Should I Kayak Fish Alone?

Kayak Fishing Guide - Informative tips, articles and product reviews for the kayak angler.

If you enjoy kayaking and fishing, you might be thinking about going out fishing in a kayak alone. But if you bring this idea up to other people, they may rightfully express their concerns about you going out alone in a kayak. 

Kayak fishing is safe to do alone, but it requires experience and precautions to ensure safety, such as proper lighting, and equipment. People who kayak fish alone should also let others know when they’re expected to return and where they plan to fish in case something happens.

Kayak fishing alone can be dangerous, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep reading to learn more about how you can stay safe while you’re kayak fishing alone. 

Should You Kayak Fish Alone?

Kayak fishing can be exciting and fun to do alone, but it can also be dangerous. Kayaking is known as the most dangerous paddle sport in the United States. In 2017, of the 149 documented deaths associated with watersports, kayaking was associated with the largest number of fatalities. This statistic also included accidents that occurred while canoeing and paddle-boarding.

These statistics may sound frightening, but thousands of people still safely kayak and fish alone every year. When thinking about the risks associated with kayaking alone, you have to look at the difference between perceived risk versus actual risk. Most people would go out kayaking or canoeing alone without a second thought. However, kayaking while fishing alone can be a dangerous situation if you lose balance and fall out of the kayak.

Dangers Associated with Kayak Fishing 

Kayaking proposes many dangers even when you don’t add in the element of fishing. Some of these risks include the following:

  • Exposure (hypothermia/hyperthermia)
  • Sweepers
  • Strainers
  • Weir Hydraulics
  • Undercuts
  • Tides and strong currents
  • Lightning and weather
  • Other boats and ships

The elements can be dangerous to a kayaker if they get caught in inclement weather or don’t bring enough water or other supplies to keep themselves properly nourished. By far, the largest threat to people in kayaks, whether they’re fishing or not, is a collision with other motorized boats, which move at a much higher speed and may not be able to see the kayaker before it’s too late to avoid them. 

Fishing in a kayak brings its own set of risks on top of the ones already listed above. Because most kayak fishing is done at dusk and dawn, when fish are most likely to be active, this means that kayak fishing is usually done in low light conditions. 

Not only is this more dangerous if a kayaker is swept overboard and becomes separated from their kayak in the dark, but it also increases the risk of being struck by another boat. In marine environments, low light conditions are also the conditions when large predators such as sharks are most likely to hunt. While shark attacks on kayakers and other swimmers are relatively rare, they are not unheard of. 

Thankfully, many of the dangers of kayak fishing alone can be mitigated with just a little preparation and risk management. 

How to Stay Safe While Kayak Fishing Alone

Kayak fishing alone can be risky, but there is equipment you can bring to make it less dangerous, and routines you can practice to reduce the risks involved. Here are some of the things you need to bring with you to stay safe while kayak fishing alone: 

  • Personal flotation device (PFD): One type of PFD that most swimmers and boaters are familiar with is a life jacket. When kayaking alone, you must wear a life jacket in case the worst should happen, and your kayak capsizes (or you become separated from it). A PFD will keep you from drowning even if you become too tired to tread water and can make you more visible in the water. PFDs are rated by their functionality. 

You can find my Top Three PFD picks on my gear page!

Here are some of the types of PFDs available for kayaking: 

Type of PFDPurpose 
Type 1Suitable for rough water or stormy situationsProvides the most flotation The individual can be unconscious and remain face up and out of water.
Type 2Suitable for most water conditionsProvides good flotation in calmer watersThe individual may be required to tread rough water
Type 3Suitable for calmer waters and quick rescueWill not turn individuals upwards
Type 4Throwable devices meant for overboard situations 
Type 5Refers to most inflatable life vests, special purpose life vests and jackets, as well as white water vests.
  • High-visibility clothing, whistles, and lights: Because it is very easy for other boaters to miss a kayak in the water, especially in the kind of low light conditions many kayakers like to fish in, people who fish in kayaks alone should always make sure to bring attention to themselves in the form of bright clothes, a whistle to alert other boaters to your presence, and lights so that the kayak is visible in the water. 
  • Water, food, and sunscreen: Being out in a kayak for hours at a time while fishing can lead to exposure, so people who go fishing in kayaks need to make sure they have plenty of supplies with them, especially freshwater. It’s also a good idea to make sure to limit kayak fishing during the hottest and brightest parts of the day, as these are the times of day when heat exhaustion is more likely, and the fish aren’t biting much anyway. 
  • Cellphone in a waterproof pouch: It’s always a good idea to bring a cellphone or other communication device with you when you’re out in a kayak, whether you’re alone or not, but it’s especially important if you go out by yourself. In case of an emergency, as long as you have a cellphone backup from the Coast Guard or a local marina is only a phone call away. 

If you have the above supplies with you in addition to your fishing gear while kayaking, you’ll be much safer to do it alone.

Safety Tips for Fishing from a Kayak Alone

Fishing alone in a kayak can be fun and a tranquil activity, especially if done early in the morning or at twilight. But you should still observe some general safety tips for going out in a kayak alone to fish to avoid running into trouble. 

Here are some things you should consider doing to make your kayak fishing trip safer: 

  • Let people know where you’re going. Never head out in a canoe or boat without telling someone where you’re going and what time you’re planning to be back. If you don’t let people know when you’re supposed to return, precious hours can be wasted assuming that you’re fine if you do go missing due to a boating accident or other issue.
  • Avoid high-traffic boating channels, especially at dawn and dusk. It’s not a good idea to kayak in areas where there are a lot of motorized boats or jet skis going back and forth, but it’s an especially bad idea if you’re fishing in the dark when other boaters will find it difficult to see you. A kayak will lose to a boat in a collision every time, so it’s the responsibility of the kayaker to stay out of the way if they want to avoid risking their life. 

These tips may seem like common sense, but people ignoring them leads to unnecessary accidents and fatalities every year. So to avoid being one of them, be sure to be safe every time you paddle out. 

Be Safe When Kayak Fishing Alone

Kayak fishing alone is riskier than going with a friend, but it can also be a very rewarding activity. Taking just a few precautions and wearing a life jacket every time you go out can go a long way toward making sure that you return safely from your next kayak fishing trip.

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Have fun and stay safe out there!

Mike Rodman

Mike enjoys fishing all year round, from fly fishing small streams in Wyoming's higher mountains to kayak fishing the lower altitude lakes and reservoirs. Mike also has a passion for ice fishing. When he has spare time, he'll be found at his rod bench building custom fishing rods.

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