Fishing from a kayak is one of the best ways to experience a great hobby like fishing. Every
angler will give you a different reason why they love it. Examples...it's cheaper than a bass boat. Kayaks allow me to get into skinnier water. The fight is a lot more dynamic from my kayak. It is a great activity for the whole family. The reasons go on and on. But while the reasons to participate are good, we also need to realize that we are partaking in an inherently dangerous activity. Man was not made to be on or in the water. We are equipped with long toes better for walking instead of the webbed feet needed for an aquatic environment. We are O2 breathers, not evolved with gills like Kevin Costner in Water World. And we do not instinctively swim like most dogs. We must be educated by others on how to propel ourselves on top of the water.
So as educated of a species as we are, why is it we so often see kayak anglers making very uneducated decisions, like not wearing the appropriate gear, participating in unsafe activities and not educating themselves on how to participate in the most effective and safe way? Lets look further into some of these uneducated decisions. First, not wearing a properly fitted pfd, or one that doesn't fit, shows compete disregard for the inherently dangerous nature of this sport. PFD's are proven to save lives. According to the US Coat Guard Annual Boating Report, in 2013, the number of deaths that occurred do to drowning because of a improperly worn pfd, or no pfd, was 98. Of the
249 deaths, that makes over 1/3 of the deaths possibly preventable. Could a pfd guarantee these deaths would not have occurred? Who knows, but my guess would be at least one of them may have, and one life seems like enough to save. Other appropriate gear required would be water submersible clothing, especially in cold water situations. Hypothermia sets in very rapidly, and any time the air and water temperature combined equal 110 degrees or less, you are in a hyporthermic environment.
Another common unsafe practice amongst anglers is alcohol use and abuse. In most states, it is against the law to drink on any public right of way, waterways included. Not only is it illegal, but limiting your ability to make good decisions on the water greatly increases the chance of an accident. Paddling in unsafe conditions is another major contributing factor to paddlesports deaths and accidents. What is an unsafe condition? Low light, waterways that are unknown to a paddler that may contain technical water, paddling during or shortly after strong storms, etc. One of the most dangerous conditions is during periods of high water and flooding. Many new paddlers can not honestly evaluate their level of skill, and high water conditions result in more strainers and obstacles, recirculating holes and hydraulics, lack of vision and potentially long swims.
Lastly, when learning to drive a car, our parents did not let us climb behind the wheel and take off down the road. We enrolled in driver school, went out in the farm field where wide
pastures allow for wide errors and spent numerous hours with our fathers drilling us on the appropriate ways to use a clutch. Same way with shooting a gun. We educate ourselves on everything safety oriented and we normally crawl before we walk. So why is it okay as a new boater to load up the new kayak, drop it into a river we have never been on, paddle by ourselves without advising someone on where we are going, leave our cell phone in our pocket and the keys in our vehicle, don't look at the weather forecast... see where I am going. As an outfitter, we see all these things almost every day. We see them from our rental customers, but also our new kayak owners. Kayak anglers behave this way because most don't think of kayaking as the activity, they instead view the kayak as the tool they can use to fish. We feel that the numerous kayaking shops and schools around the country are great resources for learning how to participate safely and more effectively, and encourage all kayak anglers to use these resources for their betterment. In short, take a class! Being effective at an activity is proven to create more enjoyment from said activity. Another resource would be YouTube channels, blogs and social media sites that are managed by paddling professionals. Just a few of these professional would be local paddlesports shops, the American Canoe Association, YakAngler.com, RiverBassin.com, and Rapid Media, owners of Canoe and Kayak Magazine and Kayak Angler Magazine.
As kayak anglers who are serious and devoted to this activity (this is more than likely you if
you are still reading this!), we must strive to better ourselves in the activity. We must all also realize that we are automatically ambassadors for an activity that continues to grow around the globe. Every person that views you in your kayak is viewing you as a representative of our activity; our passion. We want to represent well. Reason being, we want our sport to continue to grow, and so others getting involved will not be the person we are wasting time saving on the river, instead of fishing. And finally, so that new kayak anglers can succeed and assist our sport in growing as well.