You have probably put a lot of hours of thought into what type yak you need, what type rod and reel, even what type of line to use. It’s important to devote some of that pre-fishing thinking time to the clothing, PFD, and first aid kit you want to have with you.
It’s time to consider what risks you may encounter and how you are going to deal with them if one or even two happen to you. Let’s break them down into some manageable blocks.
Water Safety must be on Point
A PFD (Personal flotation device) and clothing. With the intimacy of a kayak to the water comes the risk of ending up in the water. Think about this before you go out.
How would it feel to be in -30 or 45-degree water in sweat pants and a sweatshirt? What alternatives do you have to wear not only for flotation, but also for prevention of hypothermia? It’s a real threat for a kayaker, even if you don’t end up in the water.
Water dripping off of yaks, subtle waves here and there over the sidewall all contributes to your getting wet. How will you get dry and how will you warm up again. Should you become wet, will the clothing you’re using insulate you or pull your body heat away from you.
Plan ahead, Waterproof clothing is a must for all. This coupled with a flotation system that will support your unconscious weight should an accident occur resulting in such.
Will you be in a heads up position that gives you a fighting chance in a worst-case scenario that you are ejected from your kayak?
The minimal PFD should be a Coast Guard approved type DI. The fit has to be proper so it can’t be pulled over your head. Put on the PFD and have someone try to pull it over your head. You’d be amazed how easily some of the type III’s come off. Straps cinched tightly and size appropriate vests can help prevent this. You might consider the type II if you’re not a strong water person.
Before going out get in the water and have someone help you testing out your system. Not only for dryness but ease of re-entry back into the kayak, pretend that you’re unconscious, face down, and see what your PFD does. Type m’s have a limited ability to turn an unconscious person face up.
If you’re wearing waders, be sure to secure the chest strap to minimize the water intake if you end up in it. Full waders make surviving a dunking not impossible, but much more difficult.
Puncture Wounds makes it even worse
Puncture wounds… the dreaded hook up. Probably the second greatest risk we kayaker’s share is the potential for self, or even fish, inflicted hook-ups. What are you going to do with 10 pounds of angry blue fish attached to your dominant hand by a 3/0 treble hook? What if you try to dislodge that snagged weighted hook and it flies back at you and catches you in the head? Be prepared.
It is highly recommended that you remove the barbs from your kayak fishing lures and obviously the fewer the hooks on the lure the better. Barbless hooks, especially ones where the barb has been ground off come out easily and cause minimal damage. If you use a barbed hook you should have a method of cutting a hook quickly while on the water.
Probably the best available tool is a lineman’s cutter. This will disengage the fish from the plug, and possibly the plug from the hand Once the fish is removed, or the lure removed, assess where the hook is anchored. Is it just a little fleshy spot? Or does it look like it’s got real meat. Don’t just push that hook through without thinking to yourself, could I make this worse? Could the hook be entangled in something important inside?
If there is copious bleeding, associated numbness, or near a sense organ like eyes/ears/mouth, you may want a skilled medical professional to take that out. Take out the gauze and tape, and secure the hook into a stable position and paddle in if possible or have someone take you in to shore for medical care
A missed day of fishing to repair a wound is better than the missed use of a nerve damaged finger or even worse. If the wound is only flesh deep and no hook remains, cleanse the wound as best you can, apply some antibiotic salve, and then cover well with a band-aid and dressing. Be sure to see your medical professional ASAP for a tetanus shot if you’re not up to date.
WARNING: PUNCTURE WOUNDS GET INFECTED VERY EASILY, Antibiotics may be required.
Don’t cut the hook at the curve of the barb that’s embedded itself in your skin. The barbed tip of a hook can migrate deep into your skin and require a much more complicated (surgical) removal. You can push through a covered point and barb and cut on the retrieved side.
What else can go wrong?
Be sure to cover your skin in just about any daylight situation. Clouds don’t stop U.V. rays. Nasty sunburn can ruin the next few days after a good trip. Not to mention increasing your risk for skin cancer.
A broad billed hat is good as well as high SPF sun lotion Light, long sleeved clothing in warm weather can be worn under your PFD. Usually insects are not a problem but should you encounter them having repellent can make a huge difference. You might have to hike through tall grass to get to that secret spot.
Ticks can be a serious problem. No one wants Lyme disease. Check for ticks; look especially at the edges of clothing and body creases. They’re small so be thorough. An insect spray applied with rubber gloves, to keep it off your hands, will help against any flying critters.
Jelly fish stings can and do happen. Some stinging’s are resolved with an application of heat to the wound and others may require some vinegar. Determine which jelly fish or stinging critters are predominating in your area and have some of the specific treatments on hand.
ConclusionYour kayaks first aid kit…a doctor to go. You can’t carry everything so don’t try to. Good pliers, some clean water or normal saline is good to have for wound cleaning and to get the sand out of your eyes. Band-Aid’s, in several sizes, should be in a waterproof bag. Triple antibiotic cream is worth the investment.
If you are on medication, have medical problems, or have allergies, include a copy of your meds/problems on a card in the first aid kit. They can really help in a stressful situation. Some Tylenol or Advil, not expired, comes in handy too.
Be sure to have a small roll of tape, and a roll of gauze. That should do it. A little forethought, some minimal planning, and an eye to prevention could turn a minor problem to a major disaster into a salvageable fishing trip.