I've been on he lookout for a new and worthy open-water kayak fishing Personal Floatation Device (PFD) of late and when it comes to safety vests I've become increasingly picky over the years. Most of the lifevests I have inspected in that time haven't even come remotely close to meeting my standards of today. Call me old-fashioned, but I simply don't think a PFD is something that should be skimped on. Fortunately for my snobbish ways, Kokatat do manufacture a range of very high quality vests, using genuine Cordura fabric, YKK zips, Gaia foam, and constructed with an attention to detail that is simply lost on most manufacturers of today.
Perhaps the most neglected item that most kayak fishermen ignore is some form of bilge removal system. This is ironic because if one was to undertake a sea-kayaking course, it is one of the first things an instructor would advise you to get. Of those that do, many will try to get away with a sponge, bailing bucket or hand-operated pump. In many cases these will suffice and at the very least better than having nothing. But for open ocean kayakers it's not just a simple matter of having one of these items, because all of them require opening a hatch to begin the removal process. Thats all well and good unless the water is so sloppy that waves are crashing over the deck, in which case there's a very real chance water will get in faster than you can get it out.
If there's one truism I could make about the state of kayak fishing today it would be to say that the sport has changed rapidly. For the most part thats a good thing. One only needs to take a good look at a well equipped kayak outlet that caters to fishing and take note of the huge range of dedicated accessories to see how far it has come in such a short time. Not so long ago it was all about fitting square pegs into round holes (which is why we all use to use milk crates in the rear well) but nowadays, not so much. Perhaps an even better example is the current Pro Angler models from Hobie, which come equipped with various integrated features such as Lowrance transducer scuppers and thru-hull wiring ports. It wasn't all that long ago that to make a kayak highly suitable for fishing we all had to drill holes all over the place and customize the heck out of them to make it so. Not anymore. Not really, anyway.
I had an interesting discussion with a kayaker the other day who shared with me a tale of woe that I thought worth sharing. This particular kayaker (lets call him Bob, because Bob is a cool name... you can spell it the same normally or back to front) owns a Hobie Outfitter and until I explained to him the error of his ways, seemed to be wanting to blame the kayak for this incident in question.
Tide and wind turned against you and you get swept out to sea, or you can’t reach your destination? What to do? First of all stay level headed and remain calm. Consider your options. Is there another option? Can you reach land somewhere else? If not, use your emergency devices like the VHF to call for help and activate your PLB / EPIRB.
For fairly obvious reasons I've been putting a whole lot of thought into the issue of kayak fishing safety recently, specifically in open water. The more I thought about it the more I came back to one major train of thought, which is that the single most dangerous scenario for a kayaker in the ocean is to get seperated from their kayak.
There is a diverse range of people drawn to this sport for a myriad of reasons, however it's easy to generalise by saying that most budding kayak fishermen are attracted to it as either an experienced angler or otherwise as an experienced kayaker. In the case of the former this means that for some time at least, their fishing experience is only going to get them so far because of their limited kayaking experience. In the case of the latter this means that ones kayaking experience will only get them so far due to their limited fishing experience. In both cases, what this ultimately means is that both start out as inexperienced kayak fishermen.