Early spring is a prime time to target walleye on the upper Columbia River. But as Old Town ambassador Tyler Hicks notes, “cold water represents a potential threat to kayak anglers through hypothermia and can accelerate the drowning process.” Want to catch your limit in safety and comfort? Suit up and follow his safety tips for cold water kayak fishing.
Conquer Cold Water to Target Pre-Spawn Walleye
Hicks has picked a morning with “balmy 37-degree air temperature,” but his fish finder shows the water is no warmer. Why is this a concern? “One of the reasons that cold water is so dangerous,” he explains, “is that it is 26 times more conductive to heat than air is. So, when you go in the water you’re going to have the heat sucked straight out of you.”
To manage the risks, Hicks follows the 120-degree rule of thumb: wear immersion gear when combined air and water temperatures are under 120°F. But that’s not all—any water under 60°F can be dangerous.
According to Hicks, without proper immersion gear in sub-40°F water you’d lose consciousness in no more than ten minutes. And dexterity suffers much sooner, leaving as little as three minutes to right your kayak and get back in.
Avoid this chilling situation by wearing immersion gear and a proper PFD. Hicks covers three options: a full drysuit; dry pants and top; and waders, wade belt and rain jacket. Each offers a different level of protection from cold water, so consider the real conditions you’ll be fishing in before making a big investment.
Don’t Succumb to Cold Water Shock
Beyond hypothermia, Hicks notes that cold water shock can cause heart attacks “even in relatively young and healthy people.” Immersion gear will give you a leg up in the water, but your safety still depends on getting out. That’s where it pays to practice self-rescue techniques while wearing immersion gear.
With his safety all squared away Hicks is free to focus on fishing. He catches his limit of eight walleye, secure in the knowledge that he is ready in case the worst occurs.