It's easy to think about kayak fishing as a summertime activity, but the reality is there are a ton of species you can target in the winter with excellent results. Fishing in the winter, depending on where you are located, does come with its own set of challenges. However, you can still get some quality time on the water without the crowds.
I called up my most adventurous buddy, Steve and proposed the idea. Let's go camp on the coast with a few kayaks and target some Redfish. As usual, he was interested. You may have seen our previous kayak winter adventure with Seastream Kayaks last year where we camped on a remote island and tried our hand at catching some Snook. We were not as lucky on that trip, but sneaking off in the cold months to catch fish has started to become a wintertime tradition for us.
On this adventure, we grabbed a couple of Feelfree kayaks in some new colors for 2022, the Lure 11.5 V2 in Green Flash and the Moken 12.5 V2 in Purple Camo and hit the road. The goal was to fish a remote part of the coast where we could post up in the truck tent for the night and get some good photos, and hopefully some Redfish. The 6 hour trip from the mountains to the coast was filled with research on baits, techniques, fish habits, and a few texts to locals that may provide some intel. We arrived full of confidence.
After getting to our location about 3:30pm, we had a few hours of light and a high tide to work with. We loaded up and head out into the water and right away things were looking promising with bait busting the water in ideal shallow water conditions. Within 30 minutes, I targeted a disturbance in the back of a shallow cove. In my many adventures in chasing Redfish, the biggest thing I have learned is patience. Taking the time to watch the water and observe the areas can really produce more productive casts. I watched the activity in the water until I was sure I saw a tailing red.
My first cast at the spot spooked some bait fish and I was worried I had scared them away. I tossed another cast in the direction of the spooked bait and the red took it in one crank of the reel. Fish on! I was immediately shouting with excitement because I new it was a good size fish. After all my failed attempts to get a big fish in the kayak, I was finally in the position to make that dream a reality.
I fought him for a good 2 or 3 minutes before getting him in the net and started yelling for Steve to join me and check out the fish. This was such a beautiful fish and the trip was already a success (in my eyes) in the first 30 minutes. The night went on with a few missed opportunities but the energy was high and we were stoked at what the next day would bring.
Day 2 was cold. We woke up to high tide going out and temperatures in the low 40's. After getting coffee together, the plan was to head the opposite direction of the previous evening and see if we could find some deeper channels to target some trout as well as the reds we came for. In these types of conditions, high tide tends to push the bait fish into the back of the channels, and the larger fish follow. As the tide heads out, predators sit in the mouths of the channels and target the bait as it heads back out to deeper water.
Steve was the first to connect on day 2 with a nice smaller red at the mouth of a creek. We pushed onward exploring a few channels and trying to fish a little deeper. What we learned about this particular area though, was that deep meant only about 4 feet or so. We attributed the slower fishing to the cooler temperatures and decided to head back to the launch and make a cup of coffee. The plan was to scout the spot from the evening before to learn a bit about the water during low tide so we would have a better idea of the channels when the water rose for high tide. Little did we know just how great of an idea this was.
As I sat drinking coffee Steve decided to head out of the channel and poke around as the tide was getting lower. In the 20 minute he was gone, we learned just how important knowing the tide swings in this environment is. He returned to the launch and found himself scooting the kayak through the muck. Thankfully, he was wearing waders, and stepped out to drag himself to shore, promptly sinking up to his knees. He was in rough shape. I had to toss a 20ft cam strap out to him and pull him through the mud, covering myself in delicious saltwater muck. When the whole ordeal was over, we trudged out to the ocean to rinse the pounds of muck from our gear and waders.
After rinsing off, we found ourselves stuck, sitting at the truck waiting for high tide. On one hand we were bummed we couldn't fish, on the other hand, we were stoked that we decided to come back to the truck when we did or we may have been stranded out in the flats somewhere, unable to return to camp. Regardless, we had learned our lesson.
A few hours later, we had enough water in our cove to launch again, and headed out for more fishing. I missed another large fish that managed to get himself tangled up in my kayak and got loose before Steve and I could sort it out. The bait was moving in and things were looking promising. I missed another couple fish, getting excited and trying to set the hook prematurely, but Steve managed to hook up with another fish near the end of the evening. We worked our way into the dead end of our particular channel chasing bait and tails the whole way.
The evening ended with a rather frustrating attempt to catch fish that were obviously feeding. We kept seeing bait swimming everywhere, and tailing reds giving chase, but they didn't seem to want what we were throwing in their direction. However, the North Carolina Coast serves up some of the most beautiful sunsets around, and we were treated to a lovely paddle back to the truck.
All in all, the trip was a success. Steve caught 2 nice fish, I caught my largest fish after several trips out targeting this amazing species. The key to Redfish in the winter is patience, and knowing your environment. These fish follow their food into the shallows, and retreat to deeper channels when the water is low, or cold. Being patient and taking the time to observe your surroundings, see what is going on, and being flexible with bait options can land you a heck of a fight, and a good story for your friends back home.
Follow Steve on his adventures at @steve_yocom on Instagram
Adventure Gear List
- Lure 11.5 V2 in Green Flash
- Moken 12.5 V2 in Purple Camo
- Beavertail Rudder
- Feelfree Camo Paddle
- Feelfree Crate Bag
- CVT Rooftop Tent
- Diamondback Truck Cover
- Simms G3 Waders
- Gulp Shrimp