When it comes to fishing from a kayak, you can expect to spend a fair amount of time selecting rods, rod holders, the type of kayak, and a plethora of other items to enhance the experience. But before you head out onto the open waters, did you take the time to purchase an anchor? And what size anchor do you need for a fishing kayak?
When using a fishing kayak, most anglers opt for a folding grapnel anchor of between one and a half and three pounds. Certain factors determine the specific size of the anchor, including wind strength, current, surge, and location. In mild conditions, a lighter anchor is sufficient.
An anchor is an essential tool for any kayaking expedition, especially when using the kayak to catch fish! But what are some of the guidelines for selecting the correct anchor size? What are the consequences of making the wrong selection, and why is an anchor important?
Choosing an anchor for your vessel can be quite a daunting experience. “What is too big/ small?” “How much weight should it be able to hold?” “What design should it be?” etc. These are all critical questions to ask yourself before purchasing an anchor.
Anchors form part of the “ground tackle” of a boat, which includes:
Together these elements anchor a vessel safely and effectively.
When it comes to choosing your ground tackle (and anchors in particular), there are three questions to ask yourself:
What is the size and weight of my vessel (how big and heavy is my kayak, and will it be once loaded)?
In what area will I be using my fishing kayak? What features are there, how strong is the current usually, are there often 6-foot waves, etc.?
What are the local conditions on the day? Is there strong wind? A big swell?
Once you have answered these questions, you begin to understand better the type and size of anchor you will need on the day.
A lighter anchor will suffice in calm conditions; however, a heavier anchor may be the better option if the conditions are somewhat more severe (no longer mild). Some anglers go all the way up to a five or seven-pound anchor, depending on the local conditions.
In general, a 1.5 to 3-pound anchor should meet most of your requirements.
Although most anglers use a grapnel folding anchor for their kayaks, some other anchors could work for particular situations.
- Lewmar’s Claw anchors are effective in rocky areas and should be between 2.2 and 4 pounds in size.
- Pivoting Fluke anchors are ideal for sand and muddy areas but are also good overall anchors. Anchors between 2.5 and 4 pounds are ideal weights. A shortcoming with this type of anchor is that, due to its shape, storage is a bit more complicated.
- Some anglers opt for using a Stakeout/Anchor Pole. This pole is effective in shallow waters, where there is not much current, with the benefit that it is quick to use. These poles are used directly through a scupper hole in the kayak. Alternatively, next to it and then tied onto it. These poles can be constructed out of metal or PVC piping.
- Drift chutes/Drogues are an additional way of slowing down drift speed while kayaking. This water parachute acts as an extra drag in the water, so although it won’t stop you entirely, it will break your drift speed.
The type and size of the anchor alone do not determine the effectiveness of the anchoring; the other ground tackle used plays a role as well:
- A two-foot length of chain is tied onto the top of the anchor. The benefit of this chain is that it weighs down the top end of the anchor, which, especially with grapnels, causes the anchor to hook into the substrate more effectively. Generally, this chain is 3/8 inches thick, but river anglers often use a 7/16 inch chain.
- The line/rode of the ground tackle is usually a length of nylon rope/cord, which affixes the anchor (from the chain) to the kayak. The rope is usually 3/16 inches thick.
This line’s length should be at a 7:1 ratio; i.e., in water with a depth of 10 feet, your line needs to be 70 feet long. This long line allows the anchor enough to dig into the substrate and lie flat on the bottom.
Most kayak anglers opt for using an anchor trolley system. This simple system allows you to move the anchor from the bow to the kayak’s stern without removing the anchor first.
A line is tied along one side of the kayak from the middle of the length to the bow.
The line is tied from the middle to the stern, then back to the middle, and on a carabiner. The anchor line clips onto this line at the carabiner.
If there is a shift in the wind or current (or if you would prefer to fish with/against the current), this system allows you to do so quickly.
Anchors are fundamental parts of any vessel, and without one, a boat or kayak will not function to its maximum potential.
Anchors serve two purposes on a fishing kayak:
They hold you in a position where you may have found a fishing hotspot and would like to spend some extra time there.
They keep you safe while you are occupied with fishing by preventing you from drifting off into a dangerous area (e.g., rapids, into the swell, rocks, busy boating channels, or a waterfall).
An anchor needs to be large enough to hold you in place securely and effectively, both to keep you safe and to prevent you from drifting away from your fishing spot.
Anything can happen while on the water; you may lose your paddle or even lose consciousness. Having a trustworthy anchor could save your life in these situations.
When your anchor works correctly, it takes your mind off any risks, dangers, or even distractions you may experience while fishing.
When your anchor is incorrectly sized and weighted, you’re setting yourself up for a potential disaster.
Anchors which are too small may not hold you steady in an area, especially if there is a sudden swell or the wind picks up. In these situations, you may end up drifting along the waterbody into less ideal areas.
Although bigger is usually better when choosing anchors, a kayak is not a particularly big vessel. An oversized anchor may be detrimental to a kayak, as it could add too much weight.
This extra weight limits your maneuverability and poses the potential risk of pushing you too low in the water, resulting in your taking on water and losing gear.
Most anglers agree on a 1.5 to 3-pound anchor. However, certain factors may influence the need for a heavier anchor. These factors include:
Larger kayaks need larger and heavier anchors. While lighter kayaks will be alright with a 1 to 3-pound anchor, a larger kayak may need a 5 to 7-pound anchor, depending on the conditions you are fishing in.
Stronger currents and larger swells require a heavier anchor to hold the vessel steady, while a lighter anchor will suffice in milder conditions.
Similarly, strong wind conditions require a heavier anchor because a lighter one may drag along the bottom.
Deeper water requires a heavier anchor as the volume of water pressing against the ground tackle is more significant than in shallower water.
The type of substrate also influences the type and size of the anchor used. Loose sand may require a heavier anchor to hold steady, while rocks allow even lighter anchors to hold fast.
No conditions work in isolation, so all the conditions need to be looked at holistically to select a viable anchor.
Although most anglers opt for a 1.5 to 3-pound grapnel anchor, different local factors like wind, current, swell, and water depth all influence the size and type of anchor you may need. Your personal preference also plays a role, along with storage space on your kayak. Whatever anchor you choose, make sure you have one and that it is strong enough to hold you stationary, safely, and securely while you fish.