How do you fit into this picture?
You’d probably want to ask yourself a number of basic questions, which are:
-Who am I, and what experience am I looking to have?
-Where am I going to fish, and what am I going to fish?
-What else would I like to do with my kayak besides fishing.
Who am I and what experience am I looking to have?
It seems fairly obvious, but most importantly it comes down to you wanting to enjoy a lasting, fun personal experience, and not about trying to conform to an unrealistic image perpetuated by kayak vendors:
Intrinsic physical factors like your weight, height and age are significant as well as physical condition, level of experience in paddling and experience in fishing from small watercraft. Needless to say, that the same boat can confer a totally different experience to different paddlers or fishermen. Remember – most adults suffer from some issue with their back, and these same factors (size and age) work against people who have to spend long hours in fishing kayaks.
First of all, a few words about your personal safety:
The height and weight factors are often discussed but age and physical condition not so- You need to be aware of the fact that in case of very small watercrafts ‘expecting the unexpected’ means that sooner or later you may have to face some hazardous situations on the water.
Naturally, the best strategy in planning for such cases is prevention and not reaction, which means you should first think in terms of minimizing the probability of accidents happening.
Reaction is your second line of defense – the one you don’t want to have to reach. Reaction is a strategy designed to reduce the potential damage in case an accident already happened.
This is where it is useful to understand the term Redundancy in planning:
Redundancy is all but unnecessary – On the contrary, it is a critical factor that must be integrated in any planning for unexpected problems, which eventually never fail to materialize.
Two examples may clarify this:
Redundancy in prevention: The best example for applying redundancy as part of the first strategy is your fishing kayak’s stability: You may be a seasoned kayaker and used to paddling fast (i.e. narrow and unstable) kayaks, and you may even be able to use such kayaks for fishing. However, you are likely to find that the unfortunate yet perfectly expected combination of a moment of inattention when you are casting or landing a fish (and therefore not holding your paddle) with either a wake coming from a bigger boat passing nearby or a sudden lateral gust of wind or wave can easily lead you to lose balance and capsize. Such event can be perfectly harmless, but in case you’re not in good physical condition it might be dangerous, especially in cold waters and/or weather that can lead to hypothermia and even cardiac arrest. Other factors such as underwater rocks that might injure you as well as marine predators, jellyfish etc. need not be taken lightly. Planning for redundant stability is your best policy against having to need to use emergency tactics and second lines of defense (i.e. reaction strategies) that may or may not work. Interestingly, what is the prevalent approach in evaluating the seaworthiness of watercraft of all sizes and types is contested by some in the kayaking world, whose reasoning is that you should rely on the extreme and in most cases inapplicable recovery (i.e. post accident) technique known as the Eskimo Roll…
Redundancy in reaction: The obvious example for applying redundancy in your second line of defense is wearing a Personal Floatation Device (PFD): It doesn’t contribute a thing to your paddling performance or experience, but in case you fall overboard and need to get back into the boat or stay in the water for a long time this seemingly redundant object becomes highly necessary, and sometime even vital.
See and be seen:
A kayak is not just a very small boat for others to see, it is also very low above the water and therefor even more difficult for others to perceive. Your kayak can easily disappear behind the waves, especially if light conditions are not optimal. As for radar, you shouldn’t count on those devices to detect you since they can’t always do it.
Furthermore, sitting so low limits your own field of view and puts you in double jeopardy…
In view of this you should consider fishing from a boat that’s either yellow, orange or bright red – the three most visible colors on the water.
You may also consider the advantages of fishing standing or sitting in a higher type of kayak.
Sea kayakers have developed a strict and elaborate sea paddling code of conduct, and one of the essential things you learn as a sea kayaker is never to paddle alone. In fact, even paddling in pairs is not considered very safe, and sea kayakers prefer to paddle in packs. While fishing in groups may not seem like an appealing idea to you, it’s important to remember that the ocean is too unpredictable and powerful for tiny, under powered vessels such as kayaks, and in this aspect planning for enough redundancy is essential for safety: Sooner or later fishing by yourself in the ocean is likely to get you in some trouble that otherwise you would have had a much better chance to get out of.