Your fishing guide is doing it wrong. Sure, they got you on the surf, put you on some fish, ensured you a day of cranking monster after monster out of the deep and into the back of their big old, gas-guzzling boat. But you could have done better, could have gotten closer to the water and had the time of your life while doing a little to help save the planet.
That’s one pitch for saltwater kayak fishing, anyway, which has enjoyed a surge of popularity among sportfishermen in recent years. And in Maine, few guides fish harder from a yak than Mike Baker, who founded Arundel’s Kayak Fish New England in 2013, leading clients to stripers (and more) on a fleet of tricked-out sit-on-tops, powered by paddle, pedal, or electric outboard. As an ambassador for both kayak brand Wilderness Systems and pioneering electric-engine company Torqeedo, Baker has been out in front of the trend as more and more anglers look for alternatives to the price tag and carbon footprint of traditional powerboat fishing.
“Kayaks with engines are less expensive, way better for the planet, and offer way more launch locations,” Baker says. Plus, he adds, “kayak fish are more personal.”
It’s not the first time the 45-year-old guide has been on the leading edge of a sport. Part of a cadre of hard-charging East Coast snowboarders in the ’90s and ’00s, his feats were captured in cult-classic snowboard films in the days when they were circulated on VHS and DVD, earning him a reputation for fearlessness bordering on insanity (“as influential as any snowboarder that has ever grown up in the White Mountains,” says Snowboarder magazine). He started fishing stripers from the surf in his 20s, then got into kayaking “to get to some fish way out of casting range.” The bug bit him harder in his 30s, and guiding seemed like the next step.
“It was the natural thing to do,” says Baker, who also guides freshwater and sightseeing trips. “I love being on the water and outdoors year-round, and I saw an opportunity to teach others what I’ve learned.”
Electric-powered kayaks can zip in near-silence at speeds of up to 10 knots, or almost 12 miles per hour. Setting aside the lack of emissions and oopsie fuel leaks, you can’t overstate the advantages of hunting famously skittish species like striped bass without a noisy engine. Recently, Baker acquired his captain’s license, and since Torqeedo makes electric outboards up to 80 horsepower, he’s hoping to scale up in the near future, to offer dead-dinosaur–free trips for deep-sea stalwarts like tuna, cod, and sharks.
For all his electric-engine evangelism, though, Mike Baker is still a classic Maine guide: dry wit, a little cagey. When we texted to ask what makes Maine New England’s best state for fishing, he wrote back immediately.