With the increase in popularity of Kayak fishing, especially on saltwater water that may come with more risks than local lakes it is important that both experienced paddlers as well as beginners are fully aware of some simple kayak fishing safety tips that can help keep the drama of the day limited to just the fishing action.
Safety while saltwater kayak fishing is of paramount importance. Risk assessment prior to the trip is essential. Fish in groups so others can lend support where needed. Inform people of your location, dressing appropriately and storing quality safety equipment all help keep saltwater fishing kayakers safe.
A day spent fishing is never wasted and kayak fishing is a great way to enjoy that. Now I have always loved boating, kayaking and fishing. So putting all three together is the perfect way to spend quality time amid some of the most beautiful, and occasionally, wild, environments.
It is a great way to put a delicious dinner on the table . Saltwater Kayak fishing can take you to places that larger boats can not, this navigability means more chances to catch fish, but with it some potential dangers that need to be addressed.
You can join deep-sea fishing trips or even rent a charter boat, but these options can be quite expensive and restrictive. Kayak fishing gives you all the benefits of sea fishing, but using your own boat, locations and equipment. Though kayak fishing is a great sport like all watersports it carries a certain degree of risk.
If you are still thinking of a fishing kayak you can check out some of the better ones we have looked at here, and the key features to look for in a fishing kayak.
How to Kayak Fish Safely
Maybe this and the excitement it instils is what draws people to it, like climbing mountaineering, and other outdoor or extreme sports. These risks can be mitigated. I have for years found myself dangling at the end of the ropes, being buried by 12 foot waves, and looking over the tops of waterfalls thinking I may not have thought this through enough! Fortunately, I do my homework, I do my planning and I minimize as many of those risks as possible.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the safety tips when kayaking the sea, it is not a definite list and if you are experienced then it may act as a refresher, if you are a beginner to saltwater kayak fishing then you can regard them as the starting point not the ending point of saltwater kayak fishing safety.
1. Plan The Trip To Be Within Your Capabilities
Trip planning and organization is one of the most important safety measures any sea fishing kayaker can take. This will encompass all of the below elements and one often over looked. I used to teach and paddle on pretty big white water, and I often met good kayakers who over estimated their abilities.
With saltwater and sea kayaking this has been, in my opinion, less of an issue. There seems to less to prove and more about the experience than the bragging rights. ( I know I don’t speak for all!) however, knowing your own capabilities and abilities is a skills worth practicing.
With saltwater kayak fishing there is more than paddling ability, though it plays a part, it is also weather planning, escape routes, equipment on board, emergency planning and the waters, tides, locations and dangers of where you plan to fish.
These can range from sharks to rips. All you should consider your level of knowledge and create an action plan for. If you are unsure of an area you will be paddling then seek out information both online and from canoe clubs, marinas and coast guards in the area. It will take a short time and could be the difference between a great and a terrible day.
Just because a meteorologist says that the next day will be sunny does not mean that beautiful bright sky may turn into rain without warning, so taking your rain gear, dry bag, waterproof containers, safety kits and bilge pump are very important on every trip.
2. Your Hard Skills and Local Legal Requirements
Before you go kayaking on the sea, it is important to know how to handle a purpose built fishing Kayak first. Although nearly all kayak fishermen are anglers before becoming kayakers. It is important to know your and the boats limit and the legalities of where you are fishing.
- Know how to get back into your kayak if you capsize. Reentry is a skill and you should practice this before you go far from shore. Also try it with a loaded kayak and in full gear. You can check out this video for some pointers.
- Be aware a fishing kayak is not a river kayak, its not as maneuverable, something to be acutely aware of if you are fishing near cliffs or rocks. They are great in a straight line, but they don’t turn on a dime.
- Know how far you can paddle safely, even if you have a trolling motor or a foot pedal system- It can be easy to paddle two miles, but this can quickly turn into five if you don’t take note. And the number will double when you are paddling back to your area. So, practice and build stamina on a local lake or river before you hit the sea. If possible carry a spare battery if you are using a trolling motor.
- It is also important to know what safety gear is required on a fishing kayak in your state. Some may require flags, or flares and first aid kits.
3. Understand the Tides and Location
This is one of the most important safety tips when kayaking the sea, fishing during the big tidal swings can be very risky. Fishing in a fast-moving sea with high winds can be very risky. Remember areas with receding tides will leave large mudflats. And getting back during a negative tide will leave you pushing your kayak through the mud.s.
These will be very dependent on your location. In the UK and USA, and I imagine elsewhere, there are mudflats that turn into sinking sands and tidal races that will challenge even a trolling motor on your kayak. I once got caught with no egress in the ocean as the tide had covered the beach and the only way out was some steps into the ocean being hammered by 6 ft. waves.
So again if you are fishing in new areas seek out local advice.
4. Bring Enough Food and Drink for your trip
When you are spending hours on the water you need to stay hydrated and keep food in your stomach to provide you energy. Your cooler should be clean and stocked with enough food and beverages, we have options here that can split the food from your catch to keep both fresh.
It can hot out there in the water and you will dehydrate if you don’t drink enough fluid. A few energy bars or electrolyte drinks can be stored easily for emergencies. As can some fresh sealed water just in case you are out longer than you planned for.
5. Dress For Immersion
Dressing for immersion makes your fishing experience safer and more enjoyable. Many new anglers make the mistake of underestimating Mother Nature. You should always take temperature and water conditions into consideration before setting out for the day and dress accordingly.
The temperature on the water surface is different from the water temperature below, so it is important to take hypothermia seriously and dress accordingly. You should wear a dry suit or wetsuit if you are fishing in water below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Headgear, if not wearing then storing, should be taken as well. A significant part of heat loss occurs through the head.
Also knowing the signs of hypothermia in yourself and others helps you act before it becomes more serious. If someone immerses in water you should suspect hypothermia if in cold conditions. it is very important you keep a close eye on them and return to shore, or get closer if you are far out, as soon as possible. Once they are out they will then be susceptible to wind chill factors. Being aware is better than being sorry.
6. Don’t Go Saltwater Kayak Fishing Alone
There is a saying that safety is in numbers, and this also applies to fishing. You can do it alone if you are an experienced kayaker, but this increases risks significantly. You will minimize your margin for error if you bring a friend. Although we titled this don’t go saltwater kayak fishing alone, it applies to both Fresh and saltwater kayaking.
As safe as your local lake may be, and as good a paddler as you are accidents do happen. Happening with friends might make for a funny story, happening by your self and it might be an entirely different ending.
A friend rescue is faster than self-rescue and there is a limit you can help yourself if you get hurt. Also, it’s fun to share the adventure, and having a reliable fishing partner is better than fishing alone. You can share stories, advice and equipment if in a group and you can monitor each other.
7. Don’t Forget To Wear Your Life Jacket or Buoyancy Aid
Another important tip is to use a floatation device, always. Most Coast Guard rules require that all kayaks have a life jacket on board. I would go further, not just on board but to wear it all the time. Heatstroke, a rod hitting you on the head, falling off and banging your head can all happen without warning. A buoyancy aid or life jacket keeps you on the surface and easier spotted if the worst happens.
Wearing a life jacket helps keep your head out of the water and adds insulation to your body, which keeps you warm in cold water. There are amazing PFDs specially designed for kayakers, which you can check out here, so get one that fits you well and wear it while paddling. They also offer other kayakers an easier hand hold to grab and pull you up onto either your or their boat if needed.
8. Have An Emergency Back-up Plan
It is very important to plan an escape route to get out of the water should conditions change. Also, it is important to let your close friends and family member know your fishing location and the time to expect your return. When fishing the sea, there are many unknowns, so having a solid plan will give you additional insurance in case of emergency. Let your people know where you are fishing, how long you will be fishing, and who is your fishing partner.
Phones now come with GPS, and although signals can evaporate out at sea they will give your family a location, either exact or rough if there is any need to call on help.
9. Bring a VHF Marine Radio
One of the most important safety equipment when kayaking at the sea is having a functional working VHF Marine Radio. It can be help as a group rather than one each. They do come in floatable options. The radio is Likely the kayak fisherman’s only communication line when fishing the sea.
They cost as little as 100 dollars and if you fish as a group you can share it. We do recommend having your own and trying it out before you ever have to use it.
10. Have a GPS device
Any experienced Saltwater kayak fisherman will tell you that conditions can change very quickly. So having a GPS or at least a compass will let you stay on course in the event that conditions deteriorate or fog suddenly rolls in.
Fishing with a GPS will help you have important information at your fingertips. You can easily know the water depth, distance from shore, and mark your favorite fishing spot to return there at a later time without any issues. We have an article on the best fish finders here, and the recommended ones come with GPS included so they can act as a safety net as well as finding you fish!
11. Take a First Aid Kit / Emergency Kit
This advice is fairly standard with any outdoor activity. Climbing, hiking, boating, kayaking. It is perhaps the stability of fishing kayaks, or the amount of gear already loaded on, that makes kayak anglers forget, or ignore this advice. A decent marine first aid kit is not expensive and is an absolute essential in our opinion.
Kayaking is a strenuous activity, strains, cuts and bruises can happen as a matter of course. Hooks can go in fingers, bangs to the head can and do happen. Fish bite more than the hooks some times and even knives can slip out of hands. Spending 50 bucks on a waterproof first aid kit can make all of those, and the many more i didn’t mention, much easier to deal with. if you have a small dry bag you can also make your own.
12. Watch The Weather
We mentioned it above, but its such an important sea kayak fishing safety tip that we are mentioning it again. I have sat on my balcony and watched a squall chase a small fishing boat back to harbor, and this was tiny almost like one of those cartoon clouds over an individual. On the same balcony I have seen a water spout coming from about a mile off shore to actually hit land – and you can see the fishing boats on that one! It is on my other channel but is cool to see!
If you see clouds building then it is in your interests to move closer to shore or cut the trip short. If there are warnings then you should heed them and either not go, or wait for weather to clear. There is a reason there is a maritime saying called keep a weather eye on the horizon.
A reminder to check the weather is better visually than just me telling you about it!
In conclusion, it is obvious that saltwater kayak fishing safety is very important. The sea is a cruel mistress and deserves respect with ALL activities that are done on it. Even little white sand beaches like the one above have their dangers.
Many people don’t realize how dangerous it can be. As simple as some of these Saltwater kayak fishing safety tips may seem, they are certainly not considered by enough kayak fishermen. Make sure you plan, that you have adequate clothing, a way to communicate with the shore and the emergency equipment you would take on any expedition and you go a long way to mitigating the risks.