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Thread: Quick Question: When is it safe to fish without cold water gear?

  1. #1

    Default Quick Question: When is it safe to fish without cold water gear?

    Howdy, I'm contemplating the value of investing in some cold water gear? Basically, I'm trying to determine if return on investment (how long does it extend my fishing season) is justifiable?

    Looking at the historical temperature data at Bay Bridge, looks like the water temperature does not rise above 60 until early June. I actually would like to get on the water in May.

    Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 12.06.48 AM.jpg
    Last edited by Seasalt; 04-07-2017 at 12:09 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    Pasadena, MD
    Posts
    2,344

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    There is no set answer to your question. Itís based on your kayaking skill, your tolerance of risk, what species youíre after and frankly, common sense. Itís an individual choice. Even a full dry suit is not a guarantee of safety in cold water. I think the decisions you make about when and where to fish in your kayak in cold water are more important. And most critical is not putting yourself into a situation where water conditions exceed your skill level.

    I fish without a dry suit all year long. I wear dry pants in the late fall, winter and early spring and layered clothing on top for warmth and of course a PFD. However, you wonít find me in big waters in high wind far from shore during those times. Nor will you find me fishing alone. If actual or forecasted weather exceeds my risk threshold I stay home. If water conditions at the launch are beyond my tolerance and skill I leave. And if conditions change for the worse while I am out, I hurry back. Frankly, I follow the same rules in warm weather.

    Fortunately, there are lots of creeks and ponds nearby that allow me to wet a line throughout the cold months where I donít face howling winds, large boat wakes or two foot seas. I work the edges and hug shorelines of these creeks and ponds. Itís not risk free, of course. But neither is kayak fishing in July. The worst experience Iíve had with conditions in my kayak happened at Ft. Smallwood in warm weather. A change in weather made it difficult for me to get safely back to the launch. It was a struggle. That would not happen to me in cold water because I would never venture as far from shore as I was that day.

    So, I wonít catch the impressive stripers reported here in recent weeks in the waters I fish. But I still find satisfaction in tangling with a few bass, pickerels or panfish. I can wait for the stripers. Theyíll be here soon in larger numbers (although not larger size). Iíll chase them then and be quite contented with fishing smaller waters in the meantime. We are really blessed with a variety of kayak fishing options here in central Maryland that provide year-round opportunities.
    Mark

    Olive Hobie Revo 13
    Hidden Oak Native Ultimate 12

    Author: The Simple Joys of Kayak Fishing (Tips and Tales From an Old Guy in His Plastic Boat)
    Available on Amazon.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Cecil County
    Posts
    16

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    If you add the air temp and water temp together and it's less than 110, it's dangerous


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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Cape St Claire
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    There is a lot of wisdom in Marks words. Common sense and having an honest assessment of your (or your fishing partners) skill level are key.

    That being said, I wear a paddle suit during the coldest months and believe firmly in it. It allows me to extend beyond some of the more protected waters. I won't even think of not wearing it if the water temps are 50 degrees or less. Once the bay bay eclipses that threshold, I start considering alternative gear on a case by case basis, usually graduating to neoprene and then just paddle pants and top. I factor in all the variables Mark sites below and decide what gear suits the situation. Water temps of 60+ and you won't find me in more than a paddle top and pants.

    The combined temp rule also stated here is a good rule of thumb but can still be misleading on those extremely warm air / cold water days we sometimes get in the early spring.

    I had a rude reality check in February while fishing from my kayak in Florida. I was using my own gear that I know and trust. I have spent thousands of hours in it in all sorts of conditions. My kayak is a barge and very stable and I feel very secure in it even in big water. We were fishing the flats for Reds. the water was dead calm and 3' deep. I found myself hooked into a big black drum that made a sudden run behind the boat. As I twisted around to try and fight the fish that was behind me, I suddenly found myself in the water and my gear floating everywhere.... It taught me that a turtle can happen anywhere, at any time to anybody. It was very humbling.

    Turtling will never happen to the vast majority of fisherman, but we all need to stay prepared for it nonetheless. Some think the expense of proper protective gear is an extravagance. To me, it is just part of the cost of doing business - like buying the right tool needed at Home Depot. Common sense will always be your best weapon. Cold water must be taken seriously. Not doing so has cost otherwise smart people their lives and no fish is worth putting you or someone else at risk.

    Sorry for the long winded / preachy answer....

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark View Post
    There is no set answer to your question. Itís based on your kayaking skill, your tolerance of risk, what species youíre after and frankly, common sense. Itís an individual choice. Even a full dry suit is not a guarantee of safety in cold water. I think the decisions you make about when and where to fish in your kayak in cold water are more important. And most critical is not putting yourself into a situation where water conditions exceed your skill level.

    I fish without a dry suit all year long. I wear dry pants in the late fall, winter and early spring and layered clothing on top for warmth and of course a PFD. However, you wonít find me in big waters in high wind far from shore during those times. Nor will you find me fishing alone. If actual or forecasted weather exceeds my risk threshold I stay home. If water conditions at the launch are beyond my tolerance and skill I leave. And if conditions change for the worse while I am out, I hurry back. Frankly, I follow the same rules in warm weather.

    Fortunately, there are lots of creeks and ponds nearby that allow me to wet a line throughout the cold months where I donít face howling winds, large boat wakes or two foot seas. I work the edges and hug shorelines of these creeks and ponds. Itís not risk free, of course. But neither is kayak fishing in July. The worst experience Iíve had with conditions in my kayak happened at Ft. Smallwood in warm weather. A change in weather made it difficult for me to get safely back to the launch. It was a struggle. That would not happen to me in cold water because I would never venture as far from shore as I was that day.

    So, I wonít catch the impressive stripers reported here in recent weeks in the waters I fish. But I still find satisfaction in tangling with a few bass, pickerels or panfish. I can wait for the stripers. Theyíll be here soon in larger numbers (although not larger size). Iíll chase them then and be quite contented with fishing smaller waters in the meantime. We are really blessed with a variety of kayak fishing options here in central Maryland that provide year-round opportunities.
    Bruce

    Wilderness System, Thresher 155

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Hampstead, MD
    Posts
    507

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    EMSer, feelfree, and Mark all raise a lot of good points. Basically, you look at risk vs reward, whenever you go out to fish. The reward, or rather the potential for reward, is relatively constant, it's usually catching fish and/or getting out on a nice day. You don't really have that much control over that, though you have a little in the way of fishing techniques and tackle. What you can control is risk, and you can minimize it with cold weather clothing, staying close to shore, and fishing close to a friend at all times. I have a drysuit, and I've been on the water for the majority of my life, so I consider my risk, at least the portion I can control, to be relatively minimized. But even on days when I know the fishing is probably going to be decent, I look at the weather. Will a day in the 40s with 10-15 mph winds really be worth 1 or 2 small rockfish? Or would I be ok with a day in the 50s or 60s with calm winds, and 0 fish? For you and I, those answers may be very different. I'm happy to say I'm obsessed with kayak fishing, for me it combines being out on the water, exercise, and catching fish, 3 of my favorite things. However, and I know this is morbid, I do realize that if everything went wrong (winds, leaks in my kayak and drysuit, etc), I could potentially not make it back to shore. Those are things that are freak accidents, which I can't control, so I attempt to do the best I can with everything else. I used to fish in waders and a drytop, and I felt safe in them, though I do feel much safer in my drysuit. But, and it's worth noting, I got mine on sale (500 when its normally 615), and I only paid half of that (the other half was cash from Christmas gifts)....so $250 was more than worth it to me for a suit with a lifetime warranty. Mine's the hydrus 3L from kokatat, it's very breathable, and that warranty makes it a long term investment in my safety. You may already have waders, so you could just buy a 50-75$ drytop new or off ebay, and really up your safety, and along with not fishing alone, overall you'll be pretty safe. We recently saw 2 kayakers, I don't think they were on this forum, lose their lives on very warm winter days, because they simply weren't prepared with cold weather clothing, only pfd's. One was a navy seal, so he was in good shape, with cold water training I'm sure, and he was even fishing with a friend. But cold water is a total equalizer, it cancels out age, fitness, etc, and the only thing that prevents it from hurting you when you're in it, is that layer of cold weather gear. Sorry for the long post, but in the end, I would invest in cold water gear. Ebay is your friend like I said, and you can look around for sales too. I have seen many drysuits at half the price of new on Ebay, some that are brand new with tags and factory warranties, that are just used for photo shoots, or returns, etc.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Clinton,Md
    Posts
    287

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    +1 on Mark and +1 Bruce I truly value these guys opinions
    Turtled in 4 ft. of 75 degree water with Bruce in September and it felt almost refreshing on a hot day. Would not want to do that on a cold day I was standing up and just flip the Yak over and bounce off the bottom, back into the Yak.
    I had Bruce, Fishinggod and Leo to assist me. Gathered up all the floating stuff and off we went
    Would not want to do this in cold water.

    Yak67

    2017 Hobie PA-12 camo
    2016 Hobie Outback LE#217

  7. #7

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    Thank you everyone for your feedback. I think I've gotten more clarity in the matter through each of your responses.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Perry Hall, MD
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    2,048

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    I'll wear my drysuit into May. By the end of May the air temps are consistently in the 70's or higher and the water temps are mid 60's or better, depending on the year. If you have a high quality dry suit, you can wear it on warm days even when the water is frigid, doing so comfortably. I wear a drysuit from October thru May, so 8 months of the year....and really, those are my prime fishing months. I don't get too excited to fish the months from June through Sept because the quality of fish really drops off. My challenge is to catch a 30 incher every month but the chances drop with the summer months. So if you want to target large fish, you should really get a suit. If you're happy catching schoolies and waiting for warmer weather, you'll be fine in something water resistant.
    ______________________________________________

    Light Tackle Kayak Trolling the Chesapeake Bay, Author
    Kokatat Pro Staff
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    2011 Ivory Dune Outback
    Perry Hall, MD
    Alan

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    Manassas
    Posts
    164

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    Some good, practical answers here, and despite how frequently this question comes up, good answers are surprisingly hard to come by. It stems from the myriad of environmental factors--they're literally environmental factors--that are ignored by folks who want substitutes for common sense.

    When you combine common sense and appropriate gear, you can create solutions to environmental challenges. But it's certainly a combination of those three factors...and folks tend to focus on one factor at the expense of the others. Gear won't save you from being a bonehead, and all the experience in the world won't save you from hypothermia. And none of this matters if you're fishing from shore.

    My advice is to figure out exactly what you're trying to accomplish (the Bay Bridge is a big, big bridge), make sure it's within your skill level, and purchase everything necessary to do it safely. Just my two cents.
    2014 Hobie Pro Angler 12
    I need a good paddling

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Huntrava View Post
    Some good, practical answers here, and despite how frequently this question comes up, good answers are surprisingly hard to come by. It stems from the myriad of environmental factors--they're literally environmental factors--that are ignored by folks who want substitutes for common sense.

    When you combine common sense and appropriate gear, you can create solutions to environmental challenges. But it's certainly a combination of those three factors...and folks tend to focus on one factor at the expense of the others. Gear won't save you from being a bonehead, and all the experience in the world won't save you from hypothermia. And none of this matters if you're fishing from shore.

    My advice is to figure out exactly what you're trying to accomplish (the Bay Bridge is a big, big bridge), make sure it's within your skill level, and purchase everything necessary to do it safely. Just my two cents.
    I have come to the conclusion that I will see what type of fishing I enjoy this year prior to investing into a dry suit (Kokatat). You are right, safety for kayak fishing stands on a three legged stool - environment, gear and skill level. It is especially true for cold water kayak fishing.

    For now, I'm planning to fish near shore. Water and air temperature needs to rise more though. For now, I'm planning on wearing a paddling jacket and paddling bib (NRS Sidewinder). I'm hoping I can fish sometime in May and possibly extend the season to end of October or early November. If I want to fish Nov and Dec, I will probably get a dry suit. Also, I'm planning to practice re-entry with the paddling jacket and bib during warmer months.

    Yak Fish, enjoyed reading your book. Thanks for your advice on the dry suit. I can't imagine getting a sleigh ride from a cow...
    Last edited by Seasalt; 04-07-2017 at 07:13 PM.

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