Winter Kayak Fishing: Be Safe in Cold Weather [Video]

cold weather kayak fishing

(photo courtesy of @ovkbf)

As the weather cools down going into fall and then winter, the water temperatures drop, too. There are important safety considerations when you kayak fish in the winter.

If you’re in a northern climate like we are in Wisconsin, you likely switch to ice fishing in the winter. But anglers who continue to kayak fish on open water in more temperate climates need to be careful as the water and air temps get dangerously cold.

ProStaffer Gene Jensen has some tips for winter kayak fishing in this video:

The Rule of 120

Gene’s Rule of 120 is this: If the combination of the air and water temperature is 120 or less, “you need to take precautions so you don’t die.”

It sounds dramatic, but kayak anglers die of exposure every year when fishing in cold weather. It’s important to take precautions to stay dry and warm when in your kayak, and especially to be prepared for an emergency.

Have a Survival Kit in Your Kayak

Gene keeps his survival kit in a dry bag in his kayak. It includes a change of warm, dry clothes, a towel and a beanie for his head. He also includes an emergency mylar blanket, a lighter and some kind of fire starter.

cold weather dry bag kit for kayak fishing

There may be a time when you fall out of your kayak in cold weather and have to get to shore quickly without your dry bag. Gene also keeps a few survival items right in the pockets of his PFD (which he never takes off when fishing, of course):

  • A second mylar blanket
  • A second fire starter kit
  • Signal whistle

How to Keep Warm on the Water

When you’re fishing in cold weather, it’s important to wear the proper clothing. Of course what’s appropriate depends on your climate, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Thermal bottoms and tops (long underwear) to layer underneath.
    Wool socks
  • Gene likes NRS’s Boundary Boots that are both warm and waterproof.
  • The best outwear is waterproof and windproof, like Gene’s NRS Sidewinder Dry Bibs and Riptide Splash Jacket. These dry wear items aren’t cheap, but they could save your life. If you’re going to kayak fish in cold weather and on cold water, it’s worth the investment.

clothes for cold weather kayak fishing

Chest waders and hunters’ bibs are NOT a good idea because they won’t keep you dry if you fall in the water. In fact, waders will fill up with water, and bibs will stay soaking wet for a long time. Both will make it difficult to swim to shore or climb back on your kayak.

Keep Your Core and Hands Warm

Gene learned this trick to keep your core warm: A back wrap (like this one) that uses hand and body warmers strapped around his middle under his clothing keeps him warm all day in cold weather.

Neoprene gloves with HotHands hand warmers will keep your hands warm and dry.

Practice Climbing Into Your Kayak in Warm Weather

In the event of a capsize, you want to be able to climb back on your kayak as quickly as you can. So practice this safety skill in warm weather. Even experienced anglers fall in the water once in awhile (just ask Gene!).

If the water near you doesn’t freeze over during the winter and you’re able to fish all winter long, be sure to follow these safety tips for cold weather angling. We want you around for years to come.

What questions can we answer about choosing a kayak fishing paddle? Contact our Wisconsin-based Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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