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Life and Death Skills for the Kayak Fisherman

Posted: 08.04.2017

offshore kayak fishing

Like many kayak anglers, when I got started in this sport, I was an angler first and foremost...

Life and Death Skills for the Kayak Fisherman
By: Andy O’Brien

Spend enough time on a kayak especially on the ocean, and the probability that you or your fishing partner will end up in the water involuntarily at some point is pretty high.  Would you be able to get back on your kayak?  If your kayak capsized would you be able to flip it back over?  If your partner fell into the water and couldn’t get back in their boat, could you help them?  You got them back on their kayak, but now they can’t paddle, would you be able to safely tow them back?  These are all questions any kayak angler should ask themselves. I would not want to be in any one of those situations and find out that the answer is no.

Like many kayak anglers, when I got started in this sport, I was an angler first and foremost.  I jumped on a kayak and starting fishing.  The actual kayaking part was a secondary thought.  I soon realized, after some unplanned swims, difficult attempts at getting back on my boat in deep water, and a couple of embarrassing “yard sales” at the beach,  learning and honing the skills necessary to be a proficient and prepared paddler were just as important as honing my fishing skills.  Learning to self-rescue and how to help someone else get back on their boat, or tow them out of trouble, or all the way back to land, are potentially life-saving skills every kayak angler should learn, practice, and master.    

After watching some videos and practicing on my own in various lakes and bays over several months, I felt pretty confident I could get back in my kayak in deep water, should the situation arise.  After kayak fishing for many years with my self-taught skills, I had the opportunity through my local kayak shop, to take a self-rescue/rescue of others, and towing class.  Taking a class put on by a professional, experienced instructor opened my eyes to the importance of knowing the proper techniques for effectively performing self-rescues and being able to help others.  I learned and physically performed several new techniques.   I was able to build on and hone the skills I had learned on my own.  I came away better equipped to employ those techniques if a rescue situation were to arise. I felt confident that I could answer yes to all the questions posed at the beginning of this blog. Continuing to refresh and practice these invaluable safety skills will bolster your confidence and give you peace of mind on the water.  Practice in different conditions and gear.  Practice in the apparel you would be wearing when fishing.  Please always wear a PFD when on the water.  Many of us have or likely will invest a nice chunk of change on our kayaks and fishing gear.  I would encourage you to also invest in your safety and confidence on the water.   Many kayak shops and outfitters offer safety courses around the country.  Reach out to your local shop and see what they have to offer.

Tight lines!

Andy O’Brien
Wilderness Systems Pro Staff