10 Kayak & Paddleboard Safety Tips Every Fisherman Needs To Know


Although kayak fishing is one of the most fun and effective ways to catch fish, it can be dangerous if you’re not careful.

The tide could turn on you and you could get stranded on a flat or sucked out to sea, it can sometimes be tough for boaters to see kayakers, and any physical injuries while out paddling could be very dangerous since you’re the one powering the craft.

In this video, I’m going to share 10 paddleboard and kayak safety tips, including one that potentially saved my life.

Let’s dive in!

Kayak & Paddleboard Safety Tips [VIDEO]

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You never want to make your next trip your last trip, so always be careful while out on the water.

Here are 10 tips to help you do that:

1. Have a bright flag with you

Here’s what makes a good flag:

  • It stands taller than you when you’re sitting in your kayak
  • It’s bright
  • Bonus points if it has a light (which is mandatory in low light conditions in some states)

You can get the flag that I have, the YakAttack VISIcarbon Pro, from Amazon here.

2. Wear a bright-colored hat or shirt

In addition to having a bright flag, wearing bright colors can help you be visible to boaters who may otherwise not see you.

3. Bring a light

I keep a tactical flashlight with me when I’m on the water.

It has a strobe setting which helped me out one day when a boater was coming right towards me on a foggy day.

As soon as I turned on the strobe setting he changed his course away from me.

4. Bring an audible aid, like a whistle

These may be mandatory by law in some states, but even if they’re not in your state, it’s great to have a simple whistle in case an accident happens.

And here’s a tip: make sure to keep the whistle on you, not stuffed away somewhere in your kayak. This will help if you get separated from your kayak and you can’t get to it.

5. Wear a life jacket

I’ll be honest, I’m not great at always wearing my life jacket, but it can literally save your life.

I recommend type 3 life jackets that are made for paddling in.

6. Avoid areas with heavy boat traffic

You never know if boaters can see you (or if they’re paying attention) so you want to try to avoid areas with heavy boat traffic such as channels, bridges and boat ramps.

7. Avoid excess weight

The more weight you have in your kayak, the more unstable it will be.

A good rule of thumb I like to use is to try to stay 100 pounds under what your kayak or paddleboard is rated for.

For instance, if your kayak is rated for 425 pounds, I would not go over 325 pounds of total weight in the kayak, including you and your gear.

8. Practice kayaking before going out too far

When I first got my kayak, I took it out to a local lake and paddled around to get comfortable in it.

What you don’t want to do is head straight for the ocean before you’re comfortable in your kayak.

Check out this article to learn how to get back in your kayak if you flip in deep water.

9. Stay in contact with someone when you’re out on the water

The problem with cell phones is that there’s often bad cell reception on the water, so I like to bring a marine radio on the water with me.

I use a Cobra HH 350.

10. Leave a float plan with someone

I recommend writing down where you’re going, when you’re going, and when you plan to be back and sharing it with someone so that if you’re not back when they expect you to be they can alert someone.


paddleboard safety tips

These tips don’t require a lot of extra work on your part but they could help save your life.

Do you have any questions about kayak safety?

Are there any safety tips that I missed?

Let me know in the comments below!

And please TAG or SHARE this article with your kayak and paddleboard buddies.

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Mark Keller
5 months ago

You didn’t mention Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) in your kayak safety discussion. I fish alone in inshore waters that are typically well trafficked. What are your thoughts regarding PLB’s?

Michael Fitzgerald
6 months ago

Great job – several great ideas that are not required by law.

One thing required that was missed, if you are in territorial seas (Gulf or Atlantic) flairs are required.

James McKinney
9 months ago
James McKinney
9 months ago

Good video Tony. I have dumped myself out twice in three years. It is a good idea to practice reentry before you need to do it for real. There are a few good videos on YouTube on the subject. Luckily I was in shallow water both times but knowing how to get back in your Kayak if in deeper water is a good skill to know.

Scott Rispaud
9 months ago

Tony, can you tell me what kind of camera mount is on the L2 Fish?

Scott Rispaud
9 months ago
Reply to  Tony Acevedo

Thanks Tony!

David Bush
9 months ago

Good video and other good ideas. If you have or purchase a handheld VHF radio, make sure it has the GPS DSC feature. When properly registered, in an emergency you can press a special button on the radio and your GPS location and name, etc, is immediately transmitted digitally to the Coast Guard as well as in-range VHF receivers. The CG VHF network covers virtually all coastal areas where you could go in a kayak or bay boat/skiff for that matter.

Robert Phillips
9 months ago

I developed unrelated sciatica so had to give up kayaking. I do miss it; I would frequently use it to get to a good wading spot then tether it to me. I wish that we had a portal to sell stuff, as I need to sell my kayak. The general public is not that attuned to fishing kayaks.

Robert Phillips
9 months ago
Reply to  Tony Acevedo

Thank you. I now have an air boat, so water is no issue.

Scott Rispaud
9 months ago

Hi Robert, So sorry to hear you had to give up kayak fishing. There are a few reseller sites that are dedicated to kayak and paddle board resales. Many kayak fisherman will look there first. No matter where you post it, make your listing to include “Fishing Kayak” which can be helpful to draw the type of buyer you are looking for. Best of luck Robert and I hope this helps

Robert Phillips
9 months ago
Reply to  Scott Rispaud

Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

James McKinney
9 months ago

Hey Robert- go to Florida Used Fishing Kayaks and Gear For Sale on face book. Think it is a great place to list Kayak related items.

Robert Phillips
9 months ago
Reply to  James McKinney

Thank you. I have requested to join this group.

Scott Rispaud
9 months ago

Great points Tony and other good points made here. More so with paddle boards but pertains to both kayaks and paddle boards, tether yourself to the vessel with plenty of stretch cord or whatever you’d prefer. Should you fall from the vessel, a strong wind can carry it off as well as current, faster than you can swim. Should you get injured and can not get in/on your watercraft, you can at least remain buoyant with a vest and hold on to your craft.

If you go offshore like me, a divers plastic signaling mirror can be a lifesaver as it will reach a boat and/or a plane. Offshore, I carry a flare kit as well. Stay safe ya’ll.

9 months ago

Great points Tony and other good points made here. More so with paddle boards but pertains to both kayaks and paddle boards, tether yourself to the vessel with plenty of stretch cord or whatever you’d prefer. Should you fall from the vessel, a strong wind can carry it off as well as current, faster than you can swim. Should you get injured and can not get in/on you watercraft, you can at least remain buoyant with a vest and hold on to your craft.

If you go offshore like me, a divers plastic signaling mirror can be a lifesaver as it will reach a boat and/or a plane. Offshore, I carry a flare kit as well. Stay safe ya’ll.

Thomas Manley
9 months ago

Thank you Tony for doing this video. I’m sure it would help some people get equipped or better equipped.

David HHair
9 months ago

I would also add two additional recommendations based on personal experience. Handheld VHF radios have very limited range. Not because of power but because of their extremely short antennas as they are only useful line of sight. Coast Guard may hear you because of their large antennas and higher power but other local boaters will be very short line of sight range.
If you can buy a radio that allows a longer whip antenna to be screwed in that can increase your range.

One thing I have not done yet is buy a PLB or EPIRB. They are expensive but will be your most valuable piece of equipment if you ever need one

I would also suggest creating an emergency dry bag with extra clothes, food, mosquto/no see-um nets for your head, water, hammock, LED flaslight with strobe/SOS feature, TP and first aid kit. Be prepared to stay over night if required. I learned this lesson by almost getting stranded in a wind storm in the Eveglades before getting a tow from a passing boater. Dont forget a tow line. Practice reentering your kayak in calm conditions to make sure you can do it and dont also need a paddle float to help use your paddle as a step in the water if you need it. Be prepared!

9 months ago

very good tips but from personal experience i can tell you a cel phone and whistle are worthless. florida requires by law the whistle and i had one but no one heard it and i saw and heard many boats go by and i was not a very big object to be seen even if some one was looking. what saved me was a charter boat happen to be coming from one of his fishing hole and i was in his way so he stopped.
the ship to shore radio is ok but how will you tell them where you are and do not have a GPS. then it must be set to the same format they use or it is worthless to give directions. add you are unable to talk for any number of reasons like maybe some drunk runs over you and did not see you so just kept going. at least that is in an area someone else may happen by.
the Buoyant GPS Personal Locator Beacon cost about 300 bucks but you will see it on my vest if we ever meet some where.
you register it with the coast guard and if it get wet they will start to dispatch right then and also call a number to verify it is for real. if not real they will cancel and no charge. if they can’t reach the person or the person says yest they are on the water, the beacon sends your GPS location so they come straight to you not look every where for you.
many have been lost because the family said they did not return and just hoped the current did not carry them off to who knows where.

9 months ago
Reply to  Tony Acevedo

my yak is retired but my life vest with PLB attached is on before i get in my boat and stays on until i get back in my truck. yes i may forget something, as we all do at times, but float at least an hour and see boats not far away go by and they not see you and realize a vest and whistle is not all you need. the captain that found me is a member of salt strong and i will always be indebted to him. you give good report as always tony just thought i’d add a must have item in my opinion.

Mikel Kline
9 months ago

I would like to add a couple of additional important points to this message and earlier comments provided. Every kayak should be labeled with the owner’s Last Name and contact information (I suggest last name only as a precaution for our female paddlers). This is important for a couple of reasons (a) so the coast guard doesn’t initiate search activities for an errant kayak found adrift and (b) to increase the chances of your kayak being returned.

Additionally, the US Coast Guard Auxiliary distributes free of charge reflective paddle stickers to increase your visibility on the water. These should be affixed to your paddles to increase your safety on the water. Kayak identification labels are also available free of charge from the US Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Be safe. Tight lines.

Bob Currie
9 months ago

Regarding the recommendation to keep your marine radio turned off unless you need it: as a Coast Guard Recreational Boating Specialist, I recommend that you have your radio on at all times. Your radio battery will last a couple of days on standby. You should monitor Channel 16 at all times, and scan any local frequencies, including the bridge to bridge safe navigation channel, Channel 13. Listen for important marine broadcasts, which include bad weather forecasts. If your radio is turned off, not only will you miss important broadcasts but if you do capsize you will find it very difficult to turn your radio on and put it on the distress channel.

Dan McNulty
9 months ago

Hey Tony..Great vid. Being from So. Carolina I’d also warn anyone who fishes in cold water in the winter to wear protective gear like a wetsuit, bibs, etc. to avoid hypothermia in case of a capsize or a spill. 120 Rule…if the air temp & water temp don’t add up to 120 you need protective gear.

Dave Otte
9 months ago

Hey Tony, this is great information. I also carry a ‘first aid kit’ that contains gauze, waterproof athletic tape, neosporin,and a hefty pair of wire cutters in case I get a hook stuck in me. If something bad happens I can stop the bleeding and get home – that’s my goal with this kit.


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