When it comes to winter kayak fishing, some kayakers in the north are forced to leave their kayaks at home to fish hard water. Some move to hunting during the winter months, or have other pursuits to fill the winter days. But there are still many of us who fish year-round from our kayaks — for bass, crappie, stripers, white bass – for everything and anything that will bite.
My third tournament from a kayak, I left my hog trough in the truck while fishing on Kentucky Lake. It snowed so hard that by the time I retrieved it from the back floor board, the seat on my kayak was covered with snow. I repeated that on Dale Hollow just two years ago. It was miserable, cold, raining, and snowing… but I was fishing dang it!
I recently followed a series of posts just this week from Jaxton and Jim Orr who had fled south to fish Chickamauga and had some success. So there is that option too. For me, I know the crappie and white bass are biting here in Tennessee and they really taste good soaked in some hot grease.
So I am partaking in winter kayak fishing.
But prepping for a winter kayak fishing trip is not the same as prepping July. You have to be very aware of the weather and really understand the temperature of both the air and the water. Hypothermia is real and with kayaks having a higher chance of flipping than larger boats, you need to be prepared. Learn what to do, how to do it, but more important: learn what to expect should you find yourself in the water.
Winter Kayak Fishing: A Close Call
Before I owned a kayak, I picked up a friend to fish out of my small jon boat. I knew when he got in the truck he was not dressed for the 20-degree air temps and I should have called it off then, but I had some extra coveralls in my truck that would help him stay warm.
We fished for a few hours without success, and decided to head in. I asked him to hand me a tackle box, and the next sound I heard was him falling into the barely 50 degree water. He was not wearing a PFD and the coveralls quickly absorbed water. Fortunately for my friend, we were less than 50 yards from the ramp because I could not get him back into the boat. I held his arm as he clung to the side and I used the trolling motor to cover the distance.
In that short time, I had to help him up the ramp and out of his wet clothes. I gave him my coveralls (which would have also pulled me under had I fallen) and cranked up the heat as he shivered uncontrollably.
That day could have been our last.
Be Prepared When Going Winter Kayak Fishing
Since then, I have made myself more aware. But to be completely upfront, I am probably still not as prepared as I should be during the winter months. I do understand that cotton is not good and that I should be well insulated from the elements – not the air, but the water. I also understand that we should all carry extra clothing and a way to start a fire.
The biggest thing is to ALWAYS WEAR A LIFE JACKET.
I am not telling this to keep you off the water in the winter. I will be out the next free day that I can get on the water; 30 or 80 degrees. I will have a dry bag full of essential items, someone will know exactly where I am and when I plan to be home. But most likely, I will not be alone if it is cold. I am careful to prepare for 30-degree weather because I know the reality of what can go wrong.
Y’all read up on what to consider when fishing in the cold. Below is a tiny sample of what is available online. Educate yourself on the effects of hypothermia.
This is a fairly comprehensive (although high-level) explanation.
The 1-10-1 Principle explained here is something else to understand.
I personally feel that this document provides some good information to consider when kayaking in cold weather.
No matter what you chose to review, just be safe. Winter kayak fishing can lead to some really fun days on the water, just remember there’s plenty of people who want you to come home safe and plan accordingly!
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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