I have written an article a while back about being prepared for cold weather kayaking. So why would a yak angler from Charleston, South Carolina want to inform you about how to keep warm while on the water fishing for that bull red, huge gater trout, fat hawg, or even monster pike when someone else from the far north gets much colder than in my area? Well, I’m here to tell you that hypothermia knows no boundaries. Currently, the water temperature here in the low country area is at 50 degrees (F). At this temperature, the probability for you to experience hypothermia is very high. If you would fall into water that is 50 degrees (F), your body core temperature could drop to 95 degrees (F), causing mild hypothermia. If your core temperature further drops to 82 degrees (F) you will definitely experience that your skin is cold to the touch, begin to shiver and other symptoms of hypothermia will follow: drowsiness, clumsiness, confusion, slowed breathing and heartbeat, etc.
Fishing from a kayak could be accomplished safely, no matter the time of the year. However, in the late fall, winter, or even early spring (depending on where you reside) when the weather turns cold you could find yourself in a dangerous situation. One of the most important safety resources that you should not forget is to ensure you take a fishing buddy along. Both of you should have a change of clothes in a dry bag, just in case one of you decides to test the water temperature for real. In my dry bag, I carry a set of Frogg Toggs rain gear as it is wind and waterproof, Simms coldwater pants, which features COR3 with a nylon shell fabric on the outside, a long sleeve fleece pull over sweater, wool socks, and fresh undergarments. This dry bag is stored in the front hatch of my kayak. I would like to point out that the contents of the dry bag are not designed to allow you to continue fishing, but to get you dry and back to the landing so that you can take better care of yourself once you get home.
Before heading out to fish in the cold weather, I dress in layers of clothing. My first layer is some type of clothing that will wick my perspiration away from my body, ensuring that I’m dry. The next layer I will be wearing is the Simms coldwater pants, a long sleeve fleece shirt tucked into the pants, and wool socks. I will then put on some chest socking foot waders with a pair of water shoes. With the waders don’t forget the waist belt to help reduce the amount of water that might fill up the waders. Over the waders I wear a jacket that is water and wind resistant. Dressing in layers will allow you to shed some clothing if you start overheating or adding the layers back on if you start feeling the chill.
Along with the two concepts of the emergency dry bag and dressing in layers is the PFD. I would really recommend that you consider the use of a normal PFD over a manual or self inflating PFD. The main reason for the normal PFD will also help as an additional layer to keep you warm and safe. An inflatable PFD will not really keep you warm, but if you have a manual inflatable PFD you are increasing the probability of hypothermia. Did I mention that really cold water can create confusion and that confusion is also a symptom of hypothermia? Think about this scenario if you fall into water that is 35 degrees (F): you will more than likely be too disoriented and confused to be able to pull that cord to inflate that PFD. With the automatic inflatable PFD you don’t have to worry about pulling the cord. I would also discourage the use of the belt style PFD.
Let’s consider your intake of water; keeping hydrated is another important factor in preventing hypothermia. Ensure that you are taking at least 64 ounces of water for a day of fishing or kayaking. Snacks are also invaluable in aiding to keep your body temperature at normal.
In closing, by using an emergency dry bag that contains some dry clothing, dressing in layers, putting that inflatable PFD away for the warmer season and using a normal PFD, and taking water and snacks with you on those cold weather fishing adventures, you will be landing those monster trophies that you are missing while you are either in that tree stand or watching the College or NFL Football games from your couch. For those that live in the far north where the water turns into ice, remember that Spring is just around the corner.