By Dan Cook
Michigan native Dave Cameron realized the advantages and disadvantages of sea kayaks as he fished from them in the mid-1980s.
They enabled him to get into tight places for casting, but he couldn't easily stand up and fish in them.
So the design engineer converted his garage into a boat-building shop and came up with a vessel that would do just that. The result was Freedom Hawk Kayak and the Freedom 14.
Cameron's fishing models have outriggers that can be operated by levers from a seated position. A bar that is collapsible for cartopping can be lifted and locked into position to make standing in the kayak easy.
One was displayed this spring at the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association gathering on Lake Oconee.
Fishing Creek Outfitters, which sells Freedom Kayaks, is nearby in Milledgeville.
"They were originally designed for coastal fishing," the company's John Sodosky explained, noting that they also enhanced sightseeing in the marshes. "But they work well in ponds as well, since you can stand up to fish in them."
Other kayaking firms now offer fishing models. California's Hobie Cat, whose company name dates back to 1950, developed kayaks designed for fishing 14 years ago. They have become popular, too. They have a pedaling system, enabling the angler to keep his or her hands free for casting while moving the boat about.
Ingrid Niehaus, Hobie Cat's public relations director, said California and Southern coastal areas - where temperatures stay warm longer - are strong markets for the company's fishing kayaks. Australia and Europe are showing big demands also, she said.
The popularity of such fishing attests to the popularity of the sport, even in some lean times economically. Fishing interest refuses to fade to a threatening level.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 13 percent of the U.S. population 16 and older spent an average of 17 days fishing last year. That came from a trend study of the years 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006.
While the number of anglers declined 12 percent from 2001 to '06, overall expenditures for fishing showed a 4 percent gain.