Upper James River Water Trail

Kayak Fishing Safety


A lot of people think I'm a little crazy for going after big game fish on my kayak. A lot of thought, preparation, and experience go into each one of our adventures to keep them as safe as possible.

Common Sense
Staying safe in a kayak starts with acknowledging potential dangers and making smart decisions that minimize the risks. Now, I always tell new kayakers that the most important safety item they could bring with them out on the water is common sense. I know that sounds pretty simple, but too often I watch kayak anglers get so excited about getting on fish, that they leave their common sense on shore. Fortunately, most walk away with only a bruised ego and some lost gear, but things could have taken a turn for the worst.

Check the Weather
Every area that you go fish has its own hazards, but weather is something that always needs to be taken into consideration. The further from shore you go, the bigger the body of water, and the more exposed you are to wind and waves, the more dangerous the weather becomes. The solution is to check the weather forecast as a habit before you head out. And remember this: "If in Doubt, Don't Paddle Out."

Be Prepared & Partner Up
Now, overall I consider kayaking to be a very safe sport, and by using some common sense, and making conservative decisions, it's easy to be safe out there. But sometimes things do just go wrong, and you need to be prepared when they do. That means being armed with knowledge, equipment, and the skills for dealing with situations that pop up.

First and foremost: learn how to self rescue! And if for some reason you can't reliably get yourself back into your kayak, you've got no choice, you've got to stay within easy swimming distance from shore.

Secondly, you should always hit the water with a friend. Having a helping hand nearby is valuable if a bad situation does pop up. It's also a really good idea to always let someone know where you're going to be fishing and what time to expect you back. So, if in the worst case scenario, if you two start getting blown out to sea, they know where to come looking for you.

Safety Equipment
When it comes to safety equipment, here are a few safety items that you'll always find on me or my kayak, whether I'm bass fishing on a small lake, or tuna fishing off shore.

First off, and the most important, is your PFD, and unless you're fishing at home in two feet of water, in the flat somewhere, you need to be wearing it! Next off, my Standard Horizon VHF Radio with a built GPS. I also always bring with me my cell phone in a dry box, and a first aid kit that's in a dry bag.

Keep in mind that just bringing safety gear isn't enough, it's also got to be accessible when you need it. For example, I know of a guy who, because of a faulty internal bait tank, flooded the hull of his kayak, and though he had a hand held bilge pump with him, it was inside the hull, and he couldn't reach it when he needed it most. Now that's some tough luck, but we can learn from it.

Keep your safety gear somewhere that you can reach it, and if you flip your kayak, you make sure that it will float or it's attached to the kayak.

This is just a quick rundown of some of your safety considerations and you're going to want to know the issues that relate to your area specifically.

Until next time, I'm Jim Sammons, and that's your kayak fishing tip of the week.
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