Kayaking MUSTS for Summertime Safety

Kayaking MUSTS for Summertime Safety
Wear your PFD, and cover up from the sun!

Summertime has once again made its way to Texas and anglers can rejoice. Along with the temperature, the fishing is heating up along the Gulf coast and everyone is eager to hit the water. But before you throw your kayak in your truck, there are a few things that need to be considered to ensure that you will enjoy a safe day on the water.

Before I go any further with this, I will be the first to tell you that I have been 100% guilty of not following all the "musts" I am about to discuss. I was once a stubborn young kid with a mindset that I was invincible. Coming of age and becoming a bit wiser, I have realized that I am surrounded by potentially dangerous situations on every excursion. Some may be more immediate, others could prove deadly or debilitating down the road.

I know everyone is guilty of this, myself included, but we MUST start wearing our PFDs every minute we are in the kayak, on every trip we make! Even though the law does not require it to be worn, it does you no good if you flip out of your kayak and your PFD is stowed inside your dry hatch.

I do not know the exact number, but I know for a fact we have already lost at least three kayak anglers to drowning this year.

I have heard the excuse that PFDs are uncomfortable in the kayak more times than I can recall and I'm sure there are folks out there who actually believe this. Fortunately, it is not true and, anybody perpetuating this myth has simply not checked into it very well. Several companies offer PFDs designed and manufactured specifically for kayaking applications. I wear a Kokatat Bahia Tour PFD; it is so comfortable that I have been halfway home when I realized I was still wearing it. Onyx and Stohlquist are other notable brands and can be found at Fishing Tackle Unlimited. Be sure to purchase a good one–your life depends on it.

I know Scott Null touched on this subject in last month's issue (which was spot on) but it is important enough that I want to reiterate some of his comments:

-We MUST start making better judgments regarding "less-than-ideal" weather days. Hectic work schedules and other obligations often allow very limited opportunity to get on the water but this in no way justifies a "hell or high water" attitude. Launching in bad weather or with a forecast of bad weather likely to arrive during your outing needs some serious reevaluation. No doubt in my mind–bank or pier fishing on that one day you can go may not sound near as glamorous or offer the same catching opportunity–but it sure as heck beats risking becoming a drowning statistic!

-Another MUST is letting a friend or relative know where you will be fishing. This has been one of my greatest personal failures over the years and a bad habit I am working to break. I have a tendency to fish by myself frequently and if a situation was to occur, no one would know where to find me. Realizing how potentially dangerous this might be I have begun informing others of my fishing plans. If they have not heard from me by a specified time they need to start looking. I completely understand keeping honeyholes secret and I am guilty. But at least inform a non-fishing friend or relative. Drop a pin and send it to their cell phone. If something happens they know to contact the right people and start looking for you.

Another potential hazard we all face comes from others on the water. We MUST watch out for ourselves and others fishing with us because some people on boats or jet skis simply do not understand how dangerous a large wake can be to a kayaker. Even a moderate wake can be enough to throw a kayaker off balance. Keep a good lookout and watch your own back.

As kayakers and fisherman we are constantly exposing ourselves to the elements. The scorching Texas sun is no joke and can ruin an angler's day very quickly. Simply putwe MUST start protecting ourselves from the sun. I am on the water 1-3 times a week, so I spend a lot of time sitting in the sun. The typical sunburn was almost second nature to me in the past but lately I have become concerned with the long term effect of exposure to U.V. rays and the possibility of skin cancer somewhere down the road.

Cover up! Rarely do I leave even an inch exposed. Long pants, long sleeve shirt, facemask and a wide-brimmed hat should be standard equipment on every paddling trip. Magellan, Columbia and Simms all make great SPF-rated fishing clothes. I particularly like the Simms facemasks as they are perforated in the face region to help eliminate your glasses fogging from your breath. A good pair of polarized glasses is not only helpful in fishing but they also offer excellent U.V. protection for your eyes. One of the primary causes of cataracts later in life is sun exposure.

Whether you are a first-timer or a veteran, all of these hazards pose a threat. I want everyone to get out on the water and enjoy their time kayaking. I do not want to deter anyone from making a trip but I want you to be mindful and make good judgments BEFORE your outings. Wear your PFD, let somebody know where you are headed, watch out for others, and dress appropriately.

If you are safe on the water, you MUST be having fun!