Can You Use A Fishing Kayak On The Ocean?

If you’ve got a fishing kayak, you might be wondering whether or not you can take it out on the ocean. Kayaking in the sea is a very different experience from kayaking in rivers and lakes, so it’s essential to pay attention to those differences and make sure you are safe out on the water.

Can You Use A Fishing Kayak On The Ocean?

Fishing kayaks aren’t great in the ocean because they tend to be short and wide. In comparison, ocean kayaks are narrow and long. However, size is the determining factor. A large fishing kayak should cope with a quick ocean jaunt. But if you’re going into the open ocean, you need a kayak at least fourteen feet long, and a fishing kayak will often be too heavy and wide.

What Are The Requirements For An Ocean-Safe Kayak?

KayakingVenture lists the ocean-safe requirements as a minimum of fourteen feet long and two airtight hatches. The airtight hatches are an important safety aspect if you capsize as they keep the kayak afloat.

Open water kayaks tend to be less stable than river kayaks, as they are designed to absorb ocean swells and rock with the water. They have a rocker, which is a bit of a bend in the keel. And this helps to improve the handling of the kayak and make it easier to manage in open water.

River kayaks, which need to be more maneuverable than ocean kayaks, tend to be shorter. Ocean kayaks are very slow to turn in the water, and you’ll struggle to get them to change direction.

There are no major “requirements” that make a kayak ocean-safe. But these things all make a boat much safer for open water. Without them, you may find that it’s challenging to handle the open ocean. And you could get into trouble when you’re out at sea.

Fishing Kayaks Vs. Ocean-Safe Kayaks

Let’s compare the two kinds of kayaks and see where they differ. This will help to get a feel for what features you might have or miss when kayaking.

A fishing kayak has the following features:

  • Flat hulls for increased stability in the water
  • Usually short and light to make it easy to get them in and out of the water.
  • Usually equipped with watertight storage space or more, plus other storage space for fishing gear (not usually watertight)
  • Has pole rests
  • Has a pontoon stabilizer

A sea kayak, by contrast, has these features:

  • A high rocker that makes it easier to cut through waves without capsizing
  • The ability to track straight in the water, helped by a skeg under the stern, which makes it easier to stay straight in a crosswind
  • A narrow profile that helps it deal with rough waters
  • Space for a lot of equipment
  • Usually heavy and long (over fourteen feet)
  • Not good on flat waters
  • Sealed bulkheads so they won’t sink if capsized.

As you can see, the two boats are quite different because they are designed for different environments. 

The stability that a fishing kayak enjoys will be lost on the open ocean. Because the flat, wide hull is not designed to handle waves very well. Being short also puts a fishing kayak at a disadvantage in the ocean.

Really, a fishing kayak is not designed for ocean kayaking.

What Are The Differences Between Kayaking On Rivers Vs. The Ocean?

It might also help to explore some of the differences you’ll face when kayaking on open water because it is not very similar to river kayaking at all.

The Ocean Needs More Power

You need to be able to put more power into your paddling to kayak on the ocean safely. Of course, the motions are still similar, but river kayaking does not involve much energy to move forward, which means wide, stable fishing kayaks can be paddled around with relative ease.

In general, you are kayaking with the current on a river or boating on a still lake. 

If you’re going with the current, you’ll be propelled forward, and if you aren’t, at least you’ll have minimal resistance from the water. 

However, in the ocean, the waves will wash you in many directions, but rarely the way that you want to go.

On a river, the challenge primarily lies in maneuvering and steering your kayak. While on the ocean, you won’t face many obstacles, but you will need to put power into your paddling to get anywhere. You need to be fit and capable of paddling for long periods before you can safely undertake ocean kayaking.

A fishing kayak may struggle to cut through ocean waters effectively because it has a wide profile, so you may find the need for high power paddling is even greater. 

In addition, fishing kayaks tend to feel quite “heavy” and are designed more for short trips with long periods spent in one place – so they really aren’t ideal for a day on the ocean.

Remember that it’s easy to get a long way out and find you’re too tired to head back. If you’ve got a wide kayak with a lot of water resistance, this is an even more significant risk.

Rivers Can Be More Exciting

While the big blue is undoubtedly enticing and holds many charms, it is not as exciting as river kayaking in most cases. River kayaking involves beautiful scenery and often a lot of wildlife to watch.

This is particularly true if you take out a fishing kayak, focusing on your surroundings more because it is so stable. The fishing kayak is ideal for idling through rivers and lakes and relaxing in calm waters with a flat base.

Ocean kayaking is often more about endurance and the fun of the kayak rather than the wildlife you might see. 

If you’re kayaking for the scenery and the creatures, you may find that ocean kayaking does not suit you, as it can sometimes be a little “dull”.

Long Way From Land

It might sound obvious, but when you’re out at sea, you’re a long way from the safety of the shore. And that means that if you get into trouble, you’re in a lot of trouble. Again, the water-resistance of a fishing kayak can make it a problem when you’re far out.

This is particularly true if you capsize because you’ll have to try and keep your kayak afloat and then tow it back to shore. You may find you get very tired doing this.

Capsizing in the ocean is much different than a lake or river. You have to worry about sharks and other creatures that you won’t encounter in regular bodies of water.

Because sea kayaks can’t be capsized while the bulkheads are sealed, capsizing is a much smaller problem. It is still annoying, but your boat will not sink. You can hang onto it if you get into trouble, too.

Final Thoughts

Fishing kayaks are not designed to go in the ocean. You can paddle safely close to the shore, but you should not take a fishing kayak out into the open ocean. The kayak is designed for stability, and it will not cope well with waves.

It will also be hard work to paddle out at sea. And as open water kayaking already needs a lot of endurance, fishing kayaks aren’t suitable. It is much better to get a sea kayak or even a standard river kayak to take out in the ocean.

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