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Basics of Kayak Fishing Safety

August 14, 2018

By Jason & Jennifer Schall

Fishing from a kayak is one of our favorite activities. There are so many benefits of kayak angling – the convenience of being able to launch anywhere, the thrill of reaching shallow fishing holes that a powerboat cannot access, the peace that comes with being so close to the water and the fish we catch, and of course, the ease of maintaining a kayak. Our oldest yak is over 10 years old and is still in great condition even after countless trips in both saltwater and freshwater, and numerous long-distance road trips. Being a responsible boater comes with all of the joys of being on the water, regardless of the vessel, so it is always a good idea to assess your safety awareness and readiness before venturing out on the water. Below are some tips and gear that are part of our safety plan:

What to Do Before You Go Kayak Fishing

  • File a float plan with someone who will be able to notify authorities if you don’t return on time. Make note of where you will launch and the approximate time you expect to return.
  • Research the area where you will be paddling. For example, be aware of the type of water (flatwater, whitewater, coastal areas impacted by tides, etc.). If you are going to areas affected by tides, know the times and heights for the low and high tides. A great launch site at low tide may be inaccessible at high tide, or vice versa, and strong currents can tire you out faster than you may expect.
  • Be aware of the weather conditions. Afternoon thunderstorms can appear out of nowhere, and at times are incredibly strong. Always check the weather for favorable storm and wind conditions before making the decision to get on the water.
  • Check for cell phone coverage. Most carriers provide maps of their coverage areas. If the area where you are planning to paddle is questionable, then consider bringing a back-up communication device like a VHS radio or GPS locator.

What to Bring Kayak Fishing

  • Life jackets are a must! We prefer low-profile auto-inflating; they are comfortable, lightweight, and effective in the event that we end up in the water. Remember to always have a whistle attached to your life jacket as well.
  • Dry storage. We use a Plano waterproof case to hold our phones, radio, keys while on the water, along with a small first aid kit. We attach this box to the kayak, so if the kayak overturns, the box and our belongings stay dry and attached to the boat.
  • We bring headlamps with us, even if we are not planning to stay out after dark. The light can act as a signal, even in daylight, in the event of an emergency. And if for some reason you are still out at dusk, you’ll need that light to legally navigate through the waterways.
  • Drinking Water. It is critical to have plenty of water on hand to stay hydrated while you are on the water. Insulated containers keep water cold for an extended period of time and easily accessible.
  • Rope is something that always comes in handy. It can be used to tow your kayak, secure your kayak, or to carry or attach something needed to your kayak.
  • Dress for the weather. Wear protective clothing (including hats, sunglasses, and footwear), and apply sunscreen liberally and often. Wear a wetsuit if paddling in cold water, and consider a drysuit as well, to protect against hypothermia.
  • Fishing tackle. The more organized you are on the water, the safer and more enjoyable your time will be. We plan ahead for the specific hooks, lines, tools, and flies or lures that we’re going to need. We consolidate all of that into several Plano Stowaway boxes, and store those neatly under or behind the kayak seat where they are out of the way, but easily accessible. Click here to read more about kayak fishing storage solutions.

Kayak Fishing Behavior and Etiquette

  • Respect the right-of-way of other anglers and boats. Stay out of the way of bigger vessels. Take advantage of the fact that your kayak can traverse shallow waters and stay out of marked channels where powerboats or ships normally navigate.
  • Keep your kayak under control at all times.
  • Be aware of hazards, both beneath and above you.
  • Be able to swim and handle yourself in case you find yourself in the water.
  • Paddle within your physical limitations. Don’t try to paddle too far or stay out too long if you are not physically equipped to do so.
  • Never operate any vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

We are sure all experienced anglers have their own great ideas, and of course there are many resources that can help you plan for safety. Check out the United States Coast Guard (USCG) site on recreational boating for more information.  We also recommend taking a boating safety course.

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Being a responsible boater is important when kayak fishing, too.