Offshore Kayak Fishing Safety | Blog
Offshore kayak fishing is becoming an increasingly popular activity among fisherman and kayakers, with more and more tournaments and expos dedicated solely to this specific sport. If you've never fished out of your kayak offshore, it can be a rewarding experience and provide you with a full day of excitement. What better way to enjoy a day at the beach than to view the beach from the solitude of your kayak in the luminescent water? However, as much fun as offshore kayak fishing is, there have to be precautions taken with regards to safety. In this article, I am going to discuss an incident my dad had off the gulf coast of Destin, FL recently when we sponsored an offshore kayak fishing tournament, and I will also be reviewing how it could have been prevented or resolved had he brought the necessary equipment with him and taken the proper precautions.
Hoodoo Sports was an official sponsor of an offshore kayak fishing tournament in Destin, FL recently, and my dad, as the owner of Hoodoo Sports, wanted to also participate in the tournament as a kayak fisherman. He had a PFD, a kayak built for stability, a whistle, snacks, and drinking water with him, but offshore fishing is a different animal than what we're used to in the bays of Galveston, TX, and what he had didn't end up being enough.
It was a windy day at the beach in Destin, FL this particular weekend, and the conditions were certainly not ideal for fishing. There was a strong wind from the East that created 4ft. swells and harsh breakers. The tournament was still set to happen that day, so dad, and the other tournament participants still launched from the beach. He described the water as being rough, but not unmanageable in his 13.5 ft. kayak. For the better part of the morning everything was seemingly fine. He nearly even caught his first King Mackerel. However, toward mid-morning things took a turn for the worst. A sudden swell came over the bow, flipping his kayak over and throwing him from the vessel. He was luckily able to to flip his kayak back over to attempt a deep-water reentry, but upon reentering the vessel, he dislodged the pedal drive system and it fell to the depths of the ocean. If that weren't bad enough, the paddle also disconnected from the boat and began to float away.
Here my dad was aboard his kayak once again but stuck offshore in the ocean with no paddle or pedal drive to get him back to shore. Not knowing exactly what he should do, he reentered the water and proceeded to swim after his paddle. Fortunately, he retrieved the paddle, but unfortunately, his kayak was being carried farther and farther away from him by the current and strong winds. He tried as he could to swim after the kayak but was completely unsuccessful in catching up to it. He watched in terror as his kayak was being swept away from him, leaving him stuck in the cold ocean water with no one around to assist him.
He floated in the water about a mile and a half offshore for an hour before the tournament safety boat was able to locate him and bring him safely back to the beach. He was incredibly lucky. He even got his kayak back later that day! Though, his fishing gear and wallet were lost, but fortunately not his life.
Gear That Was Needed
After the potentially fatal incident that my dad endured, he and I both were able to educate ourselves and learn more about the safety protocols and equipment needed to successfully fish offshore in a kayak.
Highly Visible Clothing and Equipment
This might be a no-brainer for some, but others it might be an afterthought. When kayaking offshore, you should always wear clothing and be in a kayak that has a sharp contrast to the background. Part of the reason that the tournament safety boat took so long to find him was that his clothing and PFD blended in to the backdrop of the water surrounding him. Go for lime-green or blaze-orange when choosing an offshore fishing kayak, clothing, and PFD.
Waterproof VHF Radio
My dad had only his cell phone with him which he was struggling to make use of while floating in the middle of the ocean. It is recommended to have a waterproof radio on your person when kayaking offshore, in case you need to reach the beach's safety patrol or even the Coast Guard.
Something you should also consider having whenever planning an offshore kayak fishing trip is a tethering leash for your equipment, such as a kayak paddle leash, fishing rod leash, or even a leash attaching your kayak to your ankle. This is a great way to ensure you do not get separated from your valuable equipment, or more importantly, your vessel.
What Was Learned
Discussing the incident afterwards with all the other kayak fisherman who were more experienced, my dad definitely walked away with more knowledge than he had beforehand. The host of the tournament pointed out that you should under no circumstances leave your vessel. My dad made a critical error by abandoning his kayak and going after his paddle. As difficult as it is to think rationally when you are in a terrifying situation like this, you have to be able to keep your composure and remember your basic competencies for offshore fishing.
Offshore kayak fishing can be both an exciting and relaxing pastime, but it can be dangerous if you are uneducated and unprepared. Always make sure to stay within your own limits, and always take the proper equipment along with you to prepare for unexpected situations. Kayak fisherman are friendly and welcoming people, so if you are unsure about something, don't hesitate to reach out to your peers for help!
Article written by: Jared Harshbarger, Vice President of Hoodoo Sports and founder of the outdoor blog site Jared Kent Outdoors.