By Peter Hink
If you are into kayak fishing, here is your list of five must haves when fishing.
Over the last decade kayak fishing has boomed in Florida as anglers learn that they don’t need a big boat, tons of rods, reels and tackle to go out and have an enjoyable day on the water. A kayak set up for fishing seemed to end the money hole that most power boats seemed to become. Once you have it set up for your style of fishing you are for the most part done putting money into it. For most it was a simple and easy way to enjoy the sport of fishing. For others it became almost a challenge to see how much stuff you could put on a kayak. Fishfinders, GPS, live bait wells, leaning post, power poll and trolling motors to name a few. So what should you carry on your kayak for a day on the water. I always like to go as light as I can and only bring something like a fishfinder with GPS when I have a real need to. Whether you like to go light or load it up to the max there are 5 things that you should always bring with you.
1. P.F.D. P.F.D. or Personal Floatation Devices are mandatory for any paddle craft. a simple orange live vest under a bungee cord will make you legal on the water but will not make our list of must haves. A must have P.F.D. is one that you are going to wear any time you are on the water. Many P.F.D. companies make vest for the kayak fisherman with pockets and lash tabs to hold everything from pliers to VHF radios. The comfort level of the new fishing vest are a huge improvement over the older vest. Now if you still find these vest to hot and uncomfortable, try a inflatable P.F.D. These vest are much lighter and a great choice when the heat index is pushing 100. When picking a inflatable P.F.D. look for a manual inflatable vest. An automatic inflating vest may go off if you get it wet . Inflatable life belts are a good choice for paddle board fisherman. Whether you pick a fishing paddle vest, inflatable vest or inflatable life belt, pick one that you are going to wear. By the way, all inflatable vest and belts must be worn. You can’t store them on you kayak.
2. Sun Protection. Use a sun screen lotion with at S.P.F. of 30+ is a good start. Sun protection is more than using a sun screen lotion. You can now wear long sleeve shirts and long pants with a S.P.F. rating of 30+ that are made of quick drying fabrics that not only protect you from the sun but will help keep you cool in the hot Florida sun. A wide brim hat with a S.P.F. rating of 30+ is the best choice in hats. If you don’t like hats or prefer a visor of baseball cap, you can add a buff type head wear to help protect you head and neck. Again look for a S.P.F. of 30+. Last have a good pair of polarized sunglasses. Not only can they help you see in the water, they will protect your eyes from sun rays. Remember, not only are you getting the sun’s rays from above, they are also reflecting off the water and in a kayak there is nowhere to hide so protect yourself.
3. Communication. One of the best parts of kayak fishing is the feeling of being away from everything, but there are times when you may need to communicate with others. A cell phone is the best form of communication, have one that is waterproof or in a waterproof case. Make sure your batteries are charged before every trip. Some kayak fishing spots will not have coverage and can drain your phone battery as it tries to find a signal. It may be better to turn off your phone when you are out of range and turn it back on when you have coverage. VHF radios have their spot in kayak fishing and are a great way to keep in contact with others that you are fishing with. Hand held VHFs will have a shorter range than a cell phone, a good rule is if you can see them you should be able to talk to them. Around mangroves and trees the range can be greatly reduced. Make sure you get one with a good waterproof rating and has weather alert. Next on the list would be a PLB, Personal Location Beacon or Spot. These location devices are a good choice for those that make offshore or long trips into places like the Everglades and Chokoloskee. With a push of a button you can alert the Coast Guard of your location. One of the best ways to communicate is to write a float plan of where you will be fishing and when you should be back and leave it with a loved one.
4. First Aid Kit. Too many kayak anglers go out without one. You can buy a kit or make your own. Make sure it is in a watertight case and check it out before each trip to make sure no water has gotten into it. Add a bottle of hand sanitizer and use it any time you get a cut in the water. Use it even if you get a scratch in clean water. There are living things even in clean water that you don’t want living in you. The faster you can apply first aid the better your chances of a safe and fast recovery.
5. Signaling kit. Even though it is not mandatory, it is on our must have list. If you fish inshore or offshore there may be a time when you will need help. Even if you are able to call for help on a cell phone or VHF radio it can be hard for help to find you. The Coast Guard can have trouble finding a fishing boat, let alone a small kayak. Kayaks can be very hard to find even when there is good weather. Orion makes a Kayak/Paddle Sport Aerial Signal Kit, that includes two skyblazer II self-contained red meteor aerial signals, a signal mirror and whistle, or you can carry a couple of handheld red locator flares. Chances are you will never need them but that one time you do could save your life.