It is important for all kayak anglers to take safety and first aid seriously. Being out on the water leaves you vulnerable to the elements as well as to motorboats and mishaps. Being prepared when you go out to fish can allow you to focus on what you are there to do – catch fish.
Unfortunately many boaters are not properly prepared and their lack of knowledge, etiquette and courtesy can put you as well as themselves at risk.
For this reason it is important to know your stuff and be prepared before heading out on the water. When it comes to safety the one person you have to count on is yourself.
Common sense may already tell you to do a lot of these things but this is simply a reminder to keep it fresh in everyone’s mind.
Check the Weather
Your time for fishing may be limited and if you are fitting it in where you can, you may want to go no matter what. However on a full day fishing expedition the weather can change dramatically.
Be smart and start the day properly by checking the weather and knowing what you are in for so you can prepare accordingly. If a storm’s a brewing call it quits immediately.
Wear a PFD
Wearing a PFD is a no brainer. It is law that you wear it at all times when on a boat in the water. Even when sitting quietly fishing, make sure you have it on and that it is buckled securely. You may think you don’t need it but strange circumstances can and do occur where your lifejacket may save your life.
There are many PFD’s that cater to anglers with pockets and gadgets galore. Find one you like and that is comfortable. They last a long time so it is normally a one-time purchase.
If you get one with good pockets it can easily hold smaller items such as your camera, your keys, your license, your whistle, your snacks, etc.
Attach a Whistle
One of the easiest safety precautions you can take is to attach a whistle to your PFD. If you need to get someone’s attention quickly this is your best bet. Make sure it is clipped to your lifejacket so you are able to use it if you should tip and end up in the water.
Stay Away from Motorized Boats
If you will be fishing on a large lake or in the ocean then one of your biggest safety concerns will need to be negligent boaters. No matter how aware you are of your surroundings it does not mean that the big motorboat towing a water skier is aware of You. Your best line of defense is to stay far far away from them.
I hear far too many stories of negligent boaters running over kayakers. If you are lucky you may come out of it with a broken leg and a kayak split right down the middle (as happened to someone in my town just the other day – scary). Worst case you lose your life.
There are things you can do to make yourself more visible such as using reflective tape or securing a tall orange flag to your kayak. However sadly it comes down to uneducated boaters who are either unaware that they must share the water with self powered boats or who have momentary memory lapses in their need for speed.
Protect yourself and stay out of their way or find areas where powerboats cannot go. One of the best rewards to kayak fishing is that a kayak is able to go to secluded areas that a motorboat cannot get to. This is also a great way to find abundant pools of fish.
Watch the Hook
One thing that kayak anglers have to deal with that regular kayakers don’t is flying hooks. So I am going to state the absolutely obvious here – keep all sharp points away from you.
Also do your best to keep them from sticking into your kayak if you are in an inflatable (most inflatable fishing kayaks do not puncture easily and it is no problem to fish from an inflatable – just be conscious of not slamming a hook into the hull).
A great suggestion that I read onetime is to use wine corks to cover the points of your gaff or spear and store all hooks in a closed container. That will keep you and your kayak safe.
If you do get a hook caught in your skin do not pull it out by pulling on the barb. Cut the hook with your pliers and either pull the hook through point first or better yet get someone who knows what they are doing to help you.
Securely Attach Gear
When reeling in a good size fish, your kayak may tip from side to side. Make sure that all of your gear is securely attached to the kayak.
You will even want to tether your rod holders and our rods to the kayak. Just make sure everything is attached properly and you will have nothing to worry about.
Have a Plan
Know where you are going before you leave. Map out the area and have a general idea how long you will be gone… then let someone know so they can send out the search parties if you do not return.
Keep your cell phone with you (in a dry bag) and if you can fish with a buddy. If you are kayaking alone you will need to be double sure your safety precautions are all met. A GPS unit or a navigation map may be needed as well.
Know How to Get Back in your Kayak
Tips can happen when fishing fairly easily. The only way to be confident that you will be able to get back in the kayak is to practice it. The best suggestion I have is to look up some videos to watch and learn then get out there on a nice summer day and practice your new skills.
The most important tips are to make sure your PFD is on, secure your paddle, turn the kayak right side up, pull yourself across the cockpit belly down and then slowly get your butt in the seat before finally pulling your legs in. However again I can’t stress enough to watch a few videos or better yet take a lesson.
Protection from the Elements
Kayak fishing can mean being out for long periods of time exposed to the elements.
Wear sunscreen and reapply when needed. Wear a hat, bring proper clothing and gear for the weather conditions, have proper footwear and as I have learned over and over again – bring insect repellant. Keep yourself protected so you will be comfortable and safe.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is another no brainer and a must for kayak fishing. You will likely add to your kit as you think of more things you need for different trips but some basics that should always be included are:
- bandages – of different kinds
- first aid tape
- gauze roll
- antiseptics – burn relief, insect sting relief, ointments, cleansing wipes, alcohol pads
- personal medications, Ibuprofen
- eye drops
- Q-tips/cotton balls
- cold compress
- waterproof flashlight
- extra knife
- extra whistle
Food and Hydration
Being out in the elements for several hours can leave you hungry and dehydrated. Bring extra water and snacks along for the trip to keep up your strength.
A few other important safety extras to have stored in your kayak for fishing trips are:
- bilge pump
- boat sponge
- reflective pinstripe on your boat and PFD
- headlamp if out past dark
- extra set of clothes
Fishing from a kayak can be peaceful, exciting and lots of fun. Be smart and take the proper safety precautions. A little preparation will ensure you are covered for any event.
Educate yourself and explore the different electronics and gear that kayak angler’s use. A great place for kayak fishing information and gear is KayakSportFishing.com. They also have a great forum where you can get your questions answered and some phenomenal kayak fishing pictures.