As Summer and Fall start to fade away, Winter becomes our new best friend in the fishing world. Winter fishing is a lot different than warm weather fishing because you have to deal with things like extreme cold, ice, snow, and even rain. Normally we fish early Spring until the Winter season hits, but there are those of us that love to fish no matter what weather it is (me included). Now that kayak fishing is extremely popular, we see a lot more people taking their kayak out on the water well into the Winter season when lakes are not frozen over. One thing that we need to look out for is keeping warm while we are doing it and not setting ourselves up to dangers of hypothermia, frostbite, or sickness that may happen by being out in the cold for too long. What you wear will heavily impact your comfort level on the water, as well as movement restrictions which could cause your kayak to tip over. Let’s take a look at what exactly you should wear when kayak fishing in the Winter and how to stay safe while doing it.
The most important thing you should think about when you are going to take your kayak out on the water in the Winter is water resistance. Getting wet in a kayak can be very harmful to you if you are out on a lake in 20-degree weather and cannot make it back in time to get warm. Frostbite can set in very quickly so you will want to stay as dry as possible in the kayak. Wearing some sort of fishing waders that come up to your chest will help protect you from any cold water getting into your socks and clothing while in the kayak. Wearing thick socks and thermal undergarments will also keep you well insulated when in the kayak. Kayaks do not have insulation like a boat, so you are going to feel the cold from the air and water at some point, so you will want to bundle clothing that breaths, but will keep in the heat. Gloves will help you paddle out to your destination, but you will want to switch to a set of gloves that allow you to cast and reel with no restrictions, so fingerless gloves will do the trick. After every few casts, make sure you put your hands back in your regular gloves, or in your pockets to warm them up. The key to successful kayak fishing in freezing weather is warmth and dryness out on the water.
One key thing when thinking about clothing to wear is what type of mobility restrictions it will make you have when you sit down in the kayak. If you bundle up way too much with extra large jackets and snow pants, you may find that paddling your kayak is going to be really tough, and movement to turn around might be nearly impossible which is not a good thing. If you try the waterproof wader idea like they use when fly fishing and duck hunting, you will stay dry and will have room to move your feet around. Try to find a very nice insulated jacket that is not extremely puffy, and allows your movement to be free when in the kayak. A great test for this at home is to get geared up and sit in your kayak out in the yard or in your garage and make sure that you still have mobility and can paddle the kayak. Even if you are using a trolling motor, make sure you can paddle in case you run out of battery power.
Heated clothing is a really good idea if you know you are not going to get wet, so if you have heated vest, or heated socks, or whatever other heated ideas you can come up with for clothes, make sure they are all watertight and getting them wet will not damage them. Most people that make heated gloves and socks will allow for some water resistance, but not all clothing is the same, so make sure if you fall in the water, nothing is going to happen to your or your heated clothes. I like to bring the hot packs when I am fishing in the winter because I can stick my hands in my pockets and warm them up in between casts and reeling, but it does depend on what you are fishing for and how much you have to cast. I do like heated gloves and have tried the heated vest which makes it very nice in the winter, but battery life can be an issue if you run it full blast all the time.
Gloves And Reeling
Let’s face it, you just cannot cast and reel with heavy snow gloves on, so this is going to be one thing that you will need to watch out for. Your fingers can easily get frostbite, so my suggestion would be to wear nice insulated gloves while paddling out to your fishing spot, and then switching to a glove that has either very light fingers or possibly a glove that has cut fingertips so you can pinch the line on your reel for a good cast. It is important that after every few casts, you warm your fingers back up, and if you see them start to turn colors, or if they start to get numb, heat them up as quickly as possible. This is one of those situations where the heat packs in your pockets will be a lifesaver. You lose a lot of your heat to your head, feet, and hands, so it is imperative that you keep those three things as dry and warm as possible when out on the lake. Wearing a hat that covers your ears will make it so you do not do any cold damage to them and will keep you nice and warm while fishing. If you get your hands wet after landing a fish, make sure you dry them off thoroughly before sticking them back in your pocket because once you get something wet, it will never dry and will be wet all day long which will make fishing miserable.
Dealing With Ice
It is always good to remember that your kayak is made out of plastic, and while can take some damage, it is not an icebreaker. There will be times when fishing in a lake in winter that you will have to deal with ice. If the lake is covered in ice a few feet out, you need to be extremely careful trying to get out to open water. If you have to, take an axe or sledgehammer to break the first few feet of ice to get out, but make sure you do not have to slide out on the ice for 10 to 20 feet, or getting back to shore could be very dangerous, and could cause you to go into the water. Never use the tip of your kayak to break the ice because it could be thicker than you think and could poke a hole in your kayak causing water flood in and could get you wet, and possibly sink your kayak. Do not ever use someone to push you on the ice to get out to the water because they will not be there to push you back onto the ice to get back to shore and you could get stuck and have to be rescued. All of these might seem like common sense, but I have seen my buddies try to slide out on the ice into the water, and have to have a rope thrown to them to get back in, and was a nightmare. You always have to be safe in a kayak, but in the winter time, it is even more important because hypothermia can happen in just a couple of minutes.
Kayak’s Get Wet
Even if it is a “dry kayak”, there will always be water that gets in and it will usually travel to your feet. When catching and fighting a fish into your kayak, you will also take on some water, so having waterproof shoes and pants are going to save you in the long run. Always expect some water to enter your kayak while fishing, so do NOT underestimate how cold it will be on you and your feet when it happens. If the water starts to get choppy because of the wind, it could kick up waves that might splash over the seat of your kayak as well. Some people will also take their boats out when it is cold, so be careful about anyone causing a large wake and make sure it does not roll your kayak over causing you to go for a swim. I usually stay pretty close to shore in the winter and only go out to deeper water when I get to the place I would like to fish for the day.
Clothing Color Is Key
It is true that white normally reflects heat, and black absorbs it, so clothing color will be key when fishing in the winter. If it is sunny and still extremely cold, try wearing black articles of clothing, and a black hat to save as much warmth and get as much heat as you can from the sun, even in freezing temperatures. Even if it is still overcast outside, stick with dark, light absorbing clothing and you should be okay on the water.
Do Kayaks Tip Over Easily?
Do kayaks tip over easily? It depends on the type of kayak you buy, but some kayaks can be tipped over easier than others. If you buy a traditional “V” shaped kayak, you will not be able to rock side to side as much, or it will tip over much easier than a normal flat bottom kayak. When picking a kayak for fishing, try to find a flat bottom kayak to give you more stability in the water, and is also built for more movement other than paddling. “V” shaped kayaks are meant for paddling only and are not great for a lot of movement like casting and landing fish. If you are new to kayaking in general, get a beginner kayak, and take it out on the water a few times before going fishing in it, especially in the winter time because you will most likely tip it over a couple times before getting the hang of how to steer and control it, even in a flat bottom one. Be safe and practice control before you practice casting from it.