Staying Safe on the Water

Craig Dye, Nucnaoe Tournament Team

By William Reed

Keeping yourself safe while on the water is paramount to any angler. All seasoned boaters or kayakers know the importance of a quality lifejacket, or Personal Flotation Device. If you fish tournaments, you know PFDs are required by participants anytime they are on the water. Statistics show there is at least one fatality a day from boating and kayaking incidents. In addition to a quality life jacket, there are a few other items you should carry with you on the water for safety.

Step one is choosing the appropriate lifejacket for the type of water you are on. Make sure the lifejacket is US Coast Guard approved. Type three and five are the most common lifejackets used for boating and fishing. Based on the water conditions and weather, I use both of these.

For the winter, and on faster moving rivers, a class three keeps me warm and offers added safety. The one drawback is a standard type three will run a bit hot in the summer and slightly restricts movement. For the summertime and while out on my boat, I prefer a class five which is an inflatable lifejacket (also called a class three inflatable). An inflatable life jacket is much less cumbersome and almost disappears once you put it on. The class 5’s are lightweight, much smaller, and fit like a t-shirt. The noted difference is that the inflatable must be worn at all times, while on the water, to meet Coast Guard regulations where a class three can be stored in an accessible location on the boat. Regardless of which one I take with me, I still wear it at all times on the water.

There are many brands of PFD to choose from. For the fishing enthusiast, my favorite life jackets are Gill Marine, Astral and Stohlquist, for class three standard PFDs. The Gill side zip PFD allows you to paddle with ease, has great ventilation, and its quality is second to none. If one wants added visibility, the colors range from black to yellow and red. For a class 5 inflatable, the two brands I prefer are NRS and Mustang Survival. For NRS and Mustang, you can either get a model that auto inflates when it gets submerged in water or one that requires a pull tab to inflate.

In addition to a life jacket, there are several additional safety devices to consider. A loud sound device, like a whistle, is the best $1 anyone could spend to save one’s life. Other items you should consider that cater to kayaking are safety flags and lights that stick up several feet above the water. YakAttack makes the Visipole that not only has a flag but also a white anchor light that makes you night-legal and enhances your visibility to fast driving boaters. A great device for anyone who ever paddles alone is a personal locator beacon known as an EPIRB or PLB. A locator will send a GPS signal if you ever get in trouble, where emergency services can find your exact location. EPIRBs are used more for offshore fishing and PLBs more for rivers and lakes. They both essentially do the same thing.

Being a tech and safety junkie, I am always trying new accessories and safety gear while on the water. Safety is a great concern to me because I am alone a lot of times on the water. I hope I convinced some of you to start being more safety conscious and wear your life jacket while on the water.

William Reed is a Nucanoe National Pro Staff Writer. You can contact him at or find him on InstaGram @wde_will