Kayak Angling In The United Kingdom

This issue of The Milkcrate has us traveling to the United Kingdom, a place home to a devoted and growing kayak angling populace.  As an outsider, it is hard to parlay into words the passion with which these anglers practice the sport, and as such, a mere geographical survey will not suffice.  In order to paint an accurate picture of the UK-based scene, it is best to let the practitioners themselves clue us in as to what defines the kayak angling lifestyle in their home waters.  Our interview panel of Rob Appleby, Ian Harris, Mark Crame, and Richi Oliver

was asked a rather basic question: what does it mean to be a kayak angler in the UK?  Below are exerpts from our resulting conversation.

“That’s a difficult one, to be honest. The sport is in its relative infancy where the UK in concerned, lagging behind the US by many years. That in itself provides a challenge with regards to the number of active kayak anglers within the UK, being able to readily converse and swap ideas on a one to one basis. Yes, it does happen on a small scale, though we don’t have the big tournament scene and the large meets that are so frequent in the US scene. To that end alone, I find it a real challenge, though an interesting one all the same. There have only ever been two types of fisherman in the UK for many years – shore and boat. The shore scene suffered massively from commercial overfishing, yet kayak angling has enabled shore anglers to leave the barren beaches and experience a quality of fishing the was a memory for the older generation, and totally unknown for the younger folk.

However, the UK does offer some real variety with regards to fishing venues and species that are available to catch. Anything from a whiting of several ounces to a Common Skate of 200+lb. There are large eels, sharks, rays, as well as a large variety of ‘round fish’. One day you can be fishing shallow water on the South coast for flatfish, a day’s travel later will see you enjoying the stunning scenery of Scotland, where you can be anchored in several hundred feet of water fishing for skate. You can comfortably drive the length of the UK in a couple of days; this can see you fishing the highlands of Scotland and the offshore islands one day, before travelling south and fishing the North Sea on the east coast, the Irish sea on the west before hitting the south coast, where you can fish the warmer water of the English Channel. In some areas the tides are quite tame, in others is it extremely fierce, the latter being the Bristol Channel, which experiences the second largest tidal movement in the world.

As the waters around the world are slowly warming, certain species are slowly becoming more frequent in UK waters. Tuna used to be a common catch many years ago, and then they disappeared as baitfish stocks declined rapidly in the middle of the 20th century. However, they are gradually making a return, as are other predatory fish. The numbers are small, and are currently only being picked up by commercial fleets. However, the numbers are predicted to continue rising, so the kayak angling scene in the UK could experience exciting change in future years.”

- Rob Appleby

“I think UK kayak anglers are a special breed. Kayak fishing is an expensive hobby, and in the UK, the odds are not entirely in our favour. By this, I mean that we have to battle against weather, wind, and tide before we can even think of going kayak fishing. And when we do get out, conditions are usually less than favourable. Most of our time is spent in front of a computer, reading kayak fishing reports of epic battles in far flung countries, whilst keeping our eyes peeled to the UK wind forecast, and planning where to go fishing next. So, as you can imagine, when we finally do get to go out, we want to make up for lost time. There are much easier ways to catch fish in the UK, so to be a kayak fisherman, you really have to want to be a kayak fisherman (if that makes any sense). Once you understand this, you begin to realise what makes us tick. Whilst we may not have the sportfish that other countries have, we do have alot of things in our favour: the scenery in the UK is very diverse; everything from stunning sea cliffs and stacks, to quiet tree lined estuaries. The wildlife can be spectacular too – seals, dolphins, herons, and kingfishers are a regular occurrence. The key to our fishing is the number of different species of fish which swim around our shores – there is usually something worth fishing for all year round. But the real meaning of being a kayak fisherman in the UK is the camaraderie which exists between us. Friends with a common interest, I suppose. Online forums and the like have brought us together in what is a relatively small country to start with. We have ‘meets,’ where kayak fishermen from all over the UK get together for a spot of fishing and socialising. If anyone has a problem, everyone helps out and offers advice. That is the real meaning of being a kayak fisherman in the UK in my opinion – the close-knit community of strange people who choose to go fishing sitting on top of a 13 foot long piece of plastic.”

- Ian Harris

“It means everything to me. Without kayak fishing, my life wouldn’t be the same. I have had so many adventures and great times, caught a lot of fish that would have been impossible from the beach, and met some really cool people that I’m proud to call my friends. My life revolves around what I’ll be doing at the weekend; all week long I’ll be watching the weather patterns, checking the tides for varying launch sites, and keeping in touch on the forums for any meets happening. It takes over your life, but I wouldn’t be without it.”

- Richi Oliver

“Early nights and early mornings every weekend…
The smell of damp clothing, bait and fish never leaving the van…
Fish for dinner once again, seasoned by rubbing salt from eyebrows…
Friends online, on the water, and around the country…
Most of all, echoed by the local shore anglers, charter skippers, commercial fisherman, and passing public it means being bloody mad!”

- Mark Crame

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