Kayaks were originally developed by the Eskimos over 4,000 years ago. For the most part, they were used to hunt on inland lakes, rivers and coastal waterways.
The word kayak means “man’s boat” or “hunter’s boat” due to the fact that they were always personally made by the man who would use it. These Native Americans would stretch sealskins, sewn by their wives, over a wooden or whalebone frame. They made their vessel waterproof by sealing it with a special skin jacket called a Tuilik that was laced into it.
While the Eskimos did not have a history of fishing from their kayaks, there was another group of Native Americans far to their south that relied on their self propelled boats to fish out of to feed their community. The Calusa Indians on the southwest coast of Florida did not farm like most other tribes. Instead, they fished the shallow bays and rivers using “dugout” canoes made from yellow pine trees. Although the Calusa did fish with hooks, they primarily used mesh nets with shells as weight to set them and gourds as floats to trap their catch. They used their “dugouts” to transport and set their nets. Their primary haul seemed to be mullet, pinfish and catfish. Even today in southwest Florida, we often use our boats as transportation to get to targeted spots, only to get out and wade fish those areas. The more things change, the more that they stay the same.
European settlers quickly saw the usefulness of the canoe, a word derived from the original Indian term “dugout.” Anglers throughout our nation’s history have been using the canoe as an effective way to catch fish; the kayak on the other hand was never really considered a fish catching machine. Then, almost thirty years after Ocean Kayak introduced the first roto molded sit on top kayak, the sport of kayak fishing exploded. Now, since the start of the new millennium, kayak fishing probably has been the fastest growing segment of the industry. Early on, many were turning to the kayak as a nice entry-level point into boat ownership; lately it has been quite the opposite. Many former powerboat owners have turned to the self-propelled kayak to combat rising fuel costs, as well as, overcrowded boat ramps.
With the meteoric rise in the interest of the sport, manufacturers have strived to stay ahead of anglers demands. Today’s yak fishermen expect their light weight self propelled vessel to give them the same performance that they expected out of their bay boat, flats skiff or bass boat. The advance in both kayaks and accessories has been mind blowing.
While you will never get the range or the speed of gas powered boats, there are now kayaks like those in the Hobie Mirage Drive Series that feature a pedal system that seriously increases the amount of water you can cover, as well as, providing hands free fishing. Other kayak companies like Native have focused their attention on providing stability that allows anglers to stand and pole their light weight craft. Basically, there is now a kayak to suit almost every angler’s needs provided that you do not want to cross an ocean. Whether your plan is to fish narrow spaces, super skinny flats, wide open bass ponds or near shore reefs, there is a kayak that will get you there.