Fishing is fun.       Really, it is pretty easy.    But almost monthly you will see someone getting killed doing it.   What can happen?   Think about it.    You may come up with some things I never thought of.   I can tell you:  I feel I am prepared for whatever might happen.

July through September, the chances of being caught in a massive thunderstorm are very possible.       Have a plan.   Don’t become a statistic.

I don’t care how you are doing it.    If you make the wrong choice in the wrong situation, you are in a major jam.     Me:   I practically hold the record for most time on the water and not being in life threatening situations.     There is a reason for that:   I make good decisions.

For you:  To be more like me, what do you do?        It is a combination of things.   First off, take the time to talk to other people.   Study things that “could happen.”     If you know things that could happen you can think about it before it happens and have a plan.        Assertive enough, you can get by but it is best to have thought through the possible pitfalls.

What to do?     I will tell you.   There are some options.

Winds and weather.     People who get in a major jam often went out when I wouldn’t have.     In a kayak, deep water and high winds is a bad mix.     You have high current, high wind and water you cannot stand up in and you have the situation where you may be in a major jam.      On days where the wind is howling, go fishing, but go to areas where you are protected.   Areas where if you end up in the water you can stand up.

Phones now make it easy.    Get the right radar ap.   Get notifications when there is major weather pending and that give you time to escape it.    Best case scenario:   Back to the launch, loaded up and head home.      There will be times where that won’t be an option.      A storm pops up right on top of you.      You need to predesignate:  “Safe spots.”   Every location you go fishing, where are you going to go to sit out a storm?      For me it is almost always on an island.    You secure your kayak and you have a nice place to sit it out on the island.    Wait for the storm to pass.      Much better to sit it out for an hour at a safe spot than to die of drowning trying to do something else.

In wide open water?   Is it less than three feet deep?    I would get out of the kayak and hold onto it while the storm goes through.      Shallow enough:  Get on your knees and hold on to your kayak.   Out with someone, do the same thing but get together.     You can set up where your boats aren’t beating on each other but you are sticking together.

Getting home safe:  You can do it 1000 ways.    Most of the time it isn’t a challenge.     But when it is:  Do you know what to do.     It only happens once in 1000 trips.    But are you going to make the choices that lead to success?   Success is “not dying.”    And make no question, if you do it wrong, you could get killed.

You screw up.   You let your paddle get away.      You have lost your motor.      What do you do?    If you have a phone and can call someone, that is obviously a solution.   If that is not an option what do you do?      I tested this one out.      I had someone take my paddle and told them I wanted to see if I get could home without one.    I waited for a tide switch.     I laid down where I could use my arms as paddles.     I had a slight breeze.   Using the tide and the breeze I made it back to the launch is basically no time.      Trying it half an hour earlier without the tide change:   It wouldn’t have worked.

You are out in low light conditions.   Where do you go?   I go in areas where it is literally impossible for a boat to be running at any speed.      That is intentional.   The fish are in there and it is relaxing to know that there is no way you can get run over by a power boat.      Stay away from the higher traffic areas but if you do frequent areas where you can encounter power boats, light yourself up and light yourself up GOOD.

In your supplies:    Do you have aspirin?   Twice in 14 years clients had heart problems and giving them that one aspirin might have saved both of them.    That applies even if you aren’t out fishing.    But when you are out in the middle of nowhere:   Regular aspirin is what you take or what you give to someone that may have a myocardial infarction.   A small thing, twice giving a guy a single aspirin got him to the hospital alive.  

Stories:

“I was out fishing this morning around the skyway rest stop area and only caught one 13inch trout.  I then decided to fish the bridge and I was not far behind another kayak fisherman.  When I turned the corner, he was in the water holding on to his kayak and the bridge piling.  A rope was tangled around his leg.  His pfd floated away and he was not able to get back on his kayak.  The incoming current was ripping!  He was lucky I saw him.  It was a struggle, but I helped him get back on the kayak and I towed him to safety.  He was physically spent.”

“I didn’t listen.   You told me not to do certain things.   I pushed it.   I went out in a thunderstorm.    Open water, heavy rain, probably 50 mph wind.   I lost gear.   I was lucky that was all I lost.   I got thrown upside down.   The water was five feet deep.      It was a challenge to hold on to the kayak and have my toes on the bottom.    I had to fight it for about half an hour before the storm passed.      I did remember what you told me:   My PFD was in a readily available position.   I had it on right after I hit the water.    Your suggestion:   Made this situation less stressful.        Had I been in deeper water I think I would have still survived it because you taught me to keep that vest where I could get to it.    But it would have been stressful.     I will never do it again.    I will get somewhere when it happens again.    Just like you told me:  Being caught in open water in a storm is a mistake.”

“your lessons continue to pay off.      I got caught in my first pop up storm.    I was in the middle of nowhere.    You told me if it happened and the water was shallow enough:  Get out and sink my knees in the mud, holding on to my kayak.    That is what I did.    Probably 45 minutes.    It was a monster storm.   Pretty sure that was a waterspout that went right by me.      The storm passed, I got back in the kayak and caught some fish.    Any other decision I could have made may have put me in peril.     “

Beware of afternoon storms

“I got caught in the highest wind I have ever seen on Tampa Bay.    It had to be 50 or greater.     I could not make any ground.    I could not get to an island (like you suggested when you trained me.)    In wide open water, I dropped anchor, trolleyed it to the back, leaned back, and rode it out.    After it was over:  No problem.    You told me that dropping anchor and sitting still could be the solution in a tough situation.      Thanks to you telling me:  That’s what I did.     I really encountered nothing dangerous once I put that anchor down to just sit it out.       Had I kept going who knows what could have happened.”

“Part of the Neil Taylor lessons.     Lightning is around, get all the rods laid down, try to get off a flat open area.       One heck of a lightning storm, perhaps the best I have ever seen.    I laid my rods down in the boat.     I tried to take cover but couldn’t get to where I wanted to.       Twice lightning hit within 25 yards of me.     I always wonder if I would have been hit if my rods weren’t down inside my kayak.     They were in the rod holders.     Your tip:   Might have saved my life.”

“I pity the person that doesn’t listen to you.  You told me what to do if I get in a major situation.      It got bad.    It got REEELY bad.     I got to an island.    I got the kayak secured.   I watched a storm just destroy everything.   Except me.   Just like you said:   you pointed at that island and told me *go there if you have a storm pop up on you*.    What happened?    A storm popped up.     I was fine.    I wouldn’t have been fine if I didn’t know to go there.    Thank you.”

It is up to you.      You can be the solution.   You can be the problem.    I like to have a drink.   But I don’t do it out on the water.   I do it at home.     Use precautions.   Don’t overdo it when you are out there.      Check your weather.     “Keep an eye to the sky”.   Watch for things that may be popping up on you.     Be ready for the unexpected.     Get that life vest on if there is ANYTHING out of the ordinary going on.   Get out of the open water situation and find cover.    If that’s not possible, try to get shallow, get all the rods laid down and ride it out.  

Neil Taylor

Neil Taylor

Full time kayak fishing guide, Neil was an advocate for conservation since before the time he started guiding.Outdoor writer, speaker and radio show host, Neil connected closely with Captain Mel Berman and did many positives with Mel to promote ethical angling. After Mel passed away, Neil managed www.capmel.com and eventually became that web site’s owner.
Neil Taylor

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