Knight was reported missing Saturday afternoon around 4:30 p.m. when his friend, Wes Powell, 31, was found on a kayak tied to a buoy south of Gadsden Point in Tampa at about 2:50 p.m.
Powell reported that he had been unable to continue back to MacDill Air Force Base, where they had departed, and that Knight had gone to find help but had not returned.
The Coast Guard immediately launched a search using several vessels through the air and water.
Members from Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission assisted in the search.
I usually keep things light and airy here at A Bad Backcast, but today, I’ve got to be a bit of a nag….but if ONE person doesn’t die as a result of reading this, then I’ve done my job.
I know that quite a few of you have been fishing for a while. You think that nothing can happen to you… you’re impervious to disaster and invincible. You’ve been going to that same fishing hole for years and you know that water like the back of your hand….but sometimes, bad things happen to good people – like this when I got tired of sitting inside, waiting for favorable kayaking weather while I was on vacation. A dumb move to be sure…and I’mglad I can laugh about it now…but it could have turned into a disaster really fast.
I don’t usually dwell on doom and gloom, I just figure that some day, I’m going to be faced with some sort of dangerous situation or life threatening issue since I spend so much time in the outdoors, so I want to be ready for it.
Here is a small list of things to do before throwing your kayak on your rack and driving off to the put in -
Let someone know where you’re going, either by phone or in person. you don’t want to leave a note or send someone an e-mail or a text. You need to know that if you don’t return in a reasonable amount of time that they’ll contact the authorities. Make sure that they have the contact information for the Coast Guard, Marine Patrol or whomever performs search and rescue operations in your area. If you decide to go to a different fishing hole en route to your destination, make sure you let that person know. If I went to East Sand Key instead of Dunedin Causeway, the Coast Guard would be looking for me in the wrong place. This is the first “layer” of your security while out on the water. Make sure to tell your contact person when you are safe and have returned unscathed….
My contact person is usually my mom. I’ll give her a call to let her know that I’ll be here or there and I should be back by a certain time. Every once in a while, I’ll get a call from her checking to see if I made it back ok (sorry Mom) because I forgot to call and check in. Voice mails are no good. Make sure you actually speak to your contact person.
This next part may sound stupid, but WEAR YOUR PFD!!!!!!! (Personal Flotation Device)
I’m guilty of stashing my PFD under my seat or in the compartment behind me, but I promise to get better at actually wearing it. With the amount of douchebags running around on jet ski’s in the area’s where I like to fish, having an accident is a very real possibility. If I were knocked unconscious and I wasn’t wearing my PFD, I could very easily become crab food. My fellow Pro Staffer at Yakangler, Mark Wheeler, is a paramedic and he often tells horror stories about having to haul someone out of a lake or river who wasn’t wearing a PFD…and they’re dead.
Another Yakangler.com buddy and Kayak Fishing Radio regular, Juan Veruete who guides for monster smallies along the Susquehanna River will tell you, first thing – wear your PFD. He always likes to say on the radio show that it doesn’t do you any good if you’re not wearing it.
Another “layer” of protection to have with you is a ditch bag. If you have to leave your kayak or somehow get separated from it, it’s good to have a few survival basics at hand.
Here is my basic one .
Keep a cell phone with you. I keep my phone with me while I’m out in my kayak. I keep it in my Plano waterproof box with my wallet, camera and car keys. Keep the Coast Guard or Sheriff’s phone number in your contact list in case you need to call them. Even if you don’t believe in cell phones, you can buy one and not activate it. If you keep it charged, you can use ANY cell phone to call 911 in an emergency. My cell phone also has a tracking device in it. As long as it’s on, I can be located by satellite. I’m pretty sure that the 2 folks who were involved in the tragedy that occurred over the weekend didn’t have a phone with them.
A lot of outdoor folks have a GPS. It can come in handy to relay coordinates to search and rescue personnel in case of an emergency. Get familiar with your units workings and capabilities so you can access the information quickly.
Educate yourself on deep water kayak re-entry. Practice just how you’ll get back on your kayak if you fall out or tip over. This is much harder to do in cold water. If your buddy flips, try to help him without taking the chance of getting dumped over yourself. Never leave your partner unless absolutely necessary.
And finally, use common sense. If you feel you may have a hard time with your kayak in those rough seas, then call it a day. Don’t flirt with disaster.
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