Kayak Fishing Safety
Written by Mike Zilkowsky - Original article in Kayak Fishing Magazine, February, 2013
As a Safety Professional in Alberta’s oil field I am constantly mentoring fellow workers on the need for safety equipment and using it correctly. My job is to ensure that everyone works safely so that they can get home to see their families and participate in the hobbies they love, which for me is fishing!!!! Here is a list of what I believe we should all have and carry with us out fishing to ensure we make it back home from our fishing adventures.
Every year we hear of people that have lost their lives due to not wearing a Personal Flotation Device. With PFDs designed for kayak fishing addressing comfort and versatility, there is no reason to not wear one. The first thing to do is to try it on and be comfortable wearing it prior to being on the water. Try different types, different makes and different styles until you find the one that fits you best. Just be sure it has the proper rating and approvals for its intended use.
Even though kayaks are not required to run the red, green and white lights, we should still take the time to think about our visibility in low light conditions. Many of us paddle around bright orange or yellow kayaks, but many of us also paddle the darker green, brown or camouflage models as well. Scotty Fishing & Outdoor Products has developed the SEA-light and it is perfect for kayaks. Whether you purchase the 825 SEA-light with the suction cup base or the 828 SEA-light with the 42” adjustable pole, with a two-mile visibility you will not regret your purchase.
I bought myself the 823 SEA-light last year with a 20” pole and love it. I have been on very large lakes with tons of motorboat traffic and paddling in at dark would have been a lot more dangerous if the other boats were not able to see me.
Preferably a knife designed to attach to your PFD, but any sharp knife will do. Whether you need the knife to cut bait, cut your line or cut the anchor rope, be sure the knife is sharp and easily accessible. The biggest mistake a lot of kayakers and fishermen make is not having their knife within reach. Things can go sideways in a real hurry, and sometimes the difference between paddling and swimming can be having your knife within reach.
Depending on the type of kayak you have you will either be required to have a bilge pump or bailer on board. Scotty® has some great kits available that contain everything you need to comply with the Canadian Coast Guard Regulations, and those items are needed for any body of water you are paddling on. Keep a whistle attached to your P.F.D., keep a buoyant heaving line accessible as well as you bilge pump or bailer. Add a few items to your kit as well. First aid supplies are a must! Bandages and disinfectant are the most important.
I speak from experience after having a Northern Pike decide to hook me through the finger with the same treble hook that was in its mouth. Which brings me to another item…. Good pliers or side cutters. Make sure you have something to be able to cut through any hook you have to remove it, should you happen to find yourself hooked!
There is nothing worse that losing your paddle. Remember the old adage “Up a certain creek without a paddle”? Imagine being out on a big body of water and not being able to paddle back. Ensuring your paddle is attached to your boat with a leash will definitely prevent this predicament. I use the Scotty® Paddle lease and absolutely love it. No matter what leash you use, just use it. Either that or bring another paddle along for the ride.
Most of all, let someone know where you are planning to go and if possible the time you are expecting to be back. Things happen and if someone knows where you plan to be, it is a lot easier for them to find you. That being said most areas we fish have some sort of cellular coverage now, so if you are on a hot spot and going to run late make sure you pass that along so you don’t become the focus of a search party.
As I just mentioned, another item that I won’t be without on the water is a way of communicating with family on shore or at home. I have an iPhone and the obvious choice for me was a Lifeproof case. Just remember to tie it to you or your boat because losing your phone will not make for an enjoyable paddle. There are many times when trying to text or call just doesn’t work out on the water so I pack a waterproof, buoyant GMRS 2 way radio with me and leave another on shore to be able to keep in contact with my loved ones. For anyone out on the salt I strongly suggest a VHF radio and that you learn how to properly use it and how to radio for assistance.
And last but not least, find open water and flip your kayak. Learning how to right your kayak and re-enter it could save you. I find the easiest way to right a sit-on-top kayak, is to have a short rope to help out. I have a small rope with a carabineer at each end, probably 4.5 feet long. I attach the rope to the handle of the kayak then toss the line over the kayak hull. Swim around to the other side and create a loop to stand in. Stand up in the loop, reach across the kayak, grab the handle and tug back. You should be able to right your kayak in a few tries and hopefully you had everything tied down and didn’t lose anything.
To get back on it now I find the easiest way for me is to pull myself up the bow and slide on. Regardless of how you do it, just practice it a few times and you should hopefully not have any issues should this arise while out on the water.
Hope this helps everyone looking for a few safety tips for kayak fishing.
Tight lines and see you at the launch!