Are Fishing Kayaks Supposed To Have Holes In The Bottom?

If you’ve started looking at fishing kayaks and noticed that many of them seem to have holes in the bottom. You might be understandably puzzled. After all, in most boats, a hole at the bottom is not a good sign. However, with fishing kayaks, things are a bit different.

Are Fishing Kayaks Supposed to Have Holes In The Bottom?

Yes, these holes are called scupper holes. They are designed to let water out of the boat, not into it. This means that fishing kayaks are self-bailing, letting their occupants focus on paddling and fishing. Scupper holes are found in (SOT) sit-on-top kayaks rather than (SIK) sit-in ones, and they are an essential part of the design.

Do Scupper Holes Let Water In? 

While it might sound counter-intuitive for a boat to have holes that let water into the boat, the answer is that yes, scupper holes do let in a bit of water.

If you’ve observed this in your kayak or a borrowed one, you might think it’s a really strange design and wonder what the manufacturers were thinking. 

Surely a sealed boat stays drier than one with holes?

However, sit on top kayaks are not like the traditional sit-in version. They are essentially like having a plastic float on top of the water instead of using a bubble of air to keep the person at water level dry and buoyant. 

That means that you don’t want them filling with water. So you need a way for the water to escape when it washes over the edge.

Sit on top kayaks were developed for greater stability. They have flat bases rather than the rounded ones associated with sit-in kayaks. And they have become highly popular in recent years. Although they are not good in cold conditions, as the boat occupant is likely to get quite wet.

Why Do I Need Scupper Holes? 

The purpose of the scupper holes is to let the water out. Since they also let water in, that seems a little strange. But the point is that they only allow a small amount of water in. Because the boat is so buoyant that it sits on the water level, only a little will wash in before it washes right back out.

If your kayak sat lower in the water, these holes would undoubtedly cause it to sink because there would be nothing to stop the boat from filling with water. 

However, because sit on top kayaks are designed to float at surface level, the water simply washes out again.

Without these holes, however, water that came over the edges of the kayak could eventually build up and reduce the boat’s buoyancy. 

It might take a while for this to happen while paddling in calm waters, but it could occur. The water is constantly released with the scupper holes, and the kayak continues to float on the surface.

Water will get into the kayak with or without the holes. If you’ve been kayaking before, you’ll know how easily a big wave can lap into the boat or how a misjudged paddle stroke can cause a splash that sloshes water over the edge.

Traditional kayaks are designed to minimize this with the cockpit you sit in and often a skirt to keep the water out. 

However, sit on top kayaks don’t do this; there is little to stop the water, so instead, the solution is to ensure that it drains away.

According to BestBoatReport, about four scupper holes is the standard, and these are designed to work when the kayak is stationary and floating in one place. 

If you are paddling at speed, you might notice that the holes stop working, so it’s worth slowing down and letting the water drain out. This shouldn’t take long – as little as sixty seconds for some models.

What Are Scupper Plugs?

Scupper plugs are rubber bungs designed to seal up these holes. They can be purchased separately from your kayak (just make sure they fit) and added or removed at any time. However, you may need to replace your scupper plugs if they have started to perish.

Scupper plugs generally have an adjustable valve. The valve will let you fit them to the size of the hole and minimize the amount of water coming in.

Why Would You Use Scupper Plugs?

Given that scupper holes are designed to prevent a sit-on-top kayak from taking on too much water and sinking, you might wonder what the purpose of scupper plugs is. Why add a hole in the first place if it is just going to be plugged up afterward?

The answer is that you might want to use scupper plugs in some conditions, while you will want the scupper holes open in other conditions. 

When the weather is cold, you may wish to minimize the water splashing in through the scupper holes. So that you stay drier and warmer.

Water should still drain through the plugs thanks to the adjustable valve. But it will not do so as quickly as when the holes are open. The payoff is that you will not get as wet.

Scupper plugs won’t stop all the water from coming in or going out, but if you are using a plug and you notice a lot of water coming in, you need to stop and investigate. 

First, you should familiarize yourself with “normal” behavior for your kayak and determine when something has gone wrong.

A leaky or damaged scupper plug is not something you want to be messing around with while out on the water. If you notice that a lot of water is coming through the plugs, it may mean that your boat is overloaded.

Should I Use Scupper Plugs?

If you don’t want to use scupper plugs, you don’t have to. But they will make your kayaking much more comfortable. And they can be essential for controlling how much water ends up in the cockpit.

You can plug a couple of the holes and leave another couple open if you prefer, which is often a good in-between state. 

However, having the option to open all four holes is good, particularly if you suddenly take on a lot of water for some reason.

If you are kayaking in choppy water. You are more likely to notice water coming in through the scupper holes. And this is when you might want to use the plugs. 

Less water should come through the holes on a calmer day, and you may leave the plugs out.

When you are using the plugs, be ready to remove them if you need to let your kayak drain. On the whole, it is better to avoid using the scupper plugs unless you need them. Because they interfere with the drainage of your kayak. 

However, if you’re getting very wet because of choppy water, put them in.

Final Word

Sit on top fishing kayaks are designed with holes in the bottom of the boat, yes. These scupper holes help water run off the kayak and keep it buoyant on the surface. While they do allow a small amount of water into the boat themselves, they are usually helpful.

You can plug these holes if you choose to. But make sure you are aware of the kayak’s behavior and keep an eye on water levels inside the boat.