Fishing Skill: Become A Kayak Fishing Guide | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
Do you want to turn this into your new office view every day? Do you want to turn this into your new office view every day? Photos: Joe Tilley

Do you think you have what it takes to guide clients onto big fish consistently?

This past Spring I decided to try and take advantage of my small collection of fishing kayaks, the mounds of fishing gear amassed in my garage and the experience I’ve gathered these past few years and put it all to use as a kayak fishing guide.   Having now learned some of what goes into such a venture, even on a small scale, I would like to offer some advice to anyone considering offering themselves as a kayak fishing guide in their community.

First and foremost set your financial expectations low!   No one is going to get rich being a part time kayak fishing guide, especially if like me you are guiding people in publically accessible waters targeting fish anyone may try for.    While salmon guides operating in high end resorts on private pools can charge $500 - $1000 per day, a recreational fishing guide has to be more affordable in order for cost to not be an impediment.   My only financial goal starting off was to have my obsession with kayak fishing pay for itself.   My earnings go back into new equipment or replacing items that wear out, break or are lost.

Have enough boats in your fleet to become a Kayak Fishing Guide?

Next, be sure to keep your work/life balance in check.   Personally, my full time job is that of a software engineer, and combined with my responsibilities as a husband and parent of two young boys I can only offer guiding services on a part time basis, essentially only weekends and holidays.   Even with the reduced availability, it means giving up many weekend family outings, trips out of town or evening drinks with friends if clients are booked the next day for an early morning trip.

Be prepared for long days and potentially minimal fishing!   As the guide you have to be prepared to do all of the work while letting the clients have all the fun.   Make it to the launch ahead of time to set up kayaks and equipment before the clients arrive and be prepared to clean up and pack everything away on your own after the clients leave.  

 Kayak Fishing Guides have to deal with multiple clients at once.

During your outings concentrate on ensuring the clients are safe and comfortable, enjoying themselves and are doing everything appropriate to catch the target species of the day.    I have always been able to get some fishing in myself, but only after the client’s needs are met.

As with any other service industry profession, customer service is everything in the world of guiding.   You have to be prepared to go the extra mile to meet the unique needs of any client.   This may mean towing a client who is unable to paddle for longer distances or against strong wind or current, or baiting the hooks for children who do not want to touch a worm!   When your clients feel confident that you are happy to do anything it takes to best ensure they have a perfect outing, they will be far more likely to be repeat customers, and tell their friends about you!

Kayak Fishing Guides have to get clients on fish consistently.

To maximize your client base, have at least one set up suitable for kids.    A few of my outings have been with kids as young as 10.   Between the kids and the smaller adults, my Ocean Kayak Tetra 10 gets used as often as my Old Town Predator MX which is not something I would have ever imagined a year ago!    For even younger children I equip my Old Town Predator 13 with a foot stool so a very young angler can ride with his dad and enjoy the adventure.

Before you declare yourself a guide, determine how many people you may want to service at once and collect all the fishing and kayaking gear you may need for a party of that size!   With 5 fishing kayaks, I advertise that I can take 4 people at a time.   To meet the needs of a group this size, and given the wide variety of fish we may pursue, there are nearly 20 rods in my garage, 8 PFDs, 6 anchors, 12 rod holders,…etc.   Some of the not so obvious gear you should stock for each kayak may include pliers, a safety knife, a light, a whistle and bottles of water.   Being the guide you should of course have extra supplies like toilet paper, a first aid kit and extra batteries for your phone on hand.  

Kayak Fishing Guides need to get their clients on fish all day long.

To get the most out of your adventure with clients, capture the best footage you can.   Your clients will be your best advertisers if they have a great experience.   By using quality cameras and providing great images and/or video to your clients, they will share it with their friends who may in turn look to hire you for a future outing.   The best item I invested my guided fishing earnings in this year was a Nikon 1 AW1 Waterproof camera, ideal for a kayak guide!  Along with my pair of GoPros my clients now all receive video and high res pictures of their adventures.   

Finally, look for a unique angle to market yourself and your services.   For myself, I have already built a reputation as one of the more prolific shortnose sturgeon anglers in our area.   As the only kayak fishing guide in our province, and the only sturgeon fishing guide, I am able to take advantage of two different angles to try and raise awareness about my service.  Anytime you can differentiate yourself or offer an adventure that no one else in your community does, then you should be able to develop an audience.

Many anglers think being a Kayak Fishing Guide is the dream job, because it is.

Does the prospect of being a kayak fishing guide as presented here sound like a lot of work for little reward?  Perhaps so if you are purely thinking finances.   However the true rewards make it worthwhile.   Getting to be there and capture on film the moment a 4 year old catches his first ever fish with the help of his Dad, or filming a 10 year old as he lands his first ever sturgeon solo in his own kayak is amazing.  

 Doing this type of work, you get to meet all sorts of interesting people and make a lot of connections in the fishing world; from local professionals who are able to open doors to new opportunities to travelers visiting your area to catch a new species to add to their life lists.   All the while you help build and strengthen the kayak fishing community and also promote those companies whom you may pro-staff for.  

If you're a Kayak Fishing Guide, this could be your view every day.

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