Wearing a life vest while kayak fishing
So yea, the guy that has paddled all over the country for over 40 years wears a life vest, maybe you should too. At least now I do anyhow. Are you wearing a life vest?
Sunday Morning Fishing
Before the sun lit the new day, I paddled out through the canal toward Hurricane Bay. The new moon tide was extremely low, and dead. The mirror glass water reflected the docks lights.
Once reaching Hurricane Bay, I watched as the new day’s sun began to light the day. Casually I made casts to the likely fish holding mangrove points. The tide had yet begun moving. Without a moving tide the resident snook would not be in a feeding mood. Waiting for the tide to begin its’ return, I paddled out farther than I had in previous trips.
I had been in Florida for a month, but still found it difficult to accept the warm 80 degree days in December. My mind told me it is winter and I should be cold and hunting, not fishing in a sit-on-top kayak. I’m working on taking advantage of the location change to Florida, embracing the warmer weather and spending my little free time away from work on the water fishing.
I was enjoying the pleasant morning paddle exploring new waters, occasionally casting to likely fish holding spots, when I noticed the tide beginning to move. I sat up in the kayak. The leisure morning paddle became a fishing mission. As the current began to rip food pass the mangrove point close to the deeper boat channel, I made a cast. The DOA shrimp landed perfectly where I intended and was quickly received by a sizable jack crevalle. The battle towed my boat closer to the mangroves. The drag on my reel sang my favorite tune. After the battle and a quick release, I made another cast.
Whoops, the rod went into the water. In reflex mode, I quickly reached out to grab my one and only fishing rod. Bam! That fast, I was in the water. The life vest floated in one direction, my hat a different direction and the kayak a third. I held my fishing rod in my hand and had to make a quick decision on which direction to reach out. The kayak won. I reached out and snatched the side of the boat, tossed in my fishing rod and swam over with boat in hand to grab my floating life vest. With one hand on the kayak, I fumbled with the life vest and put it on while floating in the water. Not as easy of a task as one thinks it would be after falling out of the kayak.
Wearing a life vest
I then realized that no one knew where I was and that I would not be missed until the next morning when I did not show up to work. The life vest could have floated too far away for me to reach, or even worse, I could have been injured somehow and knock unconscious. At that point I would not have been able reach and don the life jacket. They would have found my floating dead body the next day.
The mangrove covered shore was not too distant. But against the current, it would have been a difficult swim / kick. Luckily the deep water of the channel was narrow and surveying the wind and tide, I realized it would push me out of the channel and into the shallows.
Instead of fighting the current, I relaxed and floated with one hand on the kayak. The wind and tide began to drift me towards the shallow water. All was fine, until I realized, these waters are home to alligators and bull sharks. Or so I’m told. I had not seen any, but just the possibility was enough to put me on edge.
After a slightly tense ten minutes, I was standing on the sandy bottom and with that was able to jump back into the kayak and return to catching fish.
Yes, if I had to, I could have climbed back into the kayak while in the deeper water. But at my age I didn’t really feel like it.
I got my first canoe when I was 10 years old and have been paddling canoes and kayaks for the past 41 years. I don’t mean every once in a while either, hardly a week goes by that I don’t plop my butt into a paddle boat. I’ve paddled a canoe in the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve paddled a kayak in the Pacific Ocean. I’ve paddled in the heat of the summer and on the coldest days of winter. So, yea I’ve got a little canoe and kayak boating experience. Up until this little mishap, more times than not, the life vest was in the boat but not worn. I found the life vest cumbersome and restricting.
Not any longer. After the dunk into the alligator and shark infested water, I now wear a life vest every time I leave the dock in my kayak.
The day after my dunking, I drove over to Bass Pro Shops and purchased a Manual inflatable life vest. The vest is thin, light weight and not in the way when fishing. The $100 price tag is well worth the lifesaving peace of mind the next time I fall into the water.
So yea, the guy that has paddled all over the country for over 40 years wears a life vest, maybe you should too.
Thanks to my friend Cynthia for taking the photos.