“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” I’m not sure who first offered that advice but it is definitely true when applied to wintertime kayak fishing.
By this point we should all have accepted that winter is here and we might as well embrace the cooler temperatures. When it comes down to it, I personally love the cold weather and tend to stick to my outdoor activities. As long as the weather permits for safe travels on the water I will be going fishing. If not; I will exercise my next best option and go sit in a duck or deer blind.
With these being my true outdoor passions, one thing is inevitable and that is I am going to be smack dab in the middle of the wintertime elements. This time of the year, the weather can be unpredictable and you never really know what to expect. Since there is always uncertainty, I have found that when making a winter outing it is always best to be prepared for any condition. The two most important aspects are staying dry and warm.
As a kayak angler, I believe we are more prone to getting wet than just about everyone else on the water. We are sitting just above the water line, waves tend to break over the bow and gunnels, our paddle drips water, and when we catch a fish we have little choice but to dump it in our lap. Basically everything we do in a kayak has potential for getting us wet. It is therefore very important that we try our best to stay as dry as we can. The drier we are, the warmer we are.
When it comes to buying gear and clothing, there are many brands and some of the options can get quite expensive. In my opinion, and this goes for fishing, hunting, camping, and every other outdoor activity, you need to buy the best gear you can afford. I fully understand that most of us can’t go out and splurge for top of the line gear all at one time. I started several years back by purchasing the minimum stuff and that was a cheaper set of waders and gloves. From that point forward, I would break down and buy a higher quality piece of gear each winter. I believe by now I have everything that I need and most of it is designed to last and keep us comfortable for many years to come.
As for staying dry while being in the kayak, I always wear waders in the cooler months. They are always warm, dry, and do a great job of blocking wind. If I know that I am going to be staying on top of my kayak, I usually wear neoprene bootfoot waders. I typically go with the Magellan brand from Academy – they are relatively inexpensive and work just fine for limited wading. When I expect to hop off the kayak and wade the flats, I reach for my Simms breathables. They are comfortable, durable, and make standing in frigid water much more bearable when worn with the appropriate underlayers.
One of the other things I have learned is that you need to keep your hands as dry and warm as possible. We use our hands for everything we do on the water; paddling, casting, tying lures, landing fish, etc. My original winter kayaking gloves were plain old nitrile-coated work gloves. They were OK but not great. Eventually, water from the paddle and the fish I landed would saturate the cotton base layer and I’d have cold, wet hands the remainder of the day. I now wear Simms Flex Windbloc gloves; they are windproof, don’t retain residual water, and are lined with fleece to keep your hands warm to fish comfortably throughout the day.
Staying warm is much easier and less costly than staying dry. The most important parts of the body are your feet, hands, head and face. Once one of these gets cold there’s little chance of getting warm again. To keep my feet warm I wear wool socks and my favorite brand is Darn Tough. They are durable, warm, and have a lifetime warranty if they rip or tear. For the head, I always wear a beanie and face mask to prevent my ears and nose going numb. The same “Buff” we wear for sun protection in summer works like a charm in winter.
As soon as the temperatures begin to drop, I always pack a change of clothes and a towel in a trash sack to insure they will stay dry and stow it in a fore or aft compartment. If something unforeseen was to happen on a bitter cold day and you were to get completely wet, a fun outing could turn life-threatening in a few minutes. If you learn nothing else from this article, I hope you will take this bit of it to heart and adopt this practice religiously.This is the time of year that we should be more prepared than any other when hitting the water. The elements can be brutal, but if you go prepared and face them head-on, you will be able to enjoy comfortable and productive outings. Be sure to plan ahead by monitoring weather forecasts carefully, and equipping yourself with the proper gear. Stay warm and dry; winter fishing is awesome.