Saltwater Fishing: Gunkholing

By Tom Keer

Aug 05, 2015

“Gunkholing” or cruising in shallow waters with a wide variety of shallow-draft boats, is a perfect way to go saltwater fishing.

“Gunkholing” or cruising in shallow waters with a wide variety of shallow-draft boats, is a perfect way to go saltwater fishing. Aluminum skiffs, flats boats, shallow draft skiffs, and fishing kayaks are popular hulls that can get into the skinniest of waters.

Here are some of the top places to find saltwater fish, and the boats that can get to them!

Flats Fishing: Fish on the flats are skittish. In the tropics are lemon sharks and along the Eastern seaboard there are great whites. Add raptors like ospreys and eagles into the mix and it seems like everyone wants to eat a fish on the flats. The skinny water can be either perfectly clear or it can get muddy with some weather. Flats boats that give you casting deck elevation means casters can see better, poling platforms help captains reduce motor noise, and kayaks make for quiet approaches. You can wet wade and tether your kayak to your waist.

Estuaries: Saltwater river systems can get bony, especially in areas where there are big tides. To gunkhole here you'll want a boat that can get into shallow water but also has some beam and a modified vee to cut through the current. Aluminum skiffs, shallow draft skiffs are great boats, and fishing kayaks make for quiet drifting/paddling, and you can drag them on to a bank or bar to walk.

Saltponds: Once you get past the choppiness surrounding the mouth of the pond and pass the breakwall, the saltponds quiet down. You'll find channels, bars, shoals and sometimes rocks. Aluminum skiffs and kayaks make for easy beach launching, while flats boats and shallow draft skiffs are nice for visibility and a quiet ride.

Some of the most exciting fishing occurs in shallow water. Sometimes it is sight fishing while other times it is topwater. When gearing up for gunkholing, make sure your fishing license is up to date, get the right boat and get skinny! You'll be glad you did.

Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at