Although kayak fishing is a relatively safe hobby, accidents do happen. You need to understand the risks to save your life in dangerous situations. Some hazards are avoidable, but others require your quick and efficient response to prevent damage.
So, before you go kayak fishing, here are the dangers to be aware of and prepared for.
What are the dangers of kayak fishing?
1. Capsizing & Drowning
Capsizing happens to anyone, experts and beginners alike. It is not something you can completely avoid; rather, you have to be prepared for it whenever you are kayak fishing. Practice capsizing drills with your kayak before you go out to fish, and always put on a Personal Floatation Device (PFD).
When you are kayak fishing, strap or tie down your gear to the hull and carry only things you won’t mind losing. In the event you capsize, stay calm and try to recover fast to prevent drowning or any injuries. Undertaking self-rescue training and wearing a well-fitting life vest help avoid drowning if you capsize or fall off the kayak.
2. Getting lost
You can easily get lost when kayak fishing in open waters due to the lack of many landmarks. More often, you won’t realize how far you have paddled, and soon you might get disoriented. Even a small distraction while hooking and reeling in the catch or admiring the scenery is enough to make you lose track.
Always inform someone of your float plan so they can follow up if you don’t return on time. Navigation devices such as kayak fish finders with GPS are also helpful in tracking your starting point. However, it is best to pick easily recognizable landmarks, like hills or mountains, to guide you back.
Before you paddle off the shore, think of what you would do if you get lost to avoid panicking if it happens.
3. Equipment failure
Fishing kayaks can leak, and paddles and fishing gear can break. Dealing with broken equipment rather than fishing is heartbreaking. Imagine if kayaks fail or paddle breaks in the middle of the sea. It is dangerous, and sometimes you might need to call for help if there is too much leakage.
Always carry an extra fishing kayak paddle and fishing gear to avoid inconveniences. Something to bail water, and adhesives to seal holes come in handy if the kayak leaks. Again, do routine maintenance of your equipment and check that it is in good shape before you head out.
4. Dangerous creatures
When kayak fishing, you might come across wildlife that puts your life in danger. Even the fish you catch or come across, such as sharks, are dangerous. Alligators, crocodiles, poisonous snakes, beavers, and bugs are some of the creatures you might encounter. While you can use insect repellent and bug spray to deal with the bugs, there is nothing to repel other animals. So, you must learn how to avoid them and, if the worst happens, know how to defend yourself.
5. Large boats
Large boats can pose a danger when fishing at night as they do not easily spot small crafts like a kayak. In the event you collide, your kayak will bear a big brunt. To protect yourself, improve your visibility by wearing reflective jackets, having a beacon light and bright-colored flag attached to your craft, and always displaying a 360-degree white light at night.
Apart from collision, the large boats can speed, leaving massive waves that can easily sink your kayak. Be vigilant; keep an eye on speeding boats and give right of way to larger crafts. To avoid capsizing, lean into the sideways waves and direct the nose of your kayak perpendicular to the oncoming waves.
6. Extreme weather conditions
1. Checking the weather before going kayak fishing might seem obvious, but still, there are so many weather-related injuries reported by kayakers each year. Kayaks don’t provide much protection against weather elements; heavy rain, high winds, lightning, thunder, and the sun. You might be kayak fishing peacefully when suddenly you experience temperature drops, poor visibility, or being unable to keep your kayak on track due to wind; all these put your life in danger.
During the cold season, sudden immersion in dangerously cold water can lead to cold water shock and later hypothermia. Protect yourself by wearing appropriate clothing like a dry suit or wet suit. Put on a well-fitting kayak fishing PFD, carry extra clothing, and preferably go as a group.
The summer season is not better. Extremely hot temperatures can lead to heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration. Put on proper summer clothing, drink lots of water, and wear sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen.
N/B: Act fast in case of weather changes. It is better to cut short your trip instead of endangering your life.
7. Physical exhaustion
Paddling to your fishing spot and reeling in big catches can leave you exhausted sooner than expected. Physical exhaustion is dangerous, especially if you are alone. You might not have the energy left to return to the shore, leaving you at the mercy of weather elements and wildlife.
Don’t overstep your abilities to avoid disaster. Start small by kayak fishing in waters and routes that match your skills. It is also important to set a timer to remind you to drink water to avoid dehydration. Do not wait until you are exhausted to end the trip. Give yourself room to paddle back to your start point.
8. Waves, tides, and currents
Your tandem fishing kayak can easily capsize or get off course if you encounter waves, tides, or currents. This puts your life in danger if you aren’t keen on avoiding them or prepared to put up a fight. Oceans, especially, are unpredictable; avoid areas that experience strong currents. If not, paddle as a group and take precautionary measures such as having and sharing your float plan, wearing your PFD properly, and keeping walkie-talkies, a flare, and a beacon with you.
9. Low-head dams
Low-head dams are man-made contraptions that are a dangerous killer in rivers. They are constructed to regulate water flows and control water levels. However, most of these structures are unmarked, making them hard to spot in time. If you paddle over it, the destructive hydraulic force will drag your fishing kayak under water, putting your life in danger. Your PFD might not help you much due to the strong turbulence underneath.
To be safe, always do research on rivers you intend to paddle on and familiarize yourself with locations with low heads so you can avoid paddling over them. Never paddle over wears and low-head dams as it can easily drown you.
10. Dangerous obstacles such as strainers, sweepers and undercuts
On-the-water obstacles are the root of disaster when kayak fishing, as you can’t tell what lies beneath them. You might see a branch, but the entire tree is below the surface. If you hit such obstacles while kayak fishing, your craft can break, and you might be thrown out, putting your life in danger. Do not underestimate on-the-water obstacles; avoid them at all costs. If you accidentally hit one, be prepared to fight for your life using self-rescue skills.
Key Insights & Takeaways
Kayak fishing exposes you to dangerous situations that can cost your life if you aren’t prepared for them. If you can, avoid hazardous situations if you can, and if you cannot, be aware and ready to save yourself. Capsizing drills and self-rescue training, dressing right, practicing paddle techniques, exercising and hydrating before launching your kayak, and organizing your fishing gear well are essential for a safe trip. Otherwise, kayak fishing is a fun and rewarding activity that is worth your time. Take the precautionary measures, get out and have a safe and fun kayak fishing trip!