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Cold-Weather Kayak Fishing: Essential Gear & Tips

Written by: Pete D
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Great fishing doesn’t end with summer, but far too many kayakers store their ‘yaks once the combination of air and water temps drop below 120 degrees.

At that point, your chances of hypothermia increase dramatically if you do go into the water, and without proper clothing and preparation, you can be in real trouble!

But cold weather doesn’t need to freeze kayak fishing until next summer. With a little know-how, you can fish through the year in climates that don’t cause your local lakes, ponds, and rivers to ice over.

Do you want to know how to prepare for kayak fishing in cold weather?

Keep reading!

Related:

Cold Weather Kayak Fishing Gear

Proper clothing is essential for cold weather, and above all else, it must keep you warm and dry.

Cotton, fleece, and other fabrics that do not insulate when wet have no place on the water!

So what should you wear?

Let’s start at the top of your head.

Hat/Beanie

You lose a lot of heat through the skin on the top of your head, and your ears act like big cooling ducts. A wool beanie will insulate even when wet, and it’s something you should never be without on the water in cold weather.

Minus33 Merino Wool Ridge Cuff Wool Beanie Forest Green One Size

Amazon 

Base Layers

Moving down your body, a sensible insulating base layer is critical. Cotton long johns are a no-go: when they get wet, they’ll cool your body quickly. Instead, look for quality synthetics like Grundens’ base layer pants and shirt.

grundens base layer shirt

Available at: Grundens.com

grundens base layer pants

Available at: Grundens.com

Good synthetic/wool blend socks are just as important, and for comfort, nothing beats Time May Tell’s Merino.

Time May Tell Mens Merino Wool Hiking Cushion Socks Pack (Brown(2 pairs), US Size 9~13)

Amazon 

Mid-Layers

Mid-layers need to be chosen with just as much care, as many offerings are made from fleece and other fabrics that rob your body of heat when wet.

Among my favorite options for kayak fishing, you’ll find Grundens Thermal ¼ Zip Top paired with their Thermal Bottoms.

grundens thermalAvailable at: Grundens.com

grundens thermal pantsAvailable at: Grundens.com

Jackets & Bibs

Over the mid-layer, I like Grundens’s Full Share Bibs and Jacket.

Grundens Men’s Full Share Bib | Waterproof, Breathable, Orange/Grey, X-Small

Amazon 

Grundens Men’s Full Share Jacket | Waterproof, Breathable, Orange / Grey, Small

Amazon 

Why Grundens?

Their cold-weather clothing is the choice of the men and women who earn a living on the water, where cold, wet weather can’t get in the way. If they trust Grundens, so can you!

Another option worth considering is a kayak-ready dry suit.

Dry Suit (Optional)

Kokotat’s Meridian Drysuit will insulate you from cold water, providing a water-tight seal at your neck, ankles, waist, and wrists. Designed around the needs of whitewater kayakers, it’s going to keep an angler warm and dry, come what may.

Kokotats Meridian Drysuit

Don’t forget your hands and feet, either. 

Gloves & Boots

HUK’s Rubber Waterproof Rogue Wave Mid Boots or XTRATUF’s Performance Series 6" Men’s Full Rubber Ankle Deck Boots will keep your feet warm and dry (if you’ve chosen the right socks).

HUK Men's Rubber Waterproof Rogue Wave Mid Boots, Adult, Hannibal Bank, 10

Amazon 

Xtratuf Men's 6 Inch Ankle Deck Boot Gray/Yellow 11

Amazon 

Check out our full buying guide for the best kayak fishing shoes

G & F Products 100% Waterproof Winter Gloves work really well, especially for the price, and they’ll keep your hands warm and dry. Glacier Glove Kenai 100% Waterproof Cold Weather Gloves are also a good choice.

G & F Products 100% Waterproof Winter Gloves for outdoor cold weather Double Coated Windproof HPT Plam and Fingers Acrylic Terry inner keep hands warm at -58F Medium, winter waterproof gloves , Orange

Amazon 

Glacier Glove Kenai Waterproof Gloves - Medium

Amazon 

Whatever you do, skip the fingerless styles you find for sale to anglers!

Check out our full buying guide for the best kayak fishing gloves

Cold Weather Kayak Fishing Tips

Tip 1: PFDs and Cold-Water Shock

I know far too many kayak anglers who toss their PFD in the stern well and leave it there. I’ve been guilty of that myself.

But in cold water, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Even an Olympic-level swimmer can succumb to what’s called cold water shock

“Cold water shock occurs when a person experiences sudden, unexpected immersion into water 15° (59° F) or below. For three to five minutes after sudden immersion in cold water, a person will gasp for breath and may also experience muscle spasms and a rise in heart rate and blood pressure. The instant muscle spasms and gasp reflex can cause the victim to involuntarily ingest water and drown. A rise in heart rate and blood pressure can result in a heart attack or stroke.”

During that first minute in cold water, you may be unable to swim or tread water, and uncontrollable gasping can cause you to inhale water.

Without a PFD, you can drown in seconds. Don’t count on being able to swim to shore.

After that first minute, you’ll start to lose the use of your fingers, then your hands, then your arms and legs. After roughly 10 minutes, self-rescue will be very difficult, but most people in this situation won’t go unconscious for as long as an hour after immersion.

A PFD will save your life and buy you valuable time!

Tip 2: Buddy-Up

Cold water shock is a killer. It quickly incapacitates you, making it very difficult to self-rescue. 

kayak with a friend

Just imagine getting into trouble by yourself a few hundred yards from shore!

Having a buddy along for your cold-weather fishing trip can be a lifesaver, and it’ll make the whole experience a lot more fun.

Always fish with a buddy when the combined water and air temperatures are below 120 degrees!

Tip 3: Plan Ahead

Even with a buddy, expect the unexpected and plan ahead.

plan ahead

A thermos full of hot coffee can make a cold day more pleasant - and it can be a lifesaver if you’re wet and cold.

It’s never a bad idea to have a warm set of clothing in a dry bag stored safely in your hull. 

And a thermos full of hot coffee can really help to raise your core temperature.

But think about simple things like hand warmers, mylar emergency blankets, and a waterproof cell phone.

And above all else, when the water is cold, make sure that someone knows where you’ll be fishing and when you plan to be back!

Final Thoughts

With the right preparation and a few good choices, kayak fishing in cold weather can be just as much fun as it is in summer.

We hope these tips have helped you plan your next angling adventure, and as always, we’d love to hear from you.

Please leave a comment below!

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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