You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

By: Mike Hammond

As more and more people are returning to the outdoors for recreation, kayak fishing is one of the activities experiencing the most growth.  This is nothing new for kayak fishing though since it has been one of the fastest growing outdoor pursuits for several years.  This is a great thing.  One concern I hear consistently; however, is that many new kayak anglers have not taken the time to actually learn how to paddle.  Admittedly, it is not difficult to hop in a wide kayak and figure out how to move forward and backward on a calm day.  With a lesson or two anglers can dramatically expand their opportunities to find fish.

The forward stroke is used most often, but is probably the one done most inefficiently.  New paddlers tend to use their arms more than their much stronger core muscles while paddling.  A good instructor will give tips to fix this quickly which will help add speed and distance to your paddles and give you a fighting chance in strong winds or currents.  Even if you have a peddle system, it can get too shallow in some areas for the fins to work or you may have an issue with your equipment.  The ability to paddle forward without exhausting yourself has a lot of advantages.

Being able to silently spin your kayak 360 degrees and move side to side without any forward or backward momentum also has huge advantages when stalking fish.  These are a couple tricks an instructor will teach you in the American Canoe Association Level 1 skills course.

There are many other strokes, tips, and tricks that instructors should share to make you a more efficient angler / paddler and to help straighten out the learning curve.

With a wide variety of outfitters who offer some level of instruction, it can be difficult determining who offers quality lessons.  On one end are American Canoe Association (ACA) Instructor Trainers like Mike Aronoff.  Mike trains and certifies instructors at the highest levels, but can also get beginners started off right.  Unfortunately, there are occasional mobile outfitters on the other end of the paddling instruction spectrum who pop up every year and put people on the water offering instruction with little experience themselves.  If you’d like to improve your paddling skills, I highly recommend lessons from a certified ACA instructor.  In addition to Mike Aronoff (, Gulf Coast Kayak, Tarpon Bay Explorers, and Estero River Outfitters all have certified ACA instructors who offer lessons along the Calusa Blueway.

You don’t have to take lessons to get on the water.  But why not get to your old spots faster and quieter while also expanding your range?