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Cold Water Kayak Fishing, Dangerous but Rewarding

The right gear will keep you safe and productive when on the water kayak fishing, all year long.

Cold Water Kayak Fishing, Dangerous but Rewarding

Fishing in the fall, throughout winter and into early spring can be a lot of fun and can be the time of year to catch the fish of a lifetime. With more people and more boats off the water, more fish are available for the catching. Doing so from the kayak can be a lot of fun and very rewarding, but it can also have its risks.

big fall smallmouth from a kayak
Some of the biggest fish of the year are most vulnerable during the fall and winter. It’s a great time to take to the water in a fishing kayak, but always put safety first.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go! Here are a few must-have pieces of equipment to cross off the checklist to minimize those risks before getting on the water.

Quality PFD (Personal Flotation Device)

This is the most important piece of equipment to have on you at all times while on the kayak. By “on you,” we mean wearing it, not just visible in your kayak somewhere. And not just in the fall, but year-round—regardless of the air and water temperatures.

kayak pfd
A PFD is one of the most important pieces of kayaking gear, no matter the season.

This time of year means declining temps, drastic weather patterns—some that change out of nowhere. This can make you very vulnerable on the kayak but with the safety of a PFD, even if the worst were to happen you will have something to keep you above water.


Waterproof Storage Solution

When heading out on the water for the day, it is always smart to have a waterproof storage bag or waterproof sealed container that can hold your phone, keys, wallet, etc. Keeping your valuables safe and dry by preparing for the worst rather than losing your stuff is key to an enjoyable and safe outing.

Dry storage for kayaking
Having a waterproof case to store your important items is a good idea whenever in a kayak.

There are great solutions on the market from dry bags, lock tight storage boxes and even waterproof phone cases that you can attach flotation rings to at the very least. Don’t let one quick-and-easy mistake be an expensive one.

kayak fishing dry storage
You’ll be glad to have easy-to-access dry storage when on a kayak, especially if things get extra wet.

Flag and Light

Kayaks are not big vessels when they’re on the water and some are colored in such a way that they can be hard to differentiate from the color of the water, especially for an oncoming boat in various weather conditions. That is why it is very important as a kayak angler to be as visible as possible. Having a flag and lights on the kayak helps reduce the margin of error for any boater having issues seeing a kayak. Typically, a high-vis orange flag is a great option, being most visible throughout the majority of conditions and a light to glow bright during low-light periods of the day.


kayak dry storage box
A high-visibility flag and light are very important to keep kayak anglers visible.

There are several flag and light products on the market that are an easy plug-and-play attachment for your kayak. Some are a two-in-one flagpole that has a bright light on top to give you the easiest of solutions to maintain safety. Other options to consider are wearing brighter clothing while fishing, as well as simply being smart and safe with fishing locations on days you know will have higher boat traffic.

Kayak Gear Tethers

A simple and inexpensive piece of equipment that can really save the day are kayak tethers. Whether for your phone, your paddle/pedals, measuring board, fishing rods and more—tethers allow you to never lose your gear. This can be as simple as using a cheap paracord or even buying specific tethers that are designed specifically for kayak anglers. Similar to the waterproof storage, tethers can save a simple mistake from being an expensive one by not letting any of your loose gear get away from you.




tethered kayak geara
Tether all the items you intend to use and then set down when kayak fishing.

On top of these items, there are a few additional steps anglers can take to be safe on the water. First, fishing with a friend is always a wise choice. I know some may not want to show their fishing buddy their honey hole but if trouble arises, it is always better to have a helping hand. In addition, it is always smart to let some family and friends know where you’re going prior to hitting the water that day, regardless if you’re fishing alone or not. Last but not least, the importance of having waterproof clothing during this time of year is at an all-time high. The less wet you are, the longer you will last on the water and therefore giving you more time to catch a fish of a lifetime!

Enjoy this time of year but make sure to be smart and cautious while doing so.

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