Believe it or not Kayak fishing is an extreme sport! The truth is that you never know what will happen while out on the water and the majority of injuries and fatalities associated with kayaks can be attributed to operator error and judgment. Whether you are on an inland lake, river or in salt water there are dangers and risks inherent with kayak fishing that you must understand and be prepared to deal with.
The first issue to be dealt with may seem obvious however it continues to be the major factor in kayak fatalities. Just this fall a man in Roswell, GA overturned his yak in a residential pond and drowned. Personal Floatation Devices are meant to be worn. Our local boating laws in Georgia only require a PFD to be carried on the craft. Let me add here that PFD’s are like a handgun they do you no good stored somewhere out of reach when you need them. When you really need a PFD it had better be on you and secured properly. I know they may be uncomfortable and in the heat of summer they may be hot. It is better to be a little uncomfortable than dead. There are some very comfortable PFD’s out there designed specifically for this sport. WEAR THEM!
The weather can change quickly and put you in a position where your comfort and experience level may be exceeded. Be very aware of changing conditions and end a trip early if you think the conditions may change soon. It pays to check weather forecasts for your area before heading out. Never depend completely on the forecast as is most cases it is an educated guess. Mother Nature has a way of surprising us often. Wind, Rain, Waves, Lightning and Fog are very real dangers that can come in quickly.
I have been a mile or so from where I put in on a very ordinary day, when the wind came out of nowhere and made it impossible to return to the boat ramp in that direction. I had to make a decision quickly to paddle to an alternate landing three miles downwind. This just goes to show you that you never know what can happen and prior planning and precaution can prevent a catastrophe.
There are many schools of thought about rigging a fishing machine. There are those who take a minimalist approach, and then there are those who even take the proverbial kitchen sink. Kayak rigging is as personal as one can get… what works for you may not work for others. The only consideration that I will add here is that you keep your cockpit uncluttered and organized. When dealing with a big fish or any of the many situations that may arise without warning; you do not want to lose your hard earned gear overboard and having your gear where you will not get fouled in it or even hooked yourself is important.
Bass boats, Jet skis and ski boats oh my.
Kayaks are low to the water and very hard to see by other boaters. It does not help the situation when you factor in that allot of pleasure boaters are distracted and some even intoxicated. I see allot of young people on 1000 cc jet skis that have no understanding of courtesy and safety. The fact remains that you are the smallest boat on the water and you will always lose against a bigger craft. So situational awareness is very important while fishing, you should always place yourself in a position where you can take evasive maneuvers and have means with you to get an unaware boaters attention, like an air horn or whistle. One consideration to make when purchasing a new kayak is color. It is always better to pick a color that is highly visible. I know those camouflage yaks look cool and the darker colors look clean when they are actually dirty, however I would rather be seen by other boaters than to be nearly invisible to them. You might want to install some reflective tape and an orange flag that sticks up above your kayak to make yourself as visible to other boaters as you can.
A float plan is simply letting someone you trust know where you will be, when you intend to return and instructions in case you do not check in. This is really critical and allows rescue operations to begin quickly after a missed check in, if something happens to you. This may seem stupid and a waste of time however its value is just like the PFD you will appreciate it if you need it.
If you kayak for long, sooner or later you will go in the drink. For this reason it is sound to practice in a controlled environment rolling your kayak and reentering it. Swimming pools or shallow water are great places to do this. You should be really comfortable exiting and entering your yak. If you fish from a Sit-In-Kayak it is a little different situation. However the training you put yourself through will pay off if you need it.
This is simply the gear you will need to survive if you go in the drink. In the summer not as much is needed so a basic kit would consist of: Dry bag, water proof tarp, cord or string, first aid kit and some form of signaling device like a mirror or flare gun. For winter you might want to add some form of fire starter, a complete set of dry warm clothes, warm blanket, etc. You get the idea what you will need to survive until rescued.
This is something that I will strongly recommend you never do. The buddy system is always the way to go. Plus you have a witness to your fishing tales. If you must go alone then make sure you leave a float plan with someone you trust.
These are just some basic guidelines as it would be hard to write down every precaution without having a novel on your hands. The main point is that allot can happen and you should be as prepared as possible and enjoy your time fishing in your kayak… and live to fish another day.
Check out more of Walt's articles at tightlinesandplasticboats.com/