Fishing kayaks are a popular choice among anglers today. They offer the stability and comfort of a sit-on-top fishing boat with the speed and agility of a recreational kayak. Fishing Kayaks allow for better access to shallow water where fish may be hiding, but they also have enough space inside so that you can keep your gear dry and store extra gear on deck.

Fishing kayaks do not come with live wells as standard. There are storage options that will keep bait alive temporarily, but to have a fully functioning livewell kayaks need to be modified or portable options explored. However, Malibu kayaks are one of the few who build a live well into some models of kayak.

What Is A Live Well

A live well is a tank that holds water and fish. Live wells are often used in boats to keep the catch alive until it can be released back into the wild. Fishermen use live wells to save their catch from suffocating or dying without oxygen.

The most common types of live wells are aerated, un-aerated, and portable tanks. Aerated live wells have a pump which continuously circulates air through them while un-aerated does not have any circulation system at all – they rely on natural currents for oxygenation.

  • Portable tanks come with a built-in filtration system that makes them easy to transport around from boat to boat – they’re so lightweight you can carry one by yourself!
  • Livewells are often used in fishing to keep fish alive for a longer period of time. These devices help extend the life of the catch by maintaining water temperature and aeration.
  • Livewells come in many different sizes, from small containers that can hold a few fish up to large vessels that accommodate hundreds or even thousands of fish.
  • The most common type is an aerated livewell with pumps and heaters that maintain constant water temperatures between 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit during transport.

This allows anglers to bring their catch home fresh instead of dumping them back into the ocean or lake where they were caught, potentially contaminating other marine wildlife such as birds, seals, otters, turtles, etc., which may also be living there. If you want some more options on how to fit a live well check out this article from kayakers mag

These systems to keep both catch and bait alive can start to get expensive quickly, so let’s see if there are any kayaks out there that come with live wells or at least the option to add one.

Do Fishing Kayaks Have Live Wells As Standard?

As the name implies, fishing kayaks are designed to be used while anglers fish. A very desirable though not essential feature that sets a good fishing kayak apart from an average one is the live well and its storage options.

A good livewell will allow you to keep your catch alive and out of the water for a lot longer than a cooler. It will also keep live bait swimming if you are going for larger fish and/or offshore fishing

And because there isn’t much room for storage inside a fishing kayak, it’s also where you can store all of your tackle boxes and gear so they stay dry when things get wet out on the water especially if the fishing is slow an there is nothing to put in it.

Most fishing kayaks, especially at the mid to high price range will have multiple storage options these can be turned into live wells, by portable or fitted means.

Do I Need A Live Well In My Fishing Kayak?

Whether or not you need a live well depends on what your goal is when fishing. If you are only going to be catching and releasing, then the chances of needing one in your kayak are slim; if there’s any chance that you’ll catch fish for food or use as bait, however, it becomes more important – but even here storing them in compartments would suffice.

It also may depend on how often someone plans to go out into their boat: while I’m lucky enough never have needed this item myself (I don’t stay out for days at a time), If you are planning long trips, or absolutely have to take your bait with you and cant catch it while out there it may become more important.

As long as you’re only fishing for sport and are releasing the fish back into water It is not essential to add the expense of fitting a live well into your kayak.

If that’s not your type of thing or you really have to take your bait with you on extended trip then yeah, probably best to get one so they stay alive until you can get them back to the shore.

If you find your self thinking this sounds like a lot of hassle then maybe you should look at catch coolers instead. We take a look at some of the better ones here.

How Long Do Fish Live In A Live Well?

This is another important point to consider. I live well is not some stasis chamber or floatable aquarium. Fish are not going to last you days, unless you are on some huge fishing boat, but this is a fishing kayak we are talking about!

If you have a full system pumping air into the livewell and a cooler keep the water cool then you might get 5-7 hours, if not you might be able to keep them alive for 3 (at a push). Some species are just more hardy than others as well.

Really look at these numbers before you shell out your hard earned money. What I do when I go kayak fishing is to have a small jigging rod with a sabiki set up (6 hooks small bait or lures – You can see the amazon link below) and drop it over the side while I wait for a big bite) There are usually bait fish around if you have found your spot correctly, and then you can use them fresh of one hook, on to the other hook!

Black Anchor 24 Pack Sabiki Rigs | 8 Size #4, 8 Size #6, and 8 Size #8 Bait Rigs | Green Fishing Beads High...
  • BEST SABIKI VALUE - 24 Individual packs of sabiki rigs (8 size #4, 8 size #6, and 8 size #8) each with a snap...
  • EXTREMELY SHARP HOOKS - Chemically sharpened for excellent performance which increases catch rate and corrosion...
  • EASY RIGGING - Each pack comes pre-rigged with a swivel at the rod end and a snap-swivel on the weight end for...
  • PROVEN ATTRACTIVE DESIGN - The high-vis green beads securely tied with fluorocarbon line attract the pickiest bait...

Its not just people that like their fish fresh!

best saltwater fishing kayak

Can I Use A Catch Cooler Instead?

We have a full article on the best catch coolers for kayaks on the site. This is actually our go to option both for ease, the fish we catch, the length of time we are out on the water and the expense!

Frankly just because the catch cooler we have is multi purpose so we use it for cold drinks ( we live in a hot place) and to keep snacks cool we don’t see the need for a full live well set up on our kayaks. We have two coolers ( pictured below in case you are in the market!) for each of our kayaks. one hard and one flexible, however make sure you measure your space before buying any of these to make sure they will fit!

Wilderness Systems Kayak Crate - 4 Rod Holders - Kayak and Boat Tackle Storage - Fits Anglet Boats
  • Large main compartment
  • Lid serves as additional storage
  • Comes standard with four (4) rod holders
  • Water resistant when latched closed

TCYC Deluxe Yakcatch Cooler for Kayak & Canoe Fishing Angler (42")
  • Body material Made of sturdy 600D/PU water resistant polyester, fully padded with thick closed-cell foam and heat...
  • There is a long center zipper opening for quick access to the interior. Zipper and Velcro on the large end provide...
  • Two padded handle is the coolest gadget that provide comfort when caring. There are six locking clips on the edges...
  • Dimension : W15.75" x H 9.75" x L42"

I Still Want A Live Well For My Kayak

IF you absolutely need live bait or to keep that catch fresh for as long as possible. then a good portable live well will help. It’s designed to keep your bait alive and healthy, no matter where you’re fishing. The best part about it?

Hobie make their own ( with the associated prices) but there a few options on Amazon that are worth checking out.

Sale 31%
Frabill Magnum Bait Station 19 Quart Live Bait Well, White and Yellow
  • Frabill | Trusted By Anglers Since 1938
  • 13 quart capacity live bait storage with integrated aerator | Dimensions: 19.5” L x 11.5” W x 13.8” H |...
  • Tangle-free netting prevents hook snags
  • This durable bait cooler was tested in below freezing temperatures and functioned at the highest level | Features...

Live well and fishing kayaks

Which Fishing Kayaks Have Live Wells

Malibu Kayaks are one of the few we have found with live wells inbuilt. You can check out there range here. Although it is a nice feature i would suggest that there are at least equally important features you should put on your list before purchasing just for a kayak having a live well or not. The stealth 14 fishing kayak has a bait tank that will help keep fish alive longer than a cooler.

Keep Your Live Well and Storage Clean

The live well is where fish are kept alive until they are caught. The tank needs to be clean in order to keep the water healthy and safe for other fish. This also applies to all your storage options on a kayak. I live in the tropics, and it does not take many hours for that fish smell to change from merely fishy to downright rotten.

I am very fortunate that I don’t suffer from sea sickness, but can you image if you don’t clean it well and then are stuck out on the lake or sea for 7 hours with nothing but the smell of rotten fish.

Any angler who’s been fishing knows that a lot of stuff can get into your live well, whether it’s mud, leaves or even sea life like crabs or urchins. So we are in the process of writing an article to help you maintain and clean a live well! and your other storage options on a fishing kayak.

Final Thoughts

Live wells are an expensive luxury on a fishing kayak in my area, but like all things fishing they are a personal choice that each paddler and angler has to make for themselves. We have given you a couple of options for kayaks that have them as standard, and a coupe of options for both altrnatives and portable options.

However, if you want to go full hog and build a system then this guy has done an awesome walkthrough video to get you started. Which ever way you go enjoy! And let us know in the comments if you have any other solutions!

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