Winter Kayak Fishing
We thought it best to compose this page after witnessing the changes in attitude of a lot of newer kayak anglers in the last few years. It seems that the more common use of “dry suits” has given people an extra special sense of reassurance to go out in all kinds of weather and take unnecessary risks. Wearing a dry suit is not a license to go out in freezing conditions, massive surf and swells and especially in Winter! At the time of writing this article (Jan 27th 2013) paddle buddy Wayne (tommo) and I went out yesterday after reading in another site about wetsuits and waders not being suitable for kayak fishing which I know is complete and utter rubbish having worn one for around 9 years safely on the sea! It also said that “waders are a non starter” and shouldn’t be worn! We went out and videoed Wayne doing a re-entry in freezing conditions in front of the local RNLI who were watching us. There’s a video too showing me in my wetsuit & Wayne re-entering his yak in 20ft of freezing water without a drop getting through!You can view the video from the nav bar link on the home page.
What wasn’t mentioned was the fact I wore my 5/3mm full titanium lined OTTER wetsuit and left the PDF in the tankwell as we both going to do re-entries and my PFD isn’t suitable for the Ultra 4.3 with it having a protruding front pocket that catches on the yak centre hatch (NOOKIE Explorer 2 on order). I didn’t do a re-entry as it was simply too cold and we just wanted to prove a point about the waders but after paddling around 100 metres my fingertips began to go numb and my jawbone was icy cold, that was after around 3 minutes on the water. However, my body was warm and I couldn’t feel the breeze at all so thermal qualities are definitely there. If I’d jumped off the yak I’d of floated like a cork and been able to re-enter the yak no problem but I’d of had to head straight back in given the harsh conditions.
Winter is a time to clean the gear off, oil reels and repair gear and the kayak. Also to rig the kayak with new gear maybe and adjust it to suit the coming season. Yes you may get the odd mild winters day to go out on the kayak to fish, maybe even just to paddle but there’s still a lot to consider prior to going out. If you do manage to get out in winter then you MUST have a paddle buddy, I cannot stress just how important this is as they could keep you alive and be more responsive than ANYONE coming to rescue you. The first thing that hits you in cold water is your body sort of retracts itself internally. Your heart protects itself by shortening the blood supply to extremities like fingers and toes and more importantly your brain! Lack of blood to the brain doesn’t need any explanation, it’s simply dangerous. Yes you can survive longer in a dry suit when submerged but your not invincible! I’ve seen lots and lots of re-entry posts in forums all around the UK with dry suits on but when I speak to people about going out on a kayak without a dry suit their reaction is shocking! “ooh no, too cold for me” or “but I’ll get wet” are most common. Now lets just think about it for a second, your going out to sea on a lump of plastic, surrounded by water using a paddle that can’t help but drip on you as you paddle in one of the worlds wettest countries and you don’t want to get wet? I think that if that’s your attitude then this sport isn’t for you! Your going to get wet at some point, especially in a dry suit as your tempted to go out in less favourable conditions so are more likely to get tipped! Just how many of you reading this have done a re-entry from a tipped yak at sea with all your gear onboard. Fancy rod leashes and expensive electrical equipment? not a lot I can tell you because you know you could get tangled under water by your line, leashes, anchor line, drogue and could also possibly lose precious reels in boxes that are now floating away in the tide and wind! Just ONE wrong movement under water, maybe a hook? punctures that dry duit and water rushes in and your done for unless you can sort it all out and climb back on immediately!
I’d also like to point out one more unusual but seriously overlooked point about kayak fishing on inland waters like lakes. Having paddled my kayaks on the lake district since 2005 I’ve had a lot of experience and witnessed a lot of situations but the one that scares me the most is NOBODY ever has any form of communication! VHF is no good if your alone as there’s no-one to listen and surrounded by hills and trees mostly. I was out last summer on Ullswater and had my smart phone in my dry bag and paddled around 5 miles down the lake whilst my family were in bed in the tent and it was only when I got right down the lake I had issues with my shoulder, it was killing me (long bicep tendon issue) so I thought I’d ring the better half and ask her to pick me up but to my horror my battery had died and I had to paddle back in agony. What made it worse was it began to rain with the wind in my face and I had a horrible paddle back. Of course I was never in any danger, just uncomfortable but the point is I had no communication and was alone. We now use 2 way radios 🙂
On inland waters we like to fish when nobody else is around as boats scare fish, kids playing everywhere etc so dawn & dusk are great but one issue is always overlooked and that is the fact that your alone with nobody to turn to if you tip! Yes it’s unlikely but it is possible! I’ve pulled out of a snag and nearly tipped over a few times. I’ve paddled in swells to 3ft on Coniston water, Ullswater and lock Ruddock/Tummel over the years and did a re-entry on my Scooter on Coniston once in a 2ft swell that blew me down the lake in t-shirt, shorts & PFD in July. I had a wresting match with the yak to get back on it as the wind was pushing me under the yak as it turned the yak. A wind surfer on the shore had to be held back by my wife who explained what I was doing. I got back on, paddled about 60 yards back to where I launched then did it again much to the amazement of the wind surfer who left knowing I was okay (and maybe a bit touched). So you see, inland waters can be even more dangerous as the sea! Always try to have someone to paddle with, especially in winter when there’s no-one else around if you get stuck out there.
In summary we feel that the promotion of the sport in general is heading towards “noobs” taking out other “noobs” and teaching them that it’s okay ‘cos they’ve got a dry suit and teaching them all they know ‘cos they think they know it all and it’s seriously frightening! If your going to advise people on safety then please do your research.When you go out on the water on your kayak your representing the sport and this has been somewhat pushed aside by the new era of dry suited invincible yakkers who seem to think they’re better than everyone else by going out in extreme conditions when the reality of it is, these people are not only risking their own lives but they’re damaging the sport for the rest of us!
Please think very seriously about going out in winter on your kayak. The British weather is so changeable that in winter the risks are seriously higher with hypothermia at the top of the list! I’ve always regarded winter as a time to keep warm and comfortable and as explained above sort my gear out. Why not get the shore gear out again and stay safe on your local pier etc. Leave the kayak wrapped up ready for the warmer weather!
I hope this gives a slight wake up call to people who’ve been told it’s fine to yak fish in winter in their dry suit? I do know there’ll be some of you who think all this is bollocks and you’ve always been fine because your “experienced” and/or are an “extreme kayak angler”. Don’t get me started on that subject, lol 😉
The information given has been gathered by over 9 years of kayak fishing in all the situations possible and not “borrowed” or read on some wannabe famous yak anglers blog. Please use it to your advantage and only paddle in winter if it’s absolutely spot on out there and please DO NOT go alone!
Andy & Wayne
Stay safe and enjoy your kayak fishing 🙂