One of the fastest growing styles of fishing among Canadian anglers is kayak fishing. It’s very surprising that this style of fishing has taken so long to take off in the Canadian sport fishing market, especially with all of the amazing opportunities we have here in Southern Ontario – my stomping grounds – alone! Some of my favourite kayak fishing waters include the Niagara River, the Welland River, Long Point Bay and the Grand River.
There are many benefits to kayak fishing, aside from the unique challenge it provides anglers on the water. First, kayak fishing is much cheaper than purchasing and running a boat, making it cost efficient for anglers on a budget. Second, it is an eco-friendly substitution to operating a gas-run motor. Finally, it provides anglers a challenging workout! So, how could you refuse giving it a shot?
Before I explain safety measures, here are a few worthwhile reminders for anglers:
- Stay within your kayak and paddling abilities, not your angling abilities;
- Do not drag worm harnesses for walleye 10 miles offshore Lake Erie in a kayak suited for small streams simply because ‘you know there is fish in this spot’;
- Ensure that you are properly hydrated and have enough water/food packed for your day. There’s nothing worse than cramping up from dehydration when you’re a considerable distance from the shoreline.
- Fish with a buddy as often as possible. The kayak buddy system is one of the best ways to keep you safe on the water.
Now that I’ve sparked your interest in kayak fishing, I will address 5 of the most important safety measures that all kayak anglers should follow.
1)Wear a reliable, proper-fitting PFD
Not only is it the law to wear a PFD while out on the water, but it is also common sense. There are many different styles of PFDs out there including life jackets designed for kayaking and smaller, nitrogen-filled PFDs that deploy upon being submerged or at the pull of a cord. The bottom line is, have one and wear it at all times while on the water.
2)Have a safety plan of action
Before getting out on the water with all your gear, get used to the kayak. Figure out the ‘tipping point’ of your kayak and practice flipping your kayak in shallow water, then getting back into it. Practice and review this routine until it becomes second nature; flipping a kayak on open water can be one of the scariest situations an angler can endure, which is why you need to be familiar with this situation to avoid panic and ensure your safety.
3)Use a hand-held VHF radio
This safety precaution caters especially to my angler friends that will be paddling in some bigger waters and great lakes. A VHF radio is essentially your lifeline to the Coast Guard. Unlike a cell phone, a VHF radio gives you a direct line to not only the Coast Guard, but also to weather channels, other boaters. Almost all hand-held VHF radios these days are waterproof and submersible. Having a VHF radio will help you if, in the event, you need to make a ‘Mayday’ or ‘Pan-Pan’ call. For more information, watch my video on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vco0JFhr7cE&feature=youtu.be
4)Check the weather and wave height before heading out
Always check the weather forecast for the area you will be fishing. You’re not going to want to head out on the water if there’s going to be strong wind gusts, and you definitely don’t want to head out on the water if there is a storm brewing. Kayak fishing in the rain and colder weather is okay, but you must make sure you’re prepared for the circumstances (dry suit, warm weather gear, etc). I wouldn’t recommend that anglers who are new to kayak fishing get out in these weather conditions.
5)Have a ‘Check-in’ time with family or a friend
This is probably the most important safety precaution to take when getting out on the water. While anglers new to kayak fishing should try to fish with a buddy, it’s not always possible. With that being said, it is a very good practice to always let somebody know where you’re going kayak fishing for the day and provide a rough idea of the times that you plan to be on the water. Furthermore, choose a ‘check-in’ time to call or text somebody just to let them know that you’re alive and safe. Provide a description of your kayak and what you’re wearing that day so that, in the event of a crisis, your check-in contact can provide emergency personnel with that information.
The safety precautions I have provided you with are just a small handful of the most important safety precautions that should be taken before kayak fishing. Always take caution on the water and use your common sense; if you think something is unsafe, you’re probably right. Get out there and give kayak fishing a try – you wont be disappointed! Don’t be afraid to go paddling to chase down that next trophy fish! Just make sure that you’re having fun and, most of all, staying safe.
Thanks for reading!