This article was published in the Swedish Kajakfiskemagasinet a couple of years ago by my friend Jan Liska who tragically passed away. This is the original article from Jan from wich we did the Swedish version. Jan is a big part of how Kajakfiskemagasinet.se and Kayakfish.eu came to be. I have decided to publish a couple of his articles in the coming issues to honor his memory RIP . -Tommy Lönnebacke.
I first tasted kayak fishing in the sea in Norway last year. The sea fascinated me from the start, the intimidating size of the thing, the beast under your kayak, sometimes calm, sometimes powerful and raging. I was enchanted by the physical demands kayak fishing in the sea puts on you. It also greatly changes your mindset, you feel small and the fish feel bigger.
After tasting the power of the sea and the different style of fishing I quickly found myself wondering about visiting other places in Europe to go fishing in the mighty ocean. Last winter I conceived a plan to travel the Atlantic coast from Britanny, France to Spain. My goal was to visit two amazing events: The Sea Kayak Fishing tour stop in Concarneau, France and the 1st International Open Championships of Cantabria.
In this article I will try to share with you some basic information about kayak fishing on the Atlantic coast of France. Hopefully it will give you some idea of what to prepare for should you ever consider trip to these parts.
First let’s take a look at the checklist for such trip:
Kayak & accessories:
You will need a fast kayak suitable for fishing the sea. Minimum 12 foot class kayak, sit on top is a must. My kayak of choice would be Cuda 14, Kraken 13.5 or similar, you will be fishing the sea AND calm estuaries, so I would go for a bit of standupability too, but that is personal preference 🙂 But forget kayaks like Big Tuna, Big Rig, Predator or Big Game II, you would struggle outside the estuaries. In pedal driven kayaks I believe that the Revolution 13 will be best choice.
List of must have accessories:
Leashes for everything
Fishfinder with GPS ideally
VHF radio is a good choice
Cart with big wheels for sand
WD40 to spray all contacts of your electronics (MUST HAVE)
Landing net for seabass
Anchor for fishing estuaries
In these areas you will be mostly fishing for seabass. There are species that require heavier tackle (dentex in Spain, sharks in some places in Britanny and meagre (Argyrosomus regius). I have little experience with the other species so I will focus only on seabass, through the eyes of a primarily freshwater angler.
You will be using two types of baits mostly: softbaits and surface baits. For softbaits you will need a sensitive rod that allows you to feel the bites easily. I would go for max. 2.4m lenght. Casting weight up to 50g.
For surface baits I prefer a softer action, a stiff rod is not an optimal solution. Surface baits are generally best fished with a softer rod that loads up with the strike of the fish, the stiff rod will more likely rip the bait out of the fishes mouth.
You will need two rods loaded with apropriate baits at all time. The action comes fast with seabass and you need to be able to switch from surface bait to softbait very quickly.
You have two options, either go with the high end saltwater reels (Shimano Stella class or Daiwa mag sealed reels). But I would reccomend to go with 2 Daiwa Laguna reels… the sand and salt is merciless and I found out that the cheap Laguna reels handle the conditions surprisingly well, actually better than my Stradic Cl4
Main line:0.12 diameter braid. For leader take 0.25 fluorocarbon and 0.50 fluorocarbon for fishing in complicated structure. You will often fish in sharp rocks… but the worst scenarios you will encounter in the estuaries: fishing in mussel farms at rising tide demands a hardcore fluorocarbon leader, 0.50 is optimal, not for the strength but for the abrasion resistance.
For fishing the mussel farms it is a good idea to pack a 2.7m heavy action rod, you need to be able to muscle the bigger seabass out of the mussel cages fast, and keep the fish on the surface.
You will need accurate immitations of the following species: sardine, anchovy and sandeel. You may also take with you immitations of crabs, in the estuaries bass eat crabs a lot.
You have to be prepared for various conditions in terms of weedlessness. You need to be ready to switch from jighead to offset hook in no time depending on how much vegetation is floating in the water or whether there is bottom vegetation.
Last thing to take into account is that seabass are really picky when it comes to size of the bait, so be ready for that. This is especially true about surface baits.
For surface baits you will be using walk-the-dog baits. Go for white color as universal. Sardine for fishing in the sea and ayu for estuaries. Have at least 2 sizes ready, this is very important.
The French coast of the Atlantic starts in Britanny. In Britanny the coast has a lot of rocks, cliffs, estuaries and peninsulas. Further south the coast starts losing these features and you are looking at endless beaches and a flat coast, where the fish are much harder to find. On the other hand these parts host the bigger species, namely meagre, that I would one day very much like to target from kayak.
In Britanny there are basically two types of scenario that you will be fishing. The actual sea and the estuaries. Let us look at the conditions that you will encounter in the estuaries first.
There are many rivers that arrive to the sea, but the important thing to notice about estuaries is that it is the sea that pushes itself into the rivers with the tide, something I vaguely knew about, but had little practical knowledge of before my trip to Britanny. A good general strategy is to put in near the sea before the incoming tide, then you will easily float into the river with the tide, just like the fish… And once the tide starts coming down it will take your kayak with it… all the way to your starting point. The best time to fish the estuaries is when the tide coefficients are the highest. Estuaries also provide a plan B if the weather does not allow fishing off the sea coast.
Look for groups of mullet, there is often a bass among them. My most sucessful bait in estuaries was a walk-the-dog surface bait in ayu color (brown/green/white). The current caused by the tide is often very very strong, so it is a good idea to be ready to anchor down in some interesting area and powerfish the river with surface baits. I had my biggest fish during slack tide, always in the middle of the river.
Mussel and oyster farms, if present, are the real hotspots. But like I said above… get heavy tackle for this 🙂
First things first… this means weather forecast is your number one priority. Watch out for wind from land, this may prove lethal in combination with sea currents and tide. If you are unsure about the conditions, go into the estuaries and wait for a calm day to go fish the coast.
The general areas that you want to focus on are passage areas for fish. Peninsulas and points, especially in the vicinity of an estuary are the best general areas. Once on the water, your first indicator is the seagulls… if you see seagulls hunting, paddle like a madman in that direction, there are surely seabass there! You need to act very fast also depending on the readings on the fishfinder, once you see a ball of bait with active fish around it, you have to get your bait into the water immediately, 10 secs later may be too late.
Also, do not forget your sense of hearing, hunting seabass make big splashes or sucking sounds that can be heard over quite some distance, this is your call to action!
The seabass move very quickly and you have to do so too. On the other hand, some bass prefer not to chase after the baitfish but they adapt an ambush strategy instead, you will find these on isolated rocks formations, around mooring boats or on underwater dunes on beaches.
Great concrete spots to fish are plateaus some distance away from the coast, but such spots are hard to find, if you do not have a local guide.
Kayak fishing in Britanny, France, is a developped sport, there are many many anglers who fish from kayaks there. It is only reasonable… the coast is amazing and the fish are plentiful. Kayak fishing for seabass is a great sport, demaning and rewarding at the same time.
By Jan Liska