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With the explosion of the sport of kayak fishing, anglers are venturing out into some pretty big waters these days. From lakes to the “great lakes” all the way out to the wide open seas! The pursuit of bigger fish and bigger adventure has led anglers from all over the world to once unimaginable waters. To me, though, we have completely over thought adventure when it comes to kayak fishing. In my opinion, the biggest adventure lies not in the big waters, but in the skinny waters.
When I say skinny waters I am referencing creeks, streams and rivers that might be local to you. I can think of at least 3 rivers/creeks that are within a 15 minute drive from my house. The nearest “big water” to me is around a 45 minute drive. Now, I realize that 45 minutes is not all that long of a drive but why is it that most people seem to bypass the skinny water for the big water that is much farther away? The only thing that I can think of is because people have stuck in their mind 2 major misconceptions about the skinny waters: no big fish and no big adventure. That could not be further from the truth!

I cannot speak for the rivers in your area but the rivers and creeks in my area are FULL of fish! Yes, you will catch a lot of smaller fish but you are still catching a lot of fish! Who can complain about that!?!?!?! Most of the time if you are out on the lake you only catch a couple of really good sized fish anyway and the skinny water is no different. While catching those littles, you will eventually find a pig laying somewhere in a root pile just waiting to swallow your bait! Most of the biggest fish that I have caught, including 2 largemouth just over 24 inches long, were caught in rivers or creeks. The biggest smallmouth that I have ever caught was caught in a creek and was right at 20 inches long. This is the very same water where I’m frequently asked if there is even fish in there. YES! There is a bunch of fish in there!
In my 29 years of life on this earth, I have been fishing for about 20 of them. I started as most people did; fishing with my dad at the lake. We frequently went to Table Rock lake in southwest Missouri and we pretty much always did well. It seemed like we would almost always catch the same fish though. It was always either big sunfish, which is a blast to catch, or largemouth. Sometimes the bite would be slow and sometimes it would be so intense that we couldn’t hardly keep up, much like any other lake. When I was around 15 we went on our first family float trip. We rented some canoes and floated the James River, a river that feeds Table Rock Lake. I remember thinking to myself that it was a lot more fun! I caught smallmouth, walleye, catfish and this little feisty green fish called a goggle eye aka rock bass. I absolutely loved it and was sold on the skinny water almost instantly. Since then I’ve become pretty much obsessed with it and now that I have become somewhat associated with kayak fishing in my area I get to take people out and show them this hobby that I’m so enamored with. Most of them, are experiencing it for the very first time! When taking someone new out, I ALWAYS take them out on a novice level river because I know that they will see things that they haven’t seen before and I know that they will catch fish. Just catching fish, big or small, will help keep them entertained long enough to see past the boredom of not catching anything to realize the serenity that is surrounding them.

On that same trip I realized something else. The scenery on the river was much more attractive and was ever changing. I saw caves and bluffs and things that I just didn’t seem to notice while out on the open water. As I got older I began to explore my local skinny water. There is a creek not far from my house called Flat Creek. If you follow it long enough(about 35 miles) it eventually dumps into Table Rock lake as well. I started out walking this creek, fishing the big holes and enjoying the trek in-between. I got to see so many amazing things! I saw things like soft shell turtles, beavers, otters, deer, snakes (I even had a beaver drop a cotton mouth at my feet which had me almost walking on water to get away!) and I caught soooo many fish, both large and small. When I had eventually scouted the creek enough to take my kayak out on it, the adventure grew even more! I found incredible things like caves, a house built into a mountain side, old civil war era dams, small water falls, quite a few bald eagles and so much more. I could go on and on about it. I was almost on sensory overload my first time out on that little creek. It then became about more than just fishing. The experience was so rich that I suddenly did not care if the fish decided not to bite. I was so occupied with the scenery that it didn’t really matter!

After reading all of that I hope that you guys realize that the skinny water should always be in consideration when planning a day out in your kayak or canoe. Pick out a little river or creek and get on Google Maps and look it over. Then Google it just see what other information there is out there about it. Do your research and make sure that you don’t get yourself in over your head. Don’t get me wrong, going to the bigger waters is a blast and the fishing can be incredible, just don’t write off that little water. The fishing can be just as good and the experience could be one for the books! Thanks for reading and until next time, I wish you tight lines and smooth waters!