5 Safety Essentials For Kayak Anglers | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
A kayak on the shore of a large lake. Photo by Jon Russelburg

Expert tips to stay safe on the water.

It’s no secret that kayak fishing is growing at a crazy rate. With the cost of big boats sky-rocketing, kayaks give anglers a way to get on the water without breaking the bank. So in turn, a majority of kayak anglers were anglers first and kayakers second. This could lead to a lack of understanding of what items and skills you need to safely fish from a kayak.

For SUPs and cold weather I always wear a good foam PFD like the Onyx Outdoors Kayak Fishing Vest. Photo by Erin Fleischmann

1) Always Wear A PFD

Your PFD is the the most important piece of gear to have in your kayak. It’s just a fact that eventually you will fall out of your kayak. Your PFD will save your life. With all of the advancements in PFDs over the last few years, you can be comfortable and safe for a full day of paddling. 

In warm weather I use an inflatable PFD. This gives me maximum comfort when sitting in the hot sun while I fish all day. When I wear an inflatable PFD, I always keep a foam PFD in the hatch of my kayak, just in case. 

In cold weather or if I am paddling a SUP, I always wear a foam PFD. I don’t leave my life in the hands of automatic or manual inflation on inflatable PFDs when cold water is involved. Foam PFDs will never let you down.

My YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro flag has saved my life too many times to count. Photo by Jon Russelburg.

2) Always Carry A Flag

Although kayaks have just as much right to be on the water as any other boat (just ask the bass boat guys who try to steal my spot during a tournament), they can be hard to see. A bass boat running 60-miles-per-hour can come up on you really quick without ever seeing you. A bright orange flag keeps you visible for a long distance.

Make sure your lights always have fresh batteries. Photo by Jon Russelburg.

3) Always Carry Two Lights

I carry two lights on my kayak at all times. The first is the light mounted on top of my YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro flag. Anglers are known for being up early enough to fish for a few hours before the sun starts to rise. Having a bright light to mark your location will make you visible to other anglers in the dead of night. 

I also carry a high-powered waterproof flashlight. I always keep it attached to my PFD. You never plan to capsize or be stranded, but you should always be prepared for it. A waterproof flashlight can help you find your way to shore and safety after a disorienting roll over.

re entry
Sit-inside kayaks are harder to re-enter but not impossible. Photo by Micah Simoneaux.

4) Know How To Re-enter Your Kayak

There’s a theme here. If you paddle long enough, you will eventually fall out of your kayak. Knowing how to get back in is of the upmost importance. Each kayak is different, so practice jumping out of your kayak and re-entering with a partner on a warm day. 

For sit-in kayaks, check out this post on emergency re-entry techniques…

First aid<
My emergency kit and NRS Chinook PFD stay in my front storage hatch at all times. Photo by Jon Russelburg.

5) Always Carry An Emergency Kit

I’m the son of an EMT/Firefighter, so emergency preparedness is in my bones. I keep an emergency kit in the front hatch of my kayak at all times. The kit includes the usual first-aid items such as band-aids, topical ointments, allergy medications and mild pain killers. 

I also keep items that I may need in case I get stranded in a remote location. These items include matches, an extra flashlight, a map of the area and an external charging battery for my phone.

Honorable Mention

Another item that I like to keep in my vehicle is a drysuit, or dry pants and jacket. You don’t need them every time you paddle so you don’t always need to carry them. But on a cold day, they could save your life.

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