Kayak fishing is a fantastic way to unplug, tune in with nature, and have some time to yourself to unwind. You can even enjoy the benefits of kayak fishing in the winter with a few small adjustments to your normal, warm weather preparations. Setting out on your favorite route may look a little different in the colder months, but don’t worry! If you keep the following winter kayaking tips in mind, you’ll be ready to hit the water.
Gear Up to Stay Warm From The Inside, Out
Gearing up for a kayak fishing trip in the summer differs quite a bit from winter prep, starting with the clothes you wear. Instead of only having quick-wicking fabrics that are good for summer kayaking, you’ll need to keep your body warm, as well as dry.
This means having base wicking layers, and outer layers that will keep you warm, dry, and protected from winds and water splashes.
In addition to your fishing and paddling gear, you’ll need gloves, a hat, waterproof and layer-able clothing designed to keep you warm — like fleece — a dry bag for your supplies, and even a wetsuit if it’s cold enough. Also, make sure you’ve packed enough supplies to start a fire, if needed. Whether you plan to stop and camp or make it a day trip, having a source of heat available will be important, should you need to respond to an emergency situation.
Bringing hand warmers is often a great idea to help warm up your hands when the inevitably get cold.
Winter Kayak Fishing Gear & Clothing List
On Your Body:
- A Warm Hat
- Waterproof Gloves
- Wicking Base-layers
- Water and windproof outer layer
- Warm & Waterproof pants
- Warm socks
- Neck Gaiter / Buff
- (Optional: Wet Suit)
In Your Pack:
- Dry Sack with extra clothing, water, and food
- Fire supplies
- Emergency bivy / shelter
Remember The 120° Rule
While you’re free to choose when you kayak or what you kayak, there are a few tips that will help you determine if your trip is safe, like the 120 degree rule. If the sum of the water and air temperature is not at least 120 degrees, consider wearing a wetsuit or dry suit to lower your risk of hypothermia or frostbite when you get in the water.
Practice A Seamless Launch And Dock
In order to stay dry and warm, you should minimize your contact with the water, which happens mostly when you’re launching your kayak or docking. If you plan to do some kayaking in the winter months, research and practice launching and docking throughout the year so you’re prepared for a seamless journey with minimal water contact.
Avoiding the initial soak will make your trip a lot more enjoyable and safe.
Plan Your Route Beforehand
When you’re dealing with cold water and ice, you don’t have much room for error in your route. Make sure you choose a route you’re familiar with so you can anticipate any obstacles, rapids or changes in direction. Keep an eye on the forecast, and take advantage of tools that help you geographically set out your path as well. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), for instance, offers online resources that allow you to track wind speed, satellite imagery and other helpful factors for your kayaking trip.
Take Your Time
While it’s tempting to keep your body warm by moving faster and keeping your blood flowing, it may not be the best course of action when kayak fishing in the winter. Take your time so you don’t rush through your techniques, you don’t accidentally scare the fish, and also so you don’t work up too much of a sweat. Enjoy the journey and slow down to make sure you don’t muscle your way through your kayak fishing trip and even come back with a catch or two.
Don’t Go Alone
Finally, don’t venture out alone when you’re paddling in the colder months. The potential consequences of winter conditions are much more dangerous than those of the summer, and it’s important to have at least one other person who knows where you are and can help you handle any challenges that come your way.
If you must go alone, make sure that you give someone your itinerary, and stay extra cautious. Getting submerged in freezing temperatures without a wet suit can mean your life.
Don’t let the colder weather keep you from enjoying the benefits of kayak fishing. To learn more about paddling or fishing in the winter, or to find the best locations for your next journey, contact your local supply shop or join a kayak fishing group near you.
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about