How To Stay Safe When Fishing On A Kayak

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Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts. Today we are going to take a look at the serious side of one of our favourite pursuits as we discuss how to stay safe when fishing on a kayak. Why? Well, to be honest, there was a post on one of my fishing kayak FaceBook groups recently talking about how a fisherman in the US drowned after his kayak tipped whilst out on a lake that really got me thinking (and incredibly sad for his family).

Then there are the numerous accidents and incidents that we all suffer when out on the water as well so with all of that in mind I feel it is high time we discussed some of the safety aspects of our much loved fishing pastime. So let’s check it all out below…

1. Wear a life jacket

How To Stay Safe When Fishing On A Kayak - man with hat and gloves

Now, where I live and fish here on the East Coast of Australia it is mandatory to wear a life jacket – a.k.a personal flotation device (PFD) – when out on the water alone. If you are not alone then it must be carried on board as a minimum. Regardless of whatever rules and regulations are in place in your area however, my first recommendation is to wear a life jacket at all times.

Now, I know you may not think it is needed on the kayak as you are just sitting and fishing right? However, how many of you stand on them whilst hunting that elusive Largemouth or jerk back quickly when a large bite hits. These are the times that you can fall. Not to mention if you have an accident, medical emergency or even god forbid, your kayak sinks.

Look, I could carry on for hours but seriously, get yourself an inflatable option so it stays out of the way and just wear it!

2. Go with a buddy

As a step further to the above, regardless of what you are wearing you are still on a small craft in potentially a large body of water. And without trying to sound like it is all doom and gloom out there, sudden impacts to your safety such as weather changes, current and other issues can hit suddenly.

We will elaborate on all of this below but obviously if you have someone with you then you have access to immediate assistance should it be required. Try and go in pairs at all times.

3. Make sure your ‘yak is suitable

There are quite a number of fishing kayaks on the market with different options and accessories to match specific environments and conditions. For example, if you are someone who likes to stand on your vessel as you fish, then you need to ensure that it is made for that purpose – mine is not, and if I stand on it I am going overboard for sure. Alternatively, should you be in strong currents, then a longer, narrower option will suit rather than a flat bottomed model.

Just check that your kayak is suitable to the conditions that you will be using it in – otherwise the chances of you tipping over are increased. This goes for weight capacity as well.

How To Stay Safe When Fishing On A Kayak - woman standing on kayak

4. Know your waterway

The guy I mentioned above was knocked off of his kayak by the bow wave of a speed boat that went past. Knowing your water way is another critical element to safety when fishing on a kayak. Even if you fish in the same spot every time, make sure that you are aware of the following:

  • Other traffic – boats, ferries, swimmers, kayaks and so on
  • Currents
  • Shallow sand bars, rocks, fallen trees etc.
  • Dangerous animals – sharks, stingrays etc. – and don’;t forget those land based critters that may come to fresh water areas to drink as well

And finally here, it is critical that you know the weather patterns of the area as well. This can include knowing:

  • When and where the wind comes from
  • When it tends to rain
  • Where storm clouds appear
  • How water conditions are affected by tides etc. – especially king tides and so on
  • Temperature changes
Stay Safe When Fishing On A Kayak - man with life jacket

5. Take communications

This is probably another obvious inclusion that we could add but if you have a cell/mobile phone then take it with you. Many kayakers avoid this as they don’t want it to get wet however if you have a dry bag or hatchet in your vessel, then the ability to call someone if something goes wrong is an absolute must.

And, if your kayak is suitable for chasing the big ones out in the ocean, then consider the following as well:

  • Install an EPIRB so you can be found if something goes wrong
  • Register with the relevant water safety authority as you leave protected waters
  • Let someone know where you will be going

Some fish finders contain GPS integration that can be attached to a two-way radio or be ‘pinged’ as well.

6. Know your first aid

When we fish, we use a lot of sharp objects such as hooks, knives and scissors etc. Not to mention fish spikes, oysters and other little nasties found around water as well. So, to that end, the next safety item I highly recommend is adding a small first aid kit to your list. Obviously you don’t want to be carrying a hospital ward around with you however as a minimum, I would add:

  • Band-aids,
  • Small bandages
  • Waterproof medical tape
  • Scissors (NOT your fishing pair)
  • Insect repellent
  • Insect bite spray

And whilst we are at it, undertaking a basic first aid course will not only teach you how to use these items properly, but can also come in handy if anything happens to your fishing buddy as well.

7. Stay sun smart

This should go without saying but 1000s of sunburnt beach fishermen have proven me wrong. The trick here is to make yourself a ‘sun kit’ that is stored permanently in your kayak. This should include:

  • Neck gaiter (sun proof neck scarf)
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip sun stick (zinc or balm)
  • Hat
  • Gloves – these can help with the sharp objects mentioned above too

I personally wear a proper fishing shirt (they are long sleeved and generally sun proof rated) and a wide brimmed hat. Apart from the pain and obvious long term effects, getting burnt whilst out on the kayak is just plain uncomfortable and will really ruin your day.

Stay Safe When Fishing On A Kayak - two people with hats and PFDs

8. Take water

Again, you are sitting in a kayak, usually in the sun and often surrounded by sea air. Take a bottle of water with you – even if just to wash your hands. And if you are going to be out there for a while – take something to eat too.


And there they are – my suggestions for staying safe when fishing on a kayak. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences or any other tips you may have.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun

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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.