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OUTDOORS: Kayaks all the rage at outdoors shows

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Updated: February 10, 2013 6:00PM

Familiarity is a hook for

‘‘A lot more folks are seeing folks similar to themselves fishing from a kayak,’’ said Walter Loos, a chief adventurer for Paddle and Trail.

The rise of interest in kayaks and kayak fishing will be on display this week during one of the busiest stretches for shows around Chicago outdoors.

PaddleFest is one featured draw at the Chicago Boat, Sports & RV Show (, which opens Wednesday and runs through Sunday at McCormick Place. Paddle and Trail will be central in that multifaceted effort.

How much kayak appeal has grown will be shown at the Chicago Muskie Show (chicagomuskie
), which will be held Friday through Sunday at Harper College in Palatine. In a Muskie Show first, Sailing World Inc. will have a pair of kayaks for muskie fishermen. You read that right.

At the Boat Show, PaddleFest will give showgoers a chance to see kayaks and canoes, then try them in the PaddleFest Pond. On the pond, there will be a daily ‘‘fishing’’ derby.

There are several intriguing things associated with PaddleFest. There will be a chance to try Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP), the fastest-growing paddle sport. There will be a new Rockin’ Rollin’ Bubbles pool, where kids (or adults being kids) can try walking on water as though on a hamster wheel. Rapid Media will offer paddling films and seminars, a chance to chill and learn.

On the more serious side, there will be plenty of kayaks, which are hot items in urban areas such as Chicago, and SUPs to sample.

‘‘One thing people have a mental block on is transportation of the equipment,’’ Loos said. ‘‘So that is where a lot of collapsibles and inflatables come into play, especially in places like Chicago, with a lot of people and not a lot of space.’’

Loos said the drought last summer heightened interest in kayak fishing locally.

‘‘Especially with the lower
water levels the past year, some of the people couldn’t reach spots with boats that they could with kayaks,’’ he said.

Loos sees a couple of reasons for the spike in kayak interest. One is affordability. Second are the new designs. Fishing kayaks now have better seating options and places to stash gear. Kayaks have come a long way from the first time I tried one and was cramming stuff anywhere I could.

If you are coming to the Boat Show to consider options in kayaks, canoes or SUPs, Loos has some basic advice. First, lay a good base of knowledge by going online and watching videos at Paddle and Trail’s site ( or at the sites of manufacturers.

Then ask some basic questions: Where are you fishing? For what? What are your home waters?

Those answers will narrow down the types of kayaks. For river fishing, that probably will mean a smaller, more maneuverable one. Fishing on Lake Michigan probably will require one with more length and stability.

‘‘The main question is more on stability or more on performance,’’ Loos said.

Then come to the show and try some kayaks.

‘‘Just like any other sport, a piece of equipment should be tailored to the individual,’’ Loos said. ‘‘There is a lot to be said for boat fit.’’

Hunting note

Archery deer harvest has tailed off significantly in Illinois. Harvest was 56,904 through Sunday, compared with 59,176 at this time last year, according to forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton.

Stray cast

Jerry Krause should as certainly be in the Basketball Hall of Fame as Louie Spray’s muskie should be out as a world record.

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