Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather


Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe!

Preparing for Your Cold Weather Kayak Fishing Adventure

Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather

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If you want to have a great time going fishing in your kayak during cold weather, then you must efficiently prepare for it every time. Cold weather, including falling into cold water, can kill you if you do not prepare ahead of time for how to take care of yourself. 

The biggest problem you might encounter on a kayak fishing trip in cold weather is hypothermia. Aside from sitting in cold air and wind for a long period of time, if you fall into cold water, your body begins to lose too much heat in a short amount of time. Once this happens, your heart, lungs, and other body parts cannot keep up with keeping you alive. What you wear is very important to your health and staying alive. Find out more about what you should wear in this next section.

Best Clothes to Wear While Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather

Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather

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Here are the two best options for what to wear while kayak fishing in cold weather. You can use either a wetsuit or a drysuit, depending on your personal preference. Do not wear cotton apparel anytime you are on the water. Wet cotton will not help insulate your body heat and will even reduce it faster. It is also heavy when wet, weighing you down further. 


A wetsuit, made of closed-cell foam neoprene, is like a second skin. The suit should fit you like a glove with no extra material or air pockets hanging loose anywhere in the suit. Wetsuits, while not waterproof, reduce the amount of water you will get inside the suit because of its close fit. Once filled, no more water can enter the suit because there is no space left. You can wear a skin-tight hoodie to cover the neck opening so water does not enter through the top.

When water enters the suit, it is heated by the body against the lining material inside of the suit. The neoprene foam cells have thousands of air bubbles which keep the body heat intact inside the suit, keeping you warm. In colder weather, you will want a thicker neoprene suit of 7 millimeters (mm) to 14 mm, depending on the temperature. In summertime, you only need about a 2 mm neoprene layer.

If you have a front or back zipper closure, check it each time before going out fishing. Look for any spaces occurring in the seams and get them repaired quickly. Always check the rest of the suit for any wear and tear, such as fraying seams. Get it fixed before going kayak fishing again.

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When buying a wetsuit, you should check for the temperature gauge of the neoprene thickness you will need when kayak fishing in very cold air and water. Note that for very cold weather, recommendations are that you should seal and tape any openings between boots, gloves, hoodie, etc. When shopping for your wetsuit, also look for the right gloves, boots, and hoodie to go with it. 

Look for a neoprene facemask you can wear under the hoodie to protect your face. Many motorcyclists use this to cut back on cold wind abrasions and they are very effective. The mask will have openings where you can slide eyeglasses through for protecting your eyes from wind blasts. There is also a small opening through which you can breathe fresh air.

Go in person (if possible) to try on your wetsuit for the best fit. Heavy layered neoprene wetsuits can restrict movement, so be sure to find one that will work best for you. While the wetsuit is a skin-tight fit, allow enough flexibility for swimming ashore, if needed.

What Underclothes to Wear with a Wetsuit

Rash Guard

Wear a rash guard which is a fitted athletic shirt made of spandex, polyester, or nylon. Like your suit, it must be fitted against your skin, eliminating potential pockets of air. As the name implies, a rash guard also eliminates any rubbing of your suit against your skin which could produce sore spots.

Compression Shirt

compression shirt gives you more support for your body than a rash guard. This shirt is more tightly fitted than the rash guard but feels like it holds your torso in place, adding support to your muscles. It is a matter of preference which shirt type you want to use, just so long as it is constructed from the same materials mentioned above.

Diving Shorts

Fitted diving shorts work well for the bottom half of your body and can make it easier to slide on your wetsuit. Some shorts are made with the same materials as the shirts, but you can also buy a thinner layered neoprene version which adds extra warmth. Shorts should also cover the thighs, so your leg muscles stay warm. All these options work well for both men and women.

Layering Over Your Wetsuit

Always think about what it will be like if you end up in the water. You can add warm clothes over your wetsuit, but they cannot be heavy materials. Consider buying thin waterproof windbreaker pants and a jacket to wear over your suit. Seal the openings by taping the edges to your wetsuit. 

Add on your life jacket which must fit securely over your windbreaker jacket and suit. Depending on the air temperature, this may be enough to keep you warm while seated for long periods. A good idea is to do a test run of this arrangement by walking into the water from the shore to see if you remain waterproof and warm while in the water. Make sure you have a friend with you if you do this so they can provide help if you need it.

You can carry thin flannel blankets to wrap around your shoulders and legs while fishing. What you need to consider is if you go into the water, you do not want to be hindered by heavy external clothing or blankets. If you are weighted down by soaked clothes, you will not be able to move well, let alone swim to shore. This leads us to the next option, the drysuit.


Most temperature gauge experts recommend using a drysuit in water temperatures of 50 degrees or less. Full body drysuits are less fitted to your form because you can wear layers of clothes underneath which do not get wet. Drysuits are waterproof and any openings are sealed with latex gaskets for keeping out the water. With this option, you can add layers or remove them, depending on the outdoor temperature. 

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Like the wetsuit, once you are in your drysuit, you can only layer on the outside. Easy to remove wear, such as light fleece blankets, are your best option. If you go in the water, they must come off, so you do not get tangled up. 

However, drysuits are more expensive than the wetsuits. If you have the budget, then this may be the better way to go for you. You must also check the gaskets to make sure they do not deteriorate and to keep them conditioned so they last for a long time.

Layering your Underclothes

Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather

First, wear the same underwear that you use for the wetsuit. Next, add on one to two layers of fleece (preferred) or wool clothing, enough that you remain warm but can still move around well.

You can also use neoprene booties and gloves to finish out your clothing outfit, as well as the hoodie and neoprene facemask. The booties should go on first, then you step into your suit and begin pulling it upwards over your clothes. Add your gloves before putting your arms into the suit sleeves and securing the wrists shut.

Once you get your drysuit on, activate every closure on your suit so that it is airtight. We always recommend that you go on your kayak fishing trip with at least one other friend. This friend can help with setting your wetsuit closures and, in return, you set theirs for them. 

Test your outfit the same way as your wetsuit by walking into the water to see if you remain dry and warm. If you get a little cold at a certain water temperature, then add another layer of clothing underneath your suit. Now you know how much you will need for that temperature of water. Always have another person with you during the test to make sure you remain safe. And, yes, wear your lifejacket. 

Inflatable Life Jackets

We have touched previously on wearing your life jacket over your outfit and ensuring that it fits well. In a confined space such as a kayak, you may prefer to invest in an inflatable life jacket or vest. In its deflated state, you can rest comfortably against the seat back.

Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather

If you fall into the water, you just inflate the jacket so you can float. Using one of these eliminates wearing too much bulk while seated in your kayak. Next, we talk about the survival kits you will pack for your kayak fishing trip.

Related: Read our review of the Best Fishing Kayak Life Jacket!

Preparing Your Kayak Kits for Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather

Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather

Kayak kits are your survival “dry bags” where you pack what you need inside waterproof bags. In a large plastic bag (i.e., 5-gallon, XL), add in extra towels and a complete change of clothes.

As you seal the bag, keep pushing out any air left inside so that you compact the bag down to the smallest size possible. Stuff that bag into your main waterproof carry bag that will hold everything you need. Do not use zipper-closure bags. Use only the press-close plastic bags.

Next, prepare a smaller plastic bag that will contain the following items:

  • Hand and Foot Warmers: You will find these to be helpful in getting you warmed up faster if you have been in cold weather for a long time. Bring four disposable packs (2 for hands, 2 for feet) with you which are easy to use on the kayak, or invest in two rechargeable versions. You can also buy gloves and socks with heater systems already installed. Only wear these on dry land to warm yourself faster at the end of the day or if you have landed somewhere to take a break.
  • A Rechargeable Charger: Charge this up the day before you are heading out, so it is ready to use on anything that needs recharging, like your phone or foot/hand warmers. Buy a charger that has a solar panel on it so you can recharge it on the go. Put it in a clear plastic baggie if you lay it out on your kayak to catch sun rays. Attach it to the kayak in a secure way, so you don’t lose it overboard. 
  • Life Jacket:Put this in your kayak or vehicle for now, ready to put on before you launch. Don’t forget to check on inflatable life jackets instead of the usual inflated version. Choose one that is certified by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) as some versions have only European certifications.
  • Flare Gun and Extra Cartridges:You never know when the worst can happen, and you need help fast. You will need these if you are stuck in the water or on land at night and need to be picked up right away. 
  • One or Two Marine Ropes:There are all kinds of situations you can find yourself in, where you wish you had a rope to help you out. i.e., towing a canoe, kayak, or person in the water.
  • Bungee Cords:You might need to strap something together and these do the job well. 
  • Small Useful Things:Matches and box (or flint) for starting a campfire; first aid kit (add a tourniquet), sewing kit, brass whistle (or wear around neck); emergency mylar thermal blanket(s) bought in small packets; full-service jackknife (saw, bottle opener, toothpick, scissors, etc.); safety pins; prescriptions; a compass, flashlight, and more. 

Look for smaller-sized flashlights at your local big box hardware stores which have either a red or a green light. Some have strobe as well as continuous settings. If you are on your kayak in the water during nighttime (not recommended, but it happens), securely tape the green flashlight on the front right side (starboard) of your kayak and the red flashlight on the left side (port). Add a red one on the backside of your kayak.

If another kayak or boat is in the water headed towards you, they will see you rather than running over you if you don’t have those lights on. If you are in trouble, you can signal them with the flares or waving your flashlight on the water’s surface.

Your Food Supply

In a plastic bag, add in nutritional protein bars, fruit, or emergency food rations in packets that do not need cooking to eat. Bottled water and drinks with electrolytes are best. Hot coffee or tea goes in a plastic thermos and can help keep you warm in very cold temperatures.

If you have to have to go ashore because of an emergency and you are far from any other people and cannot call out by phone, start a campfire in an open area close to the water. Field dress a fish or two (if you caught any) and cook them over the fire. After eating, clean up your area of any food particles, food wrappers, and anything else that can attract unwanted animals to your area.

Pack Small Bags into Big Bag

Once you have completed filling all your kits, add the plastic bags into your main carry bag so everything is in one place. Tie or attach the bag to a cleat on your kayak.

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One exception is that you carry your phone and charger in one waterproof sandwich-size plastic bag and put it in a secure pocket or wherever you can reach it once you get to land.

Preparing Your Kayak for Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather

You should know the size and length of your kayak and know how much weight you can store in the kayak. Your kayak motor must also complement the weight of the kayak including what you are taking with you. Once you have everything packed, weigh it to make sure you are not going to be overweight. If you are overweight, begin eliminating the least essential things you are bringing with you. An overloaded kayak can be very dangerous, especially in bad weather.

For example, if your kayak and everything you are bringing, totals up to 1,500 pounds, then your kayak motor must be able to produce a thrust of 30 pounds. Your kayak information may tell you this information so you will know what motor thrust you must have for your size kayak.

Related: Check out our Ultimate Guide to Electric Kayaks!

Charging Your Battery

Charge up your battery a day or two before you plan to go out. Once the charge is complete, set it in the battery holder (don’t hook it up yet) or the location where you typically keep your battery while out on the water. If your kayak is stored outside, keep the battery inside until you are ready to leave. 

Check all attachments to the battery nodes, including the wiring, to ensure that everything is in good working order. If it has been a while since you last used the battery or the motor, you may need to test it before leaving home.

Attachable Sail

These are handy to have, especially when moving from fishing spot to another close by. They can be stored packed up in a netted bag, stored at the front center lip of your kayak. Using a sail is preferable to using your motor while you are fishing as it could scare off fish. 

Buy a sail that you can operate manually with side strings. Some sails come with a clear plastic center that you can look through to see where you are going. Another sail looks like a regular small sail that you can operate, much like the sail in a sailboat. You just insert the pole into an installed hole at the front of your kayak.

Don’t forget to add your paddle in the boat. Use an attachment device that should always connect your paddle to the kayak in case of a tip over.

Have all three options available to you: the trolling motor, a sail, and the paddle. That way you are prepared for any kind of problem you could encounter. You have several choices to pick from that moves you towards land if you have an emergency.

Related: Learn about the 5 Best Kayak Trolling Motors!

Kayak Outriggers

If you want to reduce the chances of tipping over sideways into the water, get attachable ballasts for both sides of your kayak. Center of gravity in a canoe or kayak is very important and you never want to be sitting too high where you create an easy tip-over situation. Lower your seat and add ballasts if you have a kayak that could easily tip. 

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There are many versions of ballasts you could use but it mainly depends on what design type of kayak you have and the size it is. Find out more information here about How to Use Kayak Outriggers.

The Kayak Fishing Anchor

If you found the perfect spot to fish, you want an anchor that will keep you in the right position to maximize your fishing haul. Here are a few suitable types to use for cold weather fishing.

  • Grapnel Anchor: These have four folding flukes that effectively hold in most types of seabeds, such as mud, sand, rock, and gravel. The full system comes with the anchor, a 24-foot marine rope (or longer), with a clip to secure to your kayak. If you are in anything other than calm water, use a heavier version. 
  • Bruce Claw Anchor: this anchor has a curved post with a claw at the end of it to hook underneath a rock edge or some other ground fixture. This is a good anchor to use if you are in active water and need a more secure hold. Buy the stainless-steel version which never corrodes or rusts. 
  • Drift Anchor: This anchor allows a current to let you move along the top of the water, but at a controlled rate. 

Related: Learn How to Use a Kayak Anchors!

There are many different anchors to use but the three listed above is a good place to start researching for what you want to get. Install your cleat(s) at the front (bow) or back end (stern) of your kayak. Have a professional do the installation (recommended) if you are unsure of how to do it yourself. Your marine anchor line should be three times the depth of the water you are in. Consequently, always know the water and depth of where you plan to fish. If you use a fish finder, you may get that information from the screen status reading.

Additional Kayak Fishing Gear

Get your rods and reels set up before you stash them in your kayak. Add your hooks/lure ahead of time so you don’t have to fuss with these on the kayak in a small space. Once your hooks are set, and your line is taut and locked securely, place the hook against the rod and wrap with a cover that has a pull-open closure. You can find many kinds of covers on Amazon, Walmart, and other online stores. Bring only the fishing gear you need for the water and fish you will be after. Add in any tools you are likely to need, too (i.e., pliers, collapsible net). 

Rules of Engagement While Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather

Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather
  • Always bring a friend with you who can kayak alongside or close by you. 
  • Be on your best behavior while fishing on the water. Don’t drink alcohol and “drive.”
  • Have your fishing license handy and up to date in case you are asked to show it.
  • Know what your emergency contact numbers for your area are if you have a problem. 
  • If you see someone in trouble, stop and render aid. Call for help if it is a serious accident.
  • If you tip over, inflate your life jacket immediately. Keep your head and neck above water. Next, if your kayak is right side up again, hang on to the open edge and swim for shore. Hopefully, if your fishing buddy is there, he or she can help you get there faster.
  • Always tell someone at home where you will be and when you plan to be back. 
  • If there is an outfitter close by, leave your phone number and your trip itinerary with them. Check in with them when you are headed back home.

If you have taken every precaution to keep yourself safe and warm, you will have a great time kayak fishing, especially if you go with another friend or two. Never be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure about a situation, particularly when it comes to kayak fishing in cold weather.

Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather – Conclusion

Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather

Wow! We have truly covered everything you could possibly want to know about kayak fishing in cold weather! We started by discussing a handful of safety tips before moving into steps you might take to prepare your kayak kit, and your fishing kayak, for your trip out onto the water!

Of course, if you’ve read the entirety of this article and find that you still have questions about kayak fishing in cold weather, please make sure to reach out to us by posting on the Comments board below!


Kayak Fishing in Cold Weather

So what do you think? Have you ever been kayak fishing in cold weather? Perhaps you typically go kayak fishing in the spring, summer and fall, but have thought about continuing your hobby into the winter months? Maybe you have some tips or tricks you want to share with your fellow kayak fishing enthusiasts on this site?

Share with us! We’d love if you would post on the Comments board below! We read and reply to every comment and absolutely LOVE interacting with the kayak fishing community!

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