Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Winter is Coming

The temperatures are dropping quickly now and the water is getting much colder.   Yet, the fishing season for stripers and sturgeon will continue on, here in Southern New Brunswick till the rivers are fully iced over!    Below are a few pics from one chilly day out on the river back last December with Chris from the Greater Saint John Kayak Anglers showing just how much we love our kayak fishing!

While many people would consider it unfathomable to kayak fish in winter conditions, surrounded by ice and snow, it is actually a fantastic experience that I fully recommend to any kayak angler!   That being said, you do have to take special precautions to be safe,... which admittedly I do not always do myself!

One safety tip for winter fishing, which really should apply all year, but especially for winter, is to never fish alone!   It only takes one slip of the mind to have an accident, and as anyone who's accidentally tipped a kayak will tell you, it happens fast!   I'm guilty here of not heeding my own advice, and will likely continue to fish alone when others aren't available to fish with me, but certainly  when given the choice, I'd always opt to have a friend with me!

Anytime you are kayak fishing cold water, you really should have a good paddling drysuit like those from Level6 or Kokatat.   A good dry suit is on my wish list but I've not been able to put the money aside to invest in one yet, so here's another piece of advice I myself do not yet follow.   If you have any doubts at all about your confidence in handling a big fish, maintaining balance when hit by an ice flow,...etc, then you really should not attempt to kayak fish in the winter without a drysuit and appropriate layers.  It could most definitely save your life!

The river we fish in locally does have a considerable current, however it really doesn't offer any challenges in terms of waves or wakes.   The odd inconsiderate motorboat may not slow down, but that really is the extent of waves that we have to deal with.  So unless there is rain in the forecast, the only way you should get wet at all is from the little bit of water that may splash when paddling or retrieving a fish.

Given this, I tend to dress in layers, sometimes a lot of layers, but in a way that I have good mobility, and that my outer layers are water/wind resistant.   A warm hat, ice fishing gloves (and back up gloves), wool socks, and long underwear are all essential equipment.   As is plenty of lighting, as the days are quite short in the winter.   Of course, a PFD has to be worn as well!    When the temps drop really low, I tend to wear my extremely warm snowsuit, essentially the exact same outfit I'd wear on a snowmobile!

My kayak of choice most of the year is the Predator 13 for many reasons.   However, I may look at switching back to my Old Town Dirigo when the weather gets below the freezing mark..  In the sit inside Dirigo, with the spray skirt in place, my entire lower half is protected from the elements.  Wind, even a slight breeze can really make a cold day uncomfortable over the course of many hours, so blocking that wind in the sit inside works well.   Because my feet are basically resting on the water, with just the bottom of the kayak between, I may put a thin rubber or Styrofoam pad into the bottom of the kayak, just to help insulate my feet from the water.   

In the Dirigo, I am low to the water, so reaching over the side to grab the tail of a sturgeon is very easy, and there is ample space between my rod holders and torso to handle and deal with the fish.   In fact, my 54" sturgeon seen above in the blogs top picture was caught while in the Dirigo, just a few weeks before getting my Predator!

I'll keep using the Predator until I experience an outing where I wish I brought the Dirigo, at that point I'll probably make the switch for the remainder of the Winter.    There is one disadvantage to the Dirigo though, at least as I currently have it rigged.   I can only mount the anchor in the rear.   In conditions like above, it would be better to mount it in the front so that you can see the ice flows coming towards you, rather than surprise you as it hits the rear.    With the anchor trolley on the Predator, I can manouver the anchor to the front and be a little more prepared for the flows than I can in the Dirigo.

If you get out kayak fishing this winter, send me a pic and I'll include them in a post later the year!

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