Another great part about living in the south is the year-round fishing! All year long, kayak anglers chase redfish in the Gulf coast marshes, and bass in the freshwater swamps and bayous. In the cooler months, speckled trout can be caught in the deeper canals and inshore lagoons. We truly have a fantastic fishery down here, and we like to take advantage of that!
Photo courtesy Stephen Outten
There are always precautions to take when planning to be out on the water, and one of those is how to dress. So many anglers in the south love to just jump into an old tee shirt and pair of jeans and head to the water, but in the winter-time especially, slow-drying cotton garments can cause definite problems for kayak anglers - problems anywhere from mild discomfort to hypothermia!
We love to be on the water, and we want to be safe. And in a kayak, you never know when you might take a plunge, so making sure that if you were to go overboard, you’re not going to freeze to death is important. Hopefully, this article can help to give you an idea to stay warm when kayak fishing in the southern winter.
Layering is a practice that hikers, campers, and other outdoor enthusiasts have been using for a very long time. With the sudden growth of kayak fishing, a lot of new anglers are hitting the water in the cold, and I believe the layering is something that anyone in that situation should practice. It’s exactly what it sounds like: layering the clothes that are on your body. The idea is that by layering correctly, you’ll be set to be comfortable all day long, no matter most conditions. We’ll start to break it down…
First, you start with a base-layer. This can be anything from long johns, to quick-dry fishing shirts (like you’d wear in the summer), to synthetic or wool thermals. I wear tops and bottoms. Patagonia’s “Capilene” line and Smartwool’s “NTS” line are two of my favorites. Capilene is a synthetic thermal that fits loosely (unlike Under Armour) and is quick-drying. NTS by Smartwool stands for “Next to Skin”, and is a natural wool thermal. It’s not the itchy wool that most people think of. Instead, it’s merino wool which is super soft. It’s anti-microbial, meaning it doesn’t retain body-odor, and because it’s wool it continues to keep you warm, even when wet!
The next layer is your mid-layer. Insulating jackets and quick-dry pants are what to look for here. Columbia’s “PFG” pants work well if you already have them or something similar. As far as tops go, I’m a big fan of synthetic down jackets. The “Nano-Puff” by Patagonia and the “Thermo-ball” by North Face are both the top two I like. They are both filled with Primaloft insulation, which performs similarly to goose down. They are very lightweight and surprisingly warm (Who says you need a heavy jacket?). Additional plusses with both Nano-puff and Thermo-ball is they are water-resistant and highly compressible, which is important for later in the day when it may be too warm to wear. You can take it off, ball it up, and throw it in your crate for later.
If it’s not quite cold enough for a full-on jacket as your mid-layer, the Nano-puff and Thermo-ball are both also offered as vests.
Photo courtesy Stephen Outten
Your outer-layer is the last layer we’ll be looking at. What’s important to me with this layer is that it be waterproof and windproof. Nothing meets those requirements for me quite like a rain-shell. Many brands have great rain-shells. I’m a fan of Patagonia so I like their “Torrentshell” jacket. Rip-stop material insures it won’t be easy to tear, taped seams keep the water out, and double flaps over the zipper make sure to keep both wind and rain! It also features a two-way adjustable hood and extended sleeves, making sure that they won’t ride up your arms. The Torrentshell makes for a great year-round raincoat as well, but works exceptionally as a top-layer in the winter months! I also have a matching pair of Torrentshell pants that I wear as the outer-layer over my Columbia PFG pants.
Photo courtesy Pack & Paddle
Just as important as your main clothing are your accessories. As much as 60% of your body heat can be lost through your head and neck. Be sure to wear a warm hat as well as a fleece buff around your neck for a big upgrade in warmth while paddling. Wool socks worn with roomy insulated waterproof boots or shoes is the best combination I’ve found for kayak fishing. I like Bogs calf-high boots with my rain pants pulled over them. This way I can walk into the water while getting in and out of my kayak without wetting my socks. Even when you’re completely covered up, if your hands are exposed it can still cause some pain. I’m a fan of Manzella gloves overall, but also like some of the fingerless gloves offered by other companies. The main thing for me is to make sure they’re either wool or waterproof.
Hopefully you stuck with me through these tips. The great thing about layering (if you’ve done it right) is that as the temperature heats up during the day, you can remove your heavier layers, letting your lighter layers breathe and keeping you comfortable. Obviously, the bottom-line goal in this is to continue having great days on the water, even in the winter. Hopefully these tips will help you to do that.