up Your Trolling Rig

OK, so how to set up your trolling rig? It’s really simple. This is what you will need.

Fishing line holder

Fishing line holder is where you wind up your fishing line. It is usually made out of foam so it floats if you drop it into the sea, but anything works. I found my first one on the beach among the sea debris and driftwood. Bigger holder makes pulling and deploying the bait faster but it also takes up more space.

Fishing Line

Then you need 20 meters (65ft) of thicker fishing line and 5 meters (16ft) of thinner fishing line. The thickness of the line depends on the size and weight of the fish that you want to catch. This is what we use in the Adriatic sea:

  • thicker line 0.28 – 0.35
  • thinner line 0.2 – 0.28

For the size of the fish that we catch this is an overkill, we could use much thinner line but I’m like… just in case.

How To Set It Up?

Tie the thicker fishing like (20m) to the fishing line holder. Then tie the thinner fishing line to the end of the thicker one. I also put a swivel between them to reduce the chances of the line tangling, but this is not necessary.

The point of thinner fishing line is that it is less visible to fish and that if you catch sea bottom instead of fish and the fishing line snaps, it will snap where it’s thinner. This way you will set up your trolling rig back faster since you won’t loose your 20 m line.

At the end of the thinner line you put a swivel with a snap. This swivel is necessary. If your lure catches something funny like a piece of seaweed or a plastic bag it can start spinning and before you notice it your whole line will be one huge tangled knot that is impossible to pull apart. The little carabine at the end of the swivel is great for quickly changing the lure. If your lure is not working you snap it off and snap on a new one and try again.

That’s it, your trolling rig is set. I will speak a bit more about what kind of lures to use later, but first one very important thing.

Attaching The Trolling Rig To Your Kayak

When the fish bites, you want there to be some leeway before the line pulls really hard. This is why people that go trolling from boats either use fishing rods or hold the line in their hands so they can feel when the fish bites. Both of these options are not that good on the sea kayak. You obviously need your hands for paddling and to attach a fishing rod to your kayak you will need a special mount.

So a really good alternative is to attach your trolling rig to a bungee cord. You can see how I do it in the video. Also keep this in your eyesight and at your arms reach because when the fish bites, you will have to act quickly. If you attach the line directly to your kayak so the line is completely rigid you can tear off the mouth of the fish when it bites or you won’t even notice there is a fish at the end of the line and you will drag it behind you the whole trip.

Artificial Baits

Ok, so your trolling rig is set, all you need now is an artificial bait. Now lets talk fishing lure size, shape and color.


I guess the sizes you use depend also on where you are fishing. If the average fish in the sea is half a meter long and has 5 kg you will need bigger lures and thicker fishing line. So these lures here are what we use for trolling in the Adriatic sea.

The big ones are 10cm long, the medium sized ones, these are the ones I usually use, are 7cm long and then there are these really small ones that are only 5 or 6 cm long. We use these small when fish aren’t biting and you really still want to catch something.

Why do you catch more with a smaller lure? I think there are two reasons. First, there are a lot more small fish in the sea than big ones. And second, smaller lure fits better into the fish mouth so you have a better chance of catching the fish when it goes for your lure. With a bigger lure you either need a bigger fish or you need some luck for the fish to get hooked. You will see that with a small lure the hook will almost always be inside the fish mouth. With a bigger lure the hooks will be all over the fish.

You will also see that these are more like guidelines not rules set in stone. When fish are hungry and biting you will also catch bigger fish with small lures and small fish with bigger lures. Yeah, bigger lures eliminate some of the smaller fish, but I am always surprised how hungry fish are…I mean, they are like us when we are dead hungry and go shopping. We buy way to much food. Small fish can go for a lure that is almost as big are they are.

Shape and Color

What about shape and color? Natural looking colors, this means lots of silver, some blue, some green, some purple maybe, some black patterns, a few splashes of red etc… these are generally good for nice sunny weather with good visibility.

When the sky is cloudy or when it gets dark you will want bright and flashy colors. Think yellow, orange and so on. But again, don’t get stuck with these tips, if one lure isn’t working pull it out and try another one.

Best Time and Location For Trolling Fishing

And finally, what is the best time and place for trolling. I know, I started this guide by saying that we just paddle where we want to paddle because of the sea kayaking itself, not because of the fishing. But if you can adjust your time and paddle path a little, it can make a big difference.

Best Fishing Time

So generally the best time for fishing is morning and especially evening. Lots of times fish also go crazy when there is a full moon. Even more than the time it’s the location.

Best Trolling Locations

Paddle close to shore, especially if the sea bottom goes straight down like it does under cliffs. Long boring stretches of coast where nothing is happening are not the best. Fish rather hang around points, rocks… any features that break the boring straight coast.

It’s way less likely to catch something on the open sea. I think I caught like 2 or 3 fish a bit further from the coast a none in the middle of the sea. But I guess this also hugely depends on your location.

Best Sea Kayak Speed for Trolling Fishing

One thing that I did not mention in the video is paddling speed. Ideal speed for trolling depends on the fish that you are trying to catch. Bigger fish can swim faster. But for the lure sizes mentioned above, the ideal speed is somewhere between 2 and 4 knots. This is according to lure manufacturers. This is about the same as the average sea kayaker speed. BUT  from experience I can tell you that we catch more fish when we are paddling slow. Just something to keep in mind.

If you guys have any extra tips, let me know in the comments:)!


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