You know the fish will bite, as long as the frost doesn’t bite you first.
Cold weather kayak fishing is not for the faint of heart.
Unlike throwing a line from an ocean fishing vessel or a boat with an enclosure you can tuck behind when blistering winds pick up, cold weather kayak fishing leaves anglers with only a few inches above frigid waters.
Now, let’s assume you own a fishing kayak and already know how to catch ’em.
But since the end of boating season, you miss your outings, and you wanna head back out there.
But this isn’t the same scenario where you leisurely soak up the sun, waiting for fish to bite. Not at all!
When it comes to cold weather kayak fishing—you have to know the risks and prepare for the elements.
The Risks of Cold Weather and Waters
Ignorance is not bliss when you’re planning to venture out with a fishing rod in the winters.
You must understand that cold weather kayak fishing, albeit thrilling, does come with its own share of risks.
Assess Yourself and the Weather
One of the primary things to consider is your skill level. Be honest with yourself and take on only as much as you can handle.
Keep a close watch on the weather forecast. Go fishing only on the days you can manage to handle with your skill level. As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry; and there isn’t much scope for a mistake when the air and water temperatures get dangerously cold.
Learn About Signs of Hypothermia
Hypothermia refers to a condition when the body temperature drops way below 98.6°F to dangerously low levels. In severe conditions, the temperature can even fall below 82°F.
Hypothermia usually occurs due to the body’s prolonged exposure to cold weather, which disrupts the balance between the amount of heat the body produces and the amount it loses. In other words, in hypothermia, the body loses more heat than what it generates, leading to a potentially life-threatening drop in the body temperature.
And when boating in cold weather, hypothermia is a real threat.
So when you’re out in the cold doing some kayak fishing, you must learn to identify the signs of hypothermia.
Here are some common signs to watch out for:
- Skin that’s cold to the touch
- Shivers (and then no shivers)
- Slowed heart rate and breaths
Remember! The air alone can bring on hypothermia. Cold waters do not have to touch you. The condition can trigger even if when exposed to cold weather conditions without proper protection.
Choose Your Cold Water Fishing Location Carefully
This probably isn’t the time to go check out an unfamiliar area you’ve always wanted to paddle (no matter how exciting or tempting it is that there’s less traffic on the water). Paddling down a remote river or creek is not a wise choice during the winter months. It’s best to stick with paths you know.
Also, another consideration to make is the distance between your fishing hole and dry land. It’s important to stay well within a distance of dry land so you can easily reach it and change into dry clothes in case you flip.
Trips to steep riverbanks can be risky too.
Wear Proper Winter Kayaking Clothes
There’s one age-old principle you must follow when venturing out in the cold—always dress in layers!
Of course, cold weather kayak fishing is no exception when it comes to proper winter clothes. In fact, while fishing in the cold, you need to be extra-careful and throw in a few more items that are appropriate specifically for fishing.
Here’s a list of proper winter kayak fishing clothes:
Neoprene clothing and wetsuits (check price on Amazon) — Neoprene is one of the most popular materials used in clothing for aquatic activities. Apart from keeping you dry, Neoprene will also act as an excellent insulating agent and offers the much-needed warmth and comfort when out in the cold.
Also, neoprene is fairly inexpensive, which means you can always give it a try without stretching your budget.
Windproof spray shell/jacket (check price on Amazon) — This will not only cut out the chill in the air but will also protect your upper body from sprays.
Dry trousers (check price on Amazon) — This one’s effective in the sense that you can use it throughout the year. Dry trousers are an indispensable part of kayak fishing because a lot of water will find its way into the kayak. Not to mention when a wet fish is brought on to your lap.
Surface immersion drysuits (check price on Amazon) — This is the safest piece of clothing that you can carry to your kayak fishing expedition in the colder months. A surface immersion drysuits would ensure that your skin remains dry even if you fall in the water. And that is very important when you’re trying to prevent hypothermia from settling in. Some drysuits also come with built-in fabric socks which is an excellent way to keep your feet warm and toasty.
Thermal layer base (check price on Amazon) — Dressing up in layers not only keeps you warm but also gives you greater flexibility. You can layer up depending on the chill outside. Plus, air trapped between two layers of clothing also helps to keep you warm and comfortable. Always wear a thermal base layer under your drysuits.
Pack the Right Kayak Gear
The perfect cold weather kayak fishing outing needs a little more than just drysuits.
Dry bag (check price on Amazon) — Always pack a dry bag with a change of clothes, first-aid kit, food and plenty of hydrating fluid.
Protective waterproof case (check price on Amazon) — You’re probably not new to kayaking, but just in case, I’m gonna say it anyway: Place your cell phone in a waterproof case to keep a line of communication open with home. And it’s worth noting that Lithium batteries run poorly in extremely cold conditions, so don’t leave your phone out in the open (like around your neck); tuck it somewhere under a layer or two.
Stohlquist Fisherman Personal Floatation Device (check price on Amazon) — You should also wear your PFD! But of course, you need all the fishing gear and extra hooks within reach, so I’d suggest this handy angler PDF. In case you feel warm, remove a layer of clothing but always put your PFD back on.
Have a Plan Ready
You just don’t go kayak fishing in cold weather with the right gear; you also need the correct plan.
Remember, your day might not always go according to plan, which is why having a feasible alternative chalked out is so important. And there is hardly a better plan than a “float plan” where you inform a family member or buddy where you’re headed and what to do in case you don’t return within a stipulated time.
Also, stay away from solo trips. You may not realize how important this step is, but it could be a lifesaver.
Other Steps and Tips to Keep in Mind
Lastly, there are a few more things I think are worth mentioning for cold weather kayak anglers:
- Always dress according to the current weather. Dress in layers so that you can easily adjust to the temperature conditions.
- Catch your breath, even when you fall into the water. People usually gasp when they fall into the water, thus increasing the chance of water entering the lungs. Remember, it takes only half a cup of water in the lungs to drown.
- Learn to climb back in the kayak. This is important even when it’s not cold waters, but even more crucial now!
- If you’re attending to a rescued victim, avoid applying heat to their extremities. A sudden change in body temperature may cause cardiac arrest.
Brace Yourself and Get Out There
Cold weather kayak fishing is a fantastic way to enjoy the season. All you have to do is exercise caution.
Stay safe, wear the right clothes, and most importantly, have a plan.