Paddleboard Fishing 101: The Art of Dock Light Fly Fishing from an iSUP

We’ve done the slow sunset paddles.

We’ve explored the little nooks and crannies of our nearby lakes. We’ve paddled out to the open ocean, and more. While we can’t say we’ve seen it all, sometimes paddleboarding can make you feel like we’ve done it all. 

For a multitude of reasons, mixing up a hobby, workout, or activity can make it a lot more fun in the long run. Paddleboard fishing isn’t new to the scene. There are paddleboards specifically designed for the sport with built-in tackle and rod racks for extended time spent on the water. Paddleboard fishing doesn’t have to be a lifestyle, or a $2,000 custom paddleboard. iSUP fishing is gaining popularity because of its flexibility, convenience, and affordability. We reached out to Retrospec paddleboard fisherman Sawyer Martin for his tips for fly fishing on his Weekender.

**Fly fishing in and of itself requires specific gear to get going. If you’re not familiar with fly fishing, but are still curious about using your paddleboard to fish, start small. Ensure you have the proper licensing for your area, and begin with worms to catch small fish like perch or sunfish. Begin seated, and transition to your knees, and then to your feet when you feel comfortable maintaining a balance and reeling in.

Sawyer Martin lives in Pensacola, Florida. If you’re unsure of where that is, think as far west as you can get in Florida before hitting Alabama. Martin’s recount of paddleboard fishing is a dreamy, dewey sequence. As he describes it, the best time to head out on his Weekender is when the “sun falls below the horizon and the lights that litter docks along the bays and canals of Pensacola turn on.” 

Martin participates in dock light fishing, a popular year ‘round pastime in Florida. Fish are attracted to the ghost-like glow of dock lights, making fly fishing at night a possibility. Martin suggests keeping what you bring on your board as streamlined as possible. One rod, a cooler (doubling as a seat), a half pound anchor, and extra supplies like flies, pliers, and a net. “Limiting areas where line & lures can get snagged up on and keeping the board clutter-free is crucial, especially when fly casting, as your extra line will constantly be coming in contact with the deck of the board.”

Using a paddleboard to fish has its advantages. “Anyone who has ever targeted fish that inhabit dock lights knows how wary these species can be once they become aware of an intruder, whether that be a fisherman on a boat, kayak, or board” Sawyer says. ”The board, when positioned correctly, allows for the angler to make casts in (and around) the light, without spooking the fish.” For tackle, he recommends using something small and flashy, to catch the attention of the fish and reflect off the light.

Where you position your board matters. “I always approach lights slowly and try to position myself as far away as possible, while still maintaining a distance that I can cast from. If it’s calm, I’ll sometimes skip deploying the anchor” Martin suggests. On windier nights, he’ll drop the anchor, tying it to the D-ring on the board. Choosing not to anchor can cause the fish to drag you toward the lights when you finally hook one. Fish can quickly become wary of their environment and suspicious of movement outside of their own. “Once this happens, the fish hanging out at that light generally shut off and refuse to eat for a while,” Martin says, “so try to keep out of the light once hooked up, and use your anchor if you continually have trouble with getting dragged into the light.”

While it’s certainly discouraging if fish get scared away, Martin recommends moving to another light or separate area all together. Using a paddleboard makes it easy to switch from one spot to another. Staying mobile prevents the fish from catching on, and can lead to more catches of your own!

Be aware of your board at all times “Snagging up on the dock is another concern,” Martin warns, “many dock owners do not take kindly to this sort of thing.” Be respectful of the docks, boats, and other fishermen and women around you. On top of that, if you have to clip line make sure to clean it out of the water to avoid littering. Enjoy the stillness of the water, the slowness of fishing, and the relaxation that fishing can bring.


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