Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine Vol 39 No. 1 - Page 31

by Jeff Herman Paddling Out PFDs: Wear Them! I t seems every few weeks there is news of another kayak fisherman drowning. The story is becoming more and more familiar. The one common theme of these sad and tragic stories is usually the absence of a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) or life jacket. It doesn’t mean that the outcome in the deadly accidents would always be different if the paddler had been wearing a PFD, but all statistics indicate boating accidents involving folks wearing life jackets are less likely to be fatal. The math is simple: Wear one and reduce your risk. Don’t wear one and increase your risk. I know I’m getting close to winter fishing when the bull redfish bite starts slowing down. On a recent trip on the upper coast, I had launched a few hours after sun up and noted that the water was getting too cold to not be wearing splash pants. As the morning went on, the expected tug of the big fish after big fish never materialized. We would wait and wait and wait for the zzzzz-ZZZZZZ of the drag to alert us and hope for a good hook set. After many hours we had a few fish each and handful of runs that came undone. In between runs, my friend Andrew and I chatted about PFDs. First, I am big believer in whatever PFD you will actually wear is the right PFD for you. There are many different PFD manufacturers, and each manufacturer has fishing specific designs, general use designs, specialty vests (made for white water/rescue/ touring) and even lady specific variants that ensure a comfortable fit for women. The bottom line is, you can find a PFD that you find comfortable and functional. Fishing PFD’s, or the life vests usually marketed to fishermen, tend to have some extra pockets and gear loops to allow the necessary ancillary gear most fishermen carry. If you are a gear head and always paddle with immense amounts of extra stuff, these vests are for you. NRS, Kokatat, MTI, and others all make a “Fishing PFD”. I suggest looking for one with a high back to accommodate the typical seat found on today’s fishing kayaks. NRS and Kokatat both make these. I often prefer to use a low profile life vest. Thus, I tend to wear PFD’s made for sea-kayak touring. These are low profile, especially around the arms and shoulders to allow for unrestricted paddling motion. The bonus of this design is twofold: Firstly, nrestricted paddling motion also means unrestricted casting motion; and secondly, the low profile vests always wear cooler in the 9 months between winter. The last thing you want is a PFD that makes you too hot in the summer months. Another option that many folks like is the inflatable PFD. These are low profile, lightweight and definitely comfortable in the summer. They use a CO2 cartridge to inflate when a rip cord is pulled. Therefore, it is critical to fit these types of jackets while they are actually inflated. I once had one of these jackets deploy unexpectedly and I was certain that I was being abducted by aliens. It was tight, constric ѥ