Kayaking is an amazing way to get a full body work out as well as a better mental outlook. And fishing is a great way to relieve stress and have a great time on the water. But this can all be for nothing if you don’t consider the dangers of kayak fishing. As with anything, kayaking carries risks and it is your duty to inform yourself of these risks in order to understand how to prevent them.
Dangers of Kayak Fishing : How to Stay Safe While Kayak Fishing
Most people assume that whitewater kayaking is where all the danger is, but in fact kayak fishing can be extremely dangerous when you don’t understand the risks and properly prepare yourself. Knowing how to prevent and minimize the risk of danger is important, but it is also important to understand what can go wrong and how to react when they do.
Here are some of the biggest dangers of kayak fishing:
- Not following the rules: There are rules for a reason. So if a sign says no fishing there is probably a very good reason for it. Knowing what the laws are where you live and following them will be an easy way to stay safe and avoid legal repercussions. Be sure to check with your state’s Department of Natural Resources for details and more information.
- Improper safety gear: Personal flotation devices (PFD) may not be the most fashionable item but they are the most important part of kayaking safely. PFDs need to be correctly fitted for your body type, body weight and needed buoyancy. Do your research and ask professionals for help if you don’t understand what to get, but it is crucial that you have the right PFD, not just the first one you see. Here is our recommendation for a fishing PFD:
Before you step foot in the water you need to have your PFD on and fastened correctly. When the time comes that the PFD is needed it is highly unlikely your will be able to get it on before falling out of the kayak. PFDs are designed to keep you safe so take advantage of these life savers and never leave shore without one.
- Lack of proper food and water: Obviously you need to bring water on your kayaking trips, but it is better for your body if the water is not cold, but temped or body temperature. This may not seem like a big deal but warmer water gets to work faster in your body than the cold water because the cold water has to go through the extra step of getting to body temperature. Though that cold drink of water may feel refreshing, it is more important to stay properly hydrated and this will be more effective.
It is also important to bring something to eat with you. You are burning a lot of calories and using a lot of energy to kayak so you need to have the proper fuel for the job. Avoid sodium as this just adds to dehydration and try to stick to fruits and protein rich snacks. Light snacks packed with nutrients is best.
- Falling out of the boat: It is easy to fall out of a boat but getting back in is a whole different story. It is important to practice this in relatively calm and shallow water so you can stand up if you need to. Have your PDF on and move in slow, deliberate actions to get back into your kayak. There are many videos out there to show you exactly how to do this so don’t hesitate to look for examples and make sure you are comfortable with getting in and out before kayaking in the open water.
- Losing your stuff: No matter where you plan on kayaking you should always make sure your paddle is secured to the kayak via a tether and your belonging should be in a water proof bag and secured in the boat or to it. The last thing you want or need to be doing is chasing your supplies around in the water.
- Alcohol: It is a smart choice to leave the alcohol on land because you need to have a clear head to handle any issues that may arise. It also does not help keep you hydrated so save the victory drinks for after you get to shore.
- Boats: Other boats and vessels should always be given a wide berth so you don’t have to risk hitting them or getting lures tangled. But something people often forget about the motors and this can cause serious injury to both your boat and your body. Keep your distance and be conscientious of other vessels to keep everyone safe.
- Hooks: Common sense dictates that you watch what you are doing when casting your line. Whether you are by yourself or around other people, you need to be cautious as to not get your hooks and lures caught in things besides fish. The last thing you need during a day of fishing is having your bait piercing your skin and leaving you as the catch of the day. Inflatable kayaks can also fall victim to larger hooks. However, most inflatable kayaks can withstand smaller hooks (~#4).
- Navigation: It may not seem like a big deal when you can see land, but the possibility of you getting lost is always there. To prevent this you should invest in a map, a navigation device or even just googling where to go. Don’t depend on electronics, Learn the surroundings as well can help you tremendously if things go bad.
- Waves: If you are paddling out where there are waves you need to make sure you have a kayak that can handle them. Strong waves can cause capsizing, injury and you can end up stranded if it breaks your boat. Do your research and make sure you have the right equipment for where you are going. Helmets and proper securing of your gear is also key in battling the waves.
- Tide: The tide can easily knock you off course and push you far off your intended path. It is important not to panic and remember to paddle perpendicular to the current. If the tides are strong you should turn back and head to shore. Battling the tides can be exhausting both physically and mentally so it is best to turn back rather than get pushed out and not be strong enough to get back. Tides can also change the landscape so markers may be underwater when you return back the same path.
- Hypothermia: Exposure to the elements, a drastic change in weather conditions, and capsizing can a way to catch hypothermia. This is when your body is so cold it cannot properly warm itself and starts to shut down. Hypothermia can be deadly and should always be taken seriously. So make sure you know what the weather will be like, prepare for the worst and layer your clothing. If the water is freezing then don’t go out as one fall into the water can be all it takes.
- Exposure: Obviously if you are going spend the whole day outside you should make sure to pack and apply lots of sunscreen, but you also need to consider wind and bugs. Repellant, non-cotton clothes, sturdy shoes, and a windbreaker are all recommended to include in your pack. You want to be able to enjoy the wonders of nature, not hide from it so prepare ahead of time and be able to protect yourself from the elements.
- Not telling anyone where you’re going: Whether you are an experienced kayaker or a novice, you should always tell someone where you are going and when you plan on returning. This is because there is always the possibility that even the most prepared person can get into trouble. Cell phones may not work where you are and if things go south it is worthwhile to know someone can come looking for you if you don’t come back on time.
- Weather: Never go out on the water without checking the forecast. It isn’t just about whether or not to wear short or long sleeves, but knowing if any dangers are ahead of you. A simple google search or weather channel check can save your life.
Storms, freezing rain, hurricanes, strong winds and any other natural disasters are all dangerous on their own, but can be deadly when you are floating in the middle of a body of water. Lightning is also a deadly condition as you are more likely to be struck while in the water. You should never go out if there is a possible thunderstorm and if you do get caught in one get back to shore as fast as possible using low angle strokes of your paddle and keeping your head down.
Wildlife: There are some clear predators in the water around you but some wildlife dangers while kayaking can be less obvious. Knowing who poses a threat and how to prevent that is always good to know before going kayaking.
- Sharks: Salt water kayaking always poses the risk of running into sharks. The majority of time, a shark will come up if curious but it is important to remember to stay calm. Sharks will often bump kayaks to see if it may be another animal or a source of food. Once it sees it is plastic the shark will move on. Remember that the sharks are going to be attracted to your bait and your catch so be cautious and look for alternative bait options. You should also never hang arms or legs into the water so you are not exposed to any sneaky sharks.
- Stingrays: Stingrays are another saltwater creature that comes out more in summer. If you are unfortunate enough to hook one on your line you should not touch it with your hands or bring it into your boat. Flip the stingray onto its back and use a long hook remover to unhook it while staying as far away from the tail as possible. If stung by a stingray it can lead to a bad infection and even death. It is also crucial to look for them before getting in and out of the kayak as they can hang out in the shallow water as well. A good pair of wading boots with sting ray guards is a great way to defend yourself from them. You should also shuffle your feet rather than taking regular steps as these alerts the stingrays to stay away rather than startle them like stepping on them does.
- Snakes: This may not be as well-known as sharks, but snakes are very dangerous to kayakers. Snakes can be present in both salt and fresh water and can vary in disposition and aggressiveness depending on the species. They are most dangerous during spring and early summer as this is breeding season and they become extremely territorial. You should also keep a look out for snakes in trees that hang over the water. Slapping the water a few times will deter snakes from heading in your direction and keeping an eye out when going under trees will help keep you safe. Although many of the snakes that you may encounter while kayaking may not be poisonous when they fall out of trees on you or right next to you they can really scare the $#@& out of you.
- Beavers: Most people would not consider the beaver to be a dangerous animal, but can be incredibly territorial and aggressive. They inhabit waterways rather than large bodies of water and more often than not will be constructing a dam. This doesn’t just block your path, but the beaver can attack if they feel that their home is under attack. The beaver will slap its tail loudly in warning and circle you to gauge how big a threat you are. A beaver bite is incredibly powerful and painful so it is worth avoiding. Slap the water with your paddle and move away from the area they are in and they will not pursue you.
- Alligators: While they may appear terrifying, most alligators will give you warning before attacking and will often leave you alone. When young or extremely hungry they may be more aggressive, but most of the time they will lay sunbathing on the shore or swim by without a second thought. If you hear hissing or a low rumble, this is a sign an alligator is agitated and not willing to share the water. They will charge to protect their homes and offspring so avoid mating season and when eggs are hatching to prevent more likely attacks. Never tease or annoy an alligator and keep your distance so it doesn’t presume you to be a threat. Don’t feed alligators and avoid dusk, dawn, and the night when they are out feeding. Avoid overgrown shorelines and areas with lots of cover where alligators can hide.
- Kayak fishing can be a fantastic way to spend your free time, but make sure to do your research and know what imminent dangers are in your area. From weather, to wildlife, to improper preparation, you should be ready for anything and know how to avoid trouble and recover if you can’t.