Don’t be Afraid of the Dark E-mail
Monday, 19 October 2009 16:34

Over the years, probably my most memorable kayak fishing memories have been created after the sun has set.  Living on the Chesapeake Bay has given me the great opportunity to hunt for striped bass and other species in the abundant light lines surrounding our beloved waterways.  Fishing at night not only allows the angler the ability to easily locate fish, but also provides someone with a busy lifestyle such as myself the additional time to spend on the water.  When I am overwhelmed with work projects, graduate school assignments, and family obligations, I can always find time to fish at night after the family has gone down for a night’s sleep.

While this value-added time provides additional fishing opportunities, the kayak angler who ventures out after dark must consider the complications and safety issues which do not typically arise during daylight hours.  A little bit of pre-planning, and a few additional safety devices are all that are needed to have an enjoyable and safe evening on the water.  A properly prepared angler may even begin to prefer night fishing over searching for his or her target species during the day.

Before venturing out in the dark, a few safety devices are necessary for nighttime kayak fishing.  Obviously the initial acquisition must be that of lighting.  There are a number of commercially available 360 degree kayak-adaptable lights, such as the Scotty Sea Light available for under $40.00, or one can be made at home for less than $5.00, such as one I prepared for a recent Youtube video (www.youtube.com).  The objective of such lighting is to provide a white light which is visible 360 degrees around the kayak, similar to a larger boat’s anchor light, which signals oncoming vessels of your location.  The important issue when installing this light pole is that it must be above your head when installed, so as not to impede the view of the light from any direction.

In addition to a light pole, most nighttime kayak anglers also use a battery powered headlamp.  These are available at nearly any department store.  Personally I try to make sure that all of my lights utilize LED bulbs to ensure a longer burn time.  When I am on an open body of water or there is a chance I may distance myself from other paddlers in my group, I also carry a VHF radio to signal my friends or other vessels in the water.  A GPS unit with backlighting capability also helps keep your bearings on really dark evenings, and a basic compass is a great safety tool if you don’t have a GPS.  These devices, along with your lifejacket (It won’t save you if you are not wearing it!), audible signaling device (whistle or horn), and safety knife (for cutting anchor lines, or freeing an entangled angler.) provide the essential safety items for kayak fishing at night.  Of course, there are also additional items, such as throw ropes, flares, and first aid kits, which make for an even safer time on the water.  Just remember, it always seems that if you carry safety equipment you will never need to use them, and the day you leave them at home you probably will.

            While all of these safety devices add to a safer night on the water, a little pre-planning goes a long way.  Whenever I go out at night, I always tell my family where I am heading, and how long I will be out.  I also tell my wife that if I am not home in 24 hours, “Call the Coast Guard.”  This way someone knows my plan and knows to send help in case I get stranded on some marsh island with an incoming tide after losing my paddle (see my previous article entitled “Up a Creek Without a Paddle”).  Along with telling someone on land where you are going, it is also in the nighttime paddler’s best interest to go with company.  You never know when the previous paddle issue may arise, or your kayak may overturn.  The buddy system may mean the difference between life and death, especially in cold water conditions.

John “Toast” Oast is a member of the Ocean Kayak Fishing Team and the Dunkin-Lewis / Johnson Outdoors Pro Staff, and resides in Williamsburg, Virginia.  He is the founder of the Williamsburg Kayak Fishing Association and Fishyaker.com, and is a member of the East Coast Kayak Fishing Team and the Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association.  His kayak rigging videos have received thousands of views and been linked to websites around the world.  For more information, visit http://fishyaker.com/ and his Youtube page at http://www.youtube.com/fishyaker.

 

 

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