You have your kayak, paddle, drysuit and PFD. What else do you need? Everybody’s safety gear is going to differ. What some people deem important, others do without. Nobody should go out on a kayak without a Personal Flotation Device and a series of drowning around our coastlines in recent times reinforces this idea. I am of the opinion that the next most important thing you can possess to keep you safe on the water is some common sense. Avoid taking unnecessary risks and heed tidal and weather predictions to ensure your own safety. Understanding local tidal flows and having confidence in the ability of your kayak and your own paddling skills is essential to enjoying your time on the water and remaining out of danger.
Kayak fishing is a very safe branch of angling if you take the required steps to ensure your own safety. It is rare that things go wrong when you are out on the water but should the worst occur, you need to be equipped with some essential safety gear. The first thing you will need to do is signal for help. Carry at least three items of signalling equipment and spare batteries. If one fails another two are still available. A mobile phone is not suitable as many networks do not cover even short distances from the coastline. Handheld, waterproof and battery powered VHF radios are cheap to buy and could very well save your life. Teamed with a PLB (Personal Locater Beacon), signalling flares and, if you paddle at night, an emergency flashing strobe and you have a range of signalling equipment should the worst happen. One thing to remember with signalling equipment is to keep it on your person at all times. It is useless if you get separated from your kayak and your radio is on board. A GPS unit is also very handy for giving out your location and for navigation. A compass is very useful to have should a heavy fog roll in or your GPS battery die out.
Smaller items to carry should include a first aid kit and a survival kit. A survival kit can be obtained from military supply shops and should contain some fire starting equipment, very useful if you get lost and cold and need to rewarm yourself. A survival blanket will also help. Even in early spring the water can reflect a lot of sunlight and sunscreen is always a good idea. A hat keeps the sun off your head in summer and keeps you warm in winter. Small items of food and a bottle of water are always good to bring along. If you remain out longer than expected a head torch can light the way while leaving the arms free to paddle. One final and very important consideration is to purchase a couple of small, sharp knives to be kept on your person. A capsize is easily dealt with but not if you become entangled in fishing lines or an anchor rope. A knife to hand allows a potentially fatal tangle to be attended to with ease.
All of the above equipment is useless without the knowledge of how to use it efficiently. Getting chucked about in rough waters can make the kayak angler feel very vulnerable indeed. Learning how to use all this equipment and the confidence that comes with that knowledge will keep you far safer on the water and will lead to further enjoyment of your kayak fishing.