Winter Kayak Fishing Safety: The Basics

Payne Outdoors

All around the country the air is getting cooler.  Many outdoorsmen are hanging up their Shimanos and picking up their Winchesters; but for some of us, kayak fishing season is yearlong.  Anglers who wish to pursue fish in winter weather can be rewarded greatly, but extra safety precautions must be taken to ensure you live to fish another day.

The Basics

You should never paddle without a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) on, but paddling without a PFD in the winter is especially deadly.  In the event you fall out of your kayak in the winter, cold water temperatures will restrict your motion instantly, within a few minutes your movement will be completely shut off and without a PFD you will almost certainly sink to a watery grave.  A Georgia man has already lost his life this fall and he was in a small pond in about 20 feet of water.  If you are going to be on the water in the winter wear your PFD.

Also, be sure you are also following local boating regulations.  Most states require some type of visual and auditory signaling device for kayakers at all times.

Staying Comfortable

Staying warm in a kayak doesn’t have to be break banking expensive, but keep these rules in mind and you should be nice and toasty.

  • Layer your clothing.  Multiple pairs of socks, pants and shirts will help conserve your body heat.  Breathable and moisture wicking properties are a worth the extra money.
  • Wool stays warm when wet.  Kayak fishing will always be a water sport and you’ll still get wet when the water is cold.  Wearing wool or synthetic gloves will keep your extremities nice and warm, even after you they get wet grabbing a fish.
  • Waterproof and Breathable outer layers are worth their weight in gold.  I will never fish in the winter without my 100% waterproof waders and rain shelled Columbia jacket.  And no, waders will not sink you if you fall out of your kayak.
  • Cotton is a bad idea.  Cotton dries very slowly and holds cold water.  Getting cotton wet in the winter is a recipe for hypothermia.
  • Don’t forget to wear your eye protection!  The only part of your body a fishing hook can completely destroy is an eyeball.

In case of an Emergency

Even the most experienced of kayak anglers fall out of their kayaks.  If you plan for the worst and stay calm, you will get home safely with nothing more than a bruised ego.

  • Bring a buddy whenever possible.
  • Bring multiple forms of communication.  A cell phone and VHF radio are good places to start.
  • Pack a Ditch Bag.

A ditch bag is a dry bag full of survival gear you would use after an on the water emergency.  PRO-TIP: Pack the bag in the order you’ll need to pull things out of it.  Useful items to have in a ditch bag include:

  • A dry change of warm clothes (Multiple pairs of sox, long johns, fleece pants and sweatshirt, hat, gloves or mittens, warm shoes or boots, windbreaker type jacket and a few blankets).
  • Some kind of fire starter (Water proof matches, lighters, etc.)
  • S.O.S. signaling devices (Mirrors, horns, flare guns, etc.)
  • High energy food (sardines or powerbars)

Winter kayak fishing can be a blast and can be done very safely.  Prepare for the worst and stay smart and you may be greatly rewarded!

Stay tuned for Winter Kayak Fishing Safety: Worst Case Scenario tomorrow!

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