Some thoughts On Kayak Fishing Safety in Hawaii E-mail
Friday, 23 October 2009 09:46

big fish

Aloha all KFM readers. I hope you had a great holiday break and that you are safe and well. This is the time of year I go over safety and try my best to make people understand just how important it is. There is nothing more important in kayak fishing than having all of your safety equipment in order and knowing how to practice proper protocol.

  Recently, as announced in an earlier issue of KFM, there was a tragic accident on the island of Hawaii. The incident involved three kayaker anglers who got into some serious trouble. A man and woman in boat went to help the three kayakers.  Rather than retelling the story here’s a link of the article as it appeared in the newspaper. www.westhawaiitoday.com   

Please read the above story very careful. You will see that Robert Lewis is a true hero for being a Good Samaritan and helping a fellow ocean going angler. He died tying to help kayak anglers in distress. He died for people he did not even know. This man will forever be a hero and remembered for his valiant efforts. There is an effort in the kayak community to help the surviving wife of the fallen hero. The local kayak outfitter, P&P kayaks, has set up a fund to help the grieving family in need. Robert Smith was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, an uncle and survived by all of his family including his parents. This is a major loss for all them. Please help us in contributions to this grief stricken family. Donations for the family will be given directly to the surviving wife. P&P kayak on the big island is accepting the donations and you can use a credit card or a debit card to contribute to the family. The number for P&P kayaks is                (808) 880-1400        . You can ask for either Kate or Kelly.  Please take the time to honor Robert Lewis. He is a true hero and his family can use all the help they can get. No money can ever replace Robert Lewis but we can help the family. It is our duty and we need to do our best to. Thank you

Editor’s note: Please keep in mind the author fishes in the Pacific Ocean off of the Hawaiian Islands.  This is big water for large powerful fish that don’t know you’re doing this for fun.  They are fighting for their survival and will use all means to attain freedom.  His views and suggestions reflect the requirements of fishing in such an environment.
    
My concern is safety. We need to do everything we can in order to assure that we return home to our families and that we don’t endanger other people. We also need to enforce these safety concerns with every kayak angler whenever possible. There is so much that goes into kayak fishing safety it’s hard to find a starting point. I will begin with health. Kayak fishing is a very active sport and requires physical demands on your body. So before you start kayak fishing you need to figure out if you’re up to the physical requirements for the excursion.  Proper diet and an exercise plan will help prepare your body. Strength training and exercise programs are good ways to get in shape and stay in shape. Dehydration is a key issue when exposed in this manner and we need to make sure we are properly hydrated before we paddle out and catch fish. Proper sleep the night before a fishing run is essential for the body and the mind.  Alcohol and drug use before kayak fishing is absolutely intolerable. Remember also, at any moment the possibility exists where you could suffer a stroke or heart attack.  Having an event happen while on the water is especially dangerous.  That is why it is imperative to wear a life vest at all times. This may be the only thing that could save your life. You need to make sure your body and mind are healthy and ready before you venture out on a kayak fishing trip and that you are prepared for anything that might happen. Start slowly when beginning kayak fishing. Take short runs and build your strength before you try any long distance runs.  Time on the water will make you wiser and stronger. Take your time building up to big kayak fishing excursions. Also, make sure to take the necessary time it takes to have increased your abilities before you decide to go hard core.

Now that you’re healthy and ready for a kayak fishing trip the next thing you need to address is the weather. Weather is the single most important thing that can turn a fun day of fishing into a fatal event. You need to become better than a meteorologist for your own well being. Get very familiar with you local waters and the conditions in your area. Use every possible weather tool available to you. There are many National Weather Service phone numbers you can call. The internet provides many options when it comes to figuring out the weather. Local news stations will provide weather information that is also useful. It is very wise, to be absolutely sure of the conditions before you paddle out and that you determine if it’s going to be a safe day for you. With that said it is always critical to do one last check before you paddle out. Weather can change so fast and quickly it can catch you off guard. Just before you head out take the time to make some last minute calls and weather checks. Be absolutely positive that the weather conditions will be safe for you and your abilities. Even after all your checks and observations the weather can turn on you and become deadly in a matter of minutes. One last thing about weather is you need to dress in the right clothes. Hypothermia is deadly and dangerous even in the waters of Hawaii. Next you need to consider sun protection.  Overexposure can lead to health issues. Wide brim stiff sun hats are a must. Good gloves are also very important. Sunglasses are another must have. Make sure you have the proper clothing before paddling out and that you know what the weather has in store for you.

You’re in shape and ready. You have the proper clothes and the weather all dialed in. You’re ready for a fun day of catching fish from a kayak. The most important thing in kayak fishing is personal safety. In kayak fishing it’s critical that before you get carried away buying a new pole, reel or getting your kayak all tricked out with some fancy electronics; make sure you get the basic safety items first. I’m speaking about the most basic and essential items you should carry on every trip. These are the safety items for all kayak anglers. Your first purchase, when beginning your kayak fishing journey, is a good PFD (personal flotation device, also known as a life jacket). This single item is your most critical piece of safety gear. You need to be able to wear it comfortably all day long so make a wise choice. The life vest should be made well and fit snuggly. Make sure it’s coast guard approved. The PFD should also feature some large pockets for storing emergency safety items. There are many reasons for wearing a PFD. The most significant reason is a medical emergency. Nobody ever plans on having a stroke or a heart attack but they do happen.  Give serious thought to this. This reason alone is sufficient to wear a PFD at all times. So far, the U.S Coast Guard only requires that a life jacket be aboard a kayak. If you are one of those anglers who keep the life jacket in your kayak hull think again. A stroke or a heart attack could put you in the water at any moment. In this scenario, you would most certainly drown. There are many other reasons for wearing a PFD. In Hawaii it is possible for a whale to come up unseen out of the deep blue and breach and land on a unsuspecting kayak angler. A sudden storm could blow in out of now where and catch you off guard and flip your kayak. Careless boaters can cause a kayak angler to flip. Recently in a kayak fishing tournament I did a deep water hula by reaching back to check a rod and getting off balance. There are so many reasons to ALWAYS wear your PFD. Please never go kayak fishing without wearing a solid and well equipped life vest.

safety items

What is a well equipped life vest? A well equipped life vest is one that is loaded with tools that could potentially save your life. These are items you will need in the event you were too quickly and unexpectedly end up in the water, or find yourself in severe and adverse weather conditions, or you find that you become the object of search and rescue effort.  There a many items available that will help increase your odds of surviving and getting home. If you find yourself in distress one of the first things you will want to do is notify some one. What are the best ways to do this? A cell phone is a great item to have in your life vest. Hopefully you will be able to make a 911 call. There are a few new water proof cell phones available and these are highly recommended. If a water proof cell phone is not for you there are many types of water proof cell phone bags and containers readily available that are inexpensive and can be used with cell phones. I use a water proof flip phone plastic pouch. This allows me to use my phone without it getting wet. Whatever you chose make sure you have your cell phone available in your PFD. The next piece of equipment that is a must have in your PFD is a VHF radio. They’re available in waterproof models and reasonably priced and readily available. A VHF radio that has a weather channel function is a real bonus and allows you to constantly monitor weather stations. When choosing a VHF you want to purchase a unit that has the longest transmission range.  The greater the range the more people can hear you should you need help.   A rechargeable VHF unit allows for longer user times and less battery waste. Choose your VHF well. Another great item to have on your life vest is a hand held GPS. Having one of these handy devices will allow you to give exact coordinates to search and recue personnel. Having the rescue team know your exact location will make for much faster recovery times. Having a cell phone, a VHF radio, and a GPS device will really increase your odds surviving an emergency. These three units ensure when you’re in serious trouble you will be able to contact someone and let them know exactly where you are. This is very, very important and can save large amounts of time during a search and rescue. The faster you notify the authorities that you are in an emergency the sooner you will be rescued which greatly increases your odds at survival. Other items to have on your life vest are a whistle and a mirror. These are very cheap items that are readily available. Whistles and mirrors are very useful for search and rescue victims. Reflecting light can be seen from great distances and whistles are much louder than the human voice. These simple things will help rescue people see and hear you better in dangerous situations. Another great thing to always carry in your life vest is a trailing safety streamer. These yellow and reflective attractors are deployed in the event of a kayak fishing emergency and can be easily seen night or day by search planes and helicopters. The equipment safety items listed above are very small and useful items that could save your life and should be part of your PFD. You can’t be too safe when it comes to your life. We have a duty to our families to come home after a long day of good fishing. Always wear a well equipped life jacket.

More

There is a lot more to kayak fishing safety besides just a well equipped life vest and wearing it at all times. It’s a beginning.  There’s more you can do to insure that you will get home safe and make it through extreme situations. One thing that is very valuable to have on a kayak is a set of swim fins. These can be used in an emergency and make a world of difference if you had to swim. I never go out without my swim fins. Another piece of safety equipment I take with me every time I go out is a surf board leash. I secure the surf board leash to the bow line and keep it coiled and ready to put on. In the deep water, or in any kind of wind, or waves, I always leash up to the kayak. Leashing up is also very good for coming in through strong beach surf.  A surf leash is a very useful tool when it comes to helping another yak angler in distress. If for some reason you had to jump off your kayak to help a friend in need you would want to be leashed to your kayak so it does not get separated from you. So, I highly recommend having and using a surf board leash. A cheap back up paddle is another item that can be stored in the hull of a kayak. It is all too common a story.  You know the saying, "up the creek without a paddle". An extra back up paddle is often over looked in kayak safety. Another very easy item to have on a kayak fishing trip is a pair of water goggles. During storms there’s so much water being thrown about it’s akin to white out conditions in a blizzard.  Also you might end up in the water and in either situation a pair of these cheap goggles will really help see in a dangerous situation. Another scenario is you might have to work on your kayak and you have to get into the water to do so. The goggles are a must have for me on every fishing run.  Another item that is both used for safety and is part of my fishing equipment is a good stainless steel dive knife and a set of Leatherman stainless steel pliers. The obvious reason for these tools is mostly for fishing but they can become powerful tools in an emergency. The Leather man includes pliers, cutters along with a variety of other tools. I always paddle out with the dive knife and the Leatherman whenever I hit the water.  Any safety kit could include a few other simple and cheap items that could make a world of difference.  A coil of some good rope is an essential safety item. Floats can fit into kayak hulls and can be very helpful during a crisis. Other simple items are flares and horns. These go well beyond the range of whistles and mirrors and can signal that you are in distress. I have given you a detailed description of all the must haves when it comes to kayak fishing safety; however this still is just the beginning.

Layout

There is one more very important piece of safety equipment that deserves special mention. It’s called an EPIRB device. These are more costly than other safety items but can you really put a price on your life? This device is a unit that should be worn on the PFD at all times. In an emergency you turn on the EPIRB and it uses satellites to put out a distress call. Basically this safety device notifies all the rescue authorities that someone’s in trouble at these specific coordinates.  The proper agency will respond.  These units are actually becoming quite reasonable but worth every single penny should become involved in an incident where you need to use it. Take the time to consider one of these very efficient life savers.

There are a few more things to go over to make this a complete safety list. One thing is to leave float plan with someone.  It is an itinerary as to your intended plans for the trip. Where you intend to fish, with whom and the time you anticipate returning.  The people you leave your plan with will vary depending upon your circumstances.  It can be your wife, a friend, your parents, somebody and anybody.  Just make sure someone knows what you’re up to.  You want to set up a time to call this person(s) and make sure you check out with this person at an arranged time. This is good back up protection and if you become unaccounted for, someone will know about it and they can start a search for you. Another EXTREMELY important aspect of kayak fishing safety is following the buddy plan. This means never enter the water alone and always have a partner. A good partner is crucial. Besides having a life jacket on, a good partner is probably the second best chance at surviving some kind of emergency. Choose your partners wisely as they are the one who will be there for you. At all cost never leave your partner. Just the presence of another person during a crisis can be so relieving it is unbelievable. Your partners need to be of comparable strengths and abilities. If fishing partners are not of equal ability you must only go out in circumstances and on a trip the weakest member of the group can handle. You don’t want to jeopardize a beginning kayak angler by getting them involved in something they can’t handle.

The last thing I would like to go over with you is personal training and safety courses. I highly recommend all kayak anglers be associated with the American Red Cross. They have great training available that is invaluable. They offer cheap classes that can really help you understand how to be a first responder in any crisis. There are many levels of training available. I recommend starting with some basics classes and working up from there. Once you receive some of the American Red Cross training it’s your responsibility to practice the techniques and train in a matter that would allow you to help in an emergency. Simulate emergency situations and become adept at dealing with them. Make being a first responder second nature. This type of training is invaluable for saving human life.

On the last note I can not stress enough the issue of personal strength training and being in your best shape for the extreme sport of kayak fishing. Make sure you work hard, train hard, learn more and keep practicing. Hopefully you will never be in any kind of emergency situation. Kayak safety, water safety and general public safety is a lifetime of studying and learning. We need to give ourselves and everyone around us the best chance at surviving an emergency. I hope this helps people and that you really take safety to heart. Consider your safety plan very closely and be ready for anything. Aloha and stay safe friends.

If any one wants to contact me or has any additional safety information they would like to share with me. Please feel free to contact me. I am always ready to listen to different safety techniques and anything that can be added to the above article. Thank you

 

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