Fishing exposes anglers to the worst Mother Nature has to offer. And as in most outdoor activities, the right clothing is essential to protect yourself from the elements.
From sun to rain, heat to bitter cold, clothing selection is critical.
But if you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got you covered. We’ll discuss what kinds of protection you need across the seasons and put you on the right track, but we won’t be focusing on ice fishing. Instead, we’ll be talking about open water angling across four seasons.
Keep reading to find out what to wear fishing!
Table of Contents (clickable)
- 1 What to Wear Fishing In The Summer
- 2 What to Wear Fishing In The Spring And Fall
- 4 What to Wear Fishing In The Winter
- 5 Final Thoughts
- Best Fishing Rain Gear
- Best Fishing Shirts
- Best Fishing Bibs
- Best Fishing Shoes
- Best Fishing Boots
- Best Fishing Hat
- Best Fishing Sunglasses
What to Wear Fishing In The Summer
In most climates, the biggest threat summer brings is the sun, and as many anglers are discovering later in life, the danger is very, very real.
Full coverage is the smart choice in summer.
Too many of us ignore the danger of excessive sun exposure, and that typically catches up with us later in life, after years on the water.
Ask professional bass fisherman Mark Davis all about it. “The sun damage it’s accumulative, adds up on you, once I knew I had a problem, it was too late.”
That’s a squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer) on Mark’s lip.
His advice: “I want people out there, especially the guys to don’t be dumb, protect yourself, every part that is exposed including your lips.”
The best protection against the sun - and skin cancer - is clothing. It’s far more effective than sunscreen, and the need for near-total coverage is quickly being realized by fishermen who spend so much time in harm’s way.
Hat and Neck Protection
A good, wide-brimmed hat is essential, and some of our favorites include Outdoor Research’s Sombriolet and KastKing’s Sol Armis UPF 50 Boonie Hat.
What we like about these hats is their full coverage and cool, breathable fabrics. They’ll protect you from dangerous UVA and UVB and keep you cool while doing it.
They also sport straps to help you keep the hat on while you’re running to your next hot spot or when the wind is gusting.
But a hat is only the first order of business.
A neck gaiter, providing face coverage to deny the sun a chance to burn your nose, lips, cheeks, and neck, is proving no less necessary than a hat. We really like KastKing’s Sol Armis Neck Gaiter.
Full coverage protection like this is an increasingly common sight on the water - and for good reason.
It can be worn in various ways, and offers UPF 50+ protection. It’s reasonably cool, too, and won’t ever fog your sunglasses.
Don’t forget sunglasses either, as you’re eyes are just as susceptible to UV damage as your face. KastKing’s Skidaways are inexpensive, polarized to reduce glare to a minimum, and rugged enough to take some abuse.
A sun-proof long-sleeve shirt is the next order of business, as your arms demand serious protection, too.
For a more traditional look, Columbia’s PFG Bahama II is what our team typically wears, and I can tell you from experience that it provides the protection you need while remaining comfortable in the heat.
HUK’s Pursuit Camo vented long-sleeve shirt is also a great choice, as it’s made to shrug off the heat and keep you well-protected.
Moving lower on your body, skip the shorts and go with pants like Columbia’s PFG Blood and Guts III. Constructed of lightweight but strong nylon that’s been treated with a stain-resistant chemical, these pants are as easy to wear as they are to clean.
Your regular sneakers are probably fine in the summer, as long as you don’t mind them getting a bit nasty from fish slime, scales, and blood.
But rain gear is always nice to have around, and it beats the heck out of wearing a big, black garbage bag instead (don’t ask!).
For hot weather, rain suits are just going to cook you like a steamed clam, so I prefer a poncho for more airflow.
My favorite is Foxelli’s hooded poncho. It’s priced right, waterproof, and will keep you dry in a mid-summer squall.
What to Wear Fishing In The Spring And Fall
As the days begin to shorten and the leaves trade green for red, yellow, and orange, you’re going to be looking for more warmth from your fishing clothing.
The mirror image of this is spring, when winter surrenders its icy grip, and the days start to warm toward cool rather than cold.
A quality waterproof jacket is a must, as are layers for when it gets cold.
Depending on your climate, these seasons may mean nothing more than a wind-breaking layer. That's often the case in the Florida Keys, coastal regions on the Gulf of Mexico, and in southern California.
But in colder locales, you may need to step up your insulation game to avoid the dangers of hyperthermia.
Neck gaiters are still a great idea, as you still need the protection from the sun and will appreciate some of the wind-bucking features they provide. Ditto for sunglasses: they’re still essential equipment year-round on the water.
But you may need to change your hat choice if you’re facing chilly mornings and cool days.
A fleece cap, in combination with a neck gaiter, will provide plenty of sun protection and keep your head warm as the mercury starts to drop. You don’t need to spend a lot to get a good hat, and if you already have one, great!
If not, take a close look at this one, which is inexpensive, snug-fitting, and warm.
Jackets & Bibs
If the weather’s too cold for just a long sleeve shirt, something like Bass Pro Shops’ 100 MPH Gore-Tex Rain Jacket is both warm and waterproof, insulated with incredible tech from Gore-Tex.
Not only will it keep you warm and dry, but its insulating materials are also so breathable that you can do jumping jacks in your boat and never get clammy! And with 28,000 mm of waterproof protection, unless you fall overboard, you’re staying dry.
For nastier weather, where the danger of hypothermia is just waiting for you to get wet, clothing like Hodgman H5 Storm Bib and Storm Shell Jacket are essentials.
Hodgman’s outerwear is perfect for three seasons in most climates.
Sold separately, these high-tech garments are built almost indestructibly tough, using 500 Denier Cordura nylon in areas that’ll see wear and abuse. Hodgman uses a 3-layer construction with its proprietary ePTFE - V-TecH - as the waterproof layer. Rated to 20,000 mm, it’ll take rain, snow, sleet, and hail in stride.
You’ll want to layer under these garments, using base layers like polypropylene and other synthetics to keep you warm, and with proper attention to mid layers, these can take you through three seasons on the open water. We’ll cover awesome base- and mid-layers below, when we get to winter wear.
Boots & Shoes
Of course, you’ll want warm, dry footwear to match, and for everyone but deckhands, something like HUK’s Rubber Waterproof Rogue Wave Mid Boots are ideal.
Warm, dry, and comfortable, these mid-boots come with a neoprene and rubber upper coated in a proprietary DWR--essentially a water repellant film. That makes them easy to clean up at the end of the day, too.
What to Wear Fishing In The Winter
Winter doesn’t always mean ice fishing, and for inshore and offshore anglers in cold climates, hard water is far from the norm. And despite what you might think, the best choice for icy weather and open water isn’t an ice fishing bib and coat.
Grundens is THE name in wet-weather gear among deckhands.
They’re too bulky for the action you’ll see in a boat, and the best place to start thinking about cold, wet weather is by considering what professional deckhands in Maine or Alaska wear when they’re out on the water in winter.
Let’s start at the inner layers and work out.
Cold-weather protection depends upon multiple insulating layers as well as proper materials to prevent dangerous humidity - sweat - from building up and cooling you down.
And there’s no name more respected than Grundens among professional fishermen and those who work at sea.
You’ll see plenty of Grundens’s orange on the water when conditions are at their worst.
Don’t play games with your life: start with Grundens’ base layer fishing pants and shirt.
Appropriate base layers are critical for proper warmth.
These base layers are made from a combination of synthetics and wool, and they’ll stay warm even if they get wet. That’s essential when the weather is trying to kill you.
Jackets & Bibs
Layer up with Grunden’s Bering Sea Commercial Fishing Fleece Pullover. It’s warm, it’ll help you wick moisture, and it’s as tough as a gnarly fisherman.
Add to that their Thermal Bottom, and you’re ready for boots, gloves, bibs, a jacket, and a hat.
Over your mid- and base layer, you’ll need tough, reliable wet-weather protection, and I trust the Grunden to deliver with its Full Share Bibs and Jacket.
Superior wet-weather gear is a life saver.
This is the gear that crab- and lobstermen reach for, and anywhere you find cold, wet weather you’ll find Grundens’ Full Share outerwear. Made from 500-denier nylon with a 2.5 layer waterproof/breathable laminate and an exterior DWR coating, these garments don’t know the word “quit.”
Boots & Socks
Xtratuf has recently started spoiling a hard-won reputation for quality.
Xtratuf 15s used to be the best boots money could buy, but recently, pros and sportsmen alike have begun complaining about their quality. From cracking rubber to poor longevity, we’re not impressed with what we’ve heard.
Instead, we recommend Grundens’ Deck-Boss 15s. They’ll keep your feet warm and dry and provide outstanding non-slip soles. Of course warm, wool socks are essential, so don’t forget them.
Grundens’ Deck-Boss boots will keep you on your feet, even on a wet, bloody deck.
If you don’t already own a watch cap or beanie, you’ll want one, and you might as well stock up on Grundens’ excellent gear. Their Dark Seas X watch cap comes in a high-visibility orange, and it’ll keep your head and ears warm.
Finally, to protect your hands, you need lightweight, flexible, warm gloves that allow you to operate your reel without feeling clumsy.
Among my favorites are KastKing’s Mountain Mist Fishing Gloves. No, these aren’t the gloves deckhands use, but then they aren’t trying to cast a conventional reel or turn a drag knob. You need greater dexterity for these tasks than a heavy-duty work glove can provide.
These neoprene gloves allow you to slip the tips back from your first two fingers and thumb, and they’ll keep your hands warm in nasty weather.
Now, keep in mind that neoprene isn’t waterproof - or even water-resistant. It’s the material that wetsuits are made from. It’s highly insulating, however, and will keep your hands warm even when wet.
If you’re looking for dry warmth, KastKing’s IceRiver Fishing Gloves are excellent but may be a bit too thick to allow you to easily operate a rod.
Fishing presents some clothing challenges.
In the summer, you need sun protection that won’t roast you alive, and when the weather turns cold, you need layers that protect you from sweat, freezing temperatures, spray, and rain.
That can seem like a tall order, but the products we've recommended will keep you safe if you do your part.
As always, if you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear them. Please leave a message below.