Tag Archives: Outer Banks

Why are we losing so many kayak fisherman?



Kayak safety is no longer a topic I can address once a year.  Every week I read numerous articles about kayak fisherman dying while pursuing this sport we all love. before I dig too deep into this topic let me tell you who I am and what I do for a living to give this article better context. BE WARNED- beyond this point I am very straight and to the point, I don’t want to sound insensitive but we need to address this issue at its root cause, the “it won’t happen to me ” attitude.


My Name is Holton Walker, I have been serving in the US Coast Guard for almost 8 years now, and over half of that has been on C-130J Long range search and rescue aircraft. I am stationed in Elizabeth City, NC. I’ve conducted operations from Reykivik, Iceland to the Pacific Ocean. On numerous occasions, I get launched on Missions searching for Missing kayak fisherman all over the east coast and Great Lakes regions. It breaks my heart every time I get the details for our search plan and they paint a picture of a kayaker who wasn’t even prepared for the weather conditions, let alone a survival situation in those conditions. With that out of the way let’s get into the issues that are killing our friends.


The biggest killer in survival situations is hypothermia


The cooling of the body below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  a common misconception is that it only occurs in cold water. If the water is below 95 degrees you can expect hypothermia like symptoms even though it may take longer to affect you. Here are some hypothermia survival statistics with no protective water gear.


Water temperature


40-50 degrees you lose dexterity in 5 minutes, are unconscious in less than an hour and maximum survival time before death is 3 hours.


50-60 degrees you are unconscious in 1 to 2 hours with maximum survival at 6 hours before death.


60-70 degrees you lose consciousness in 2-7 hours and death around 2-40 hours depending on age.


The second biggest danger is not having a clear float plan.


A US Coast Guard float plan is form you leave with a family member or friend that includes where your launching from and where you intend to fish and when you expect to be back. it has section on what survival equipment you have on board and gear etc. This information is crucial to authorities estimating your survival time. A proper form can extend a search if we think you could survive past the normal expectations. There is a link on the menu bar of my site with a blank Float plan available for download for free.


Safety and survival equipment-


Here’s the average rundown of a search and rescue case for a missing kayaker. A friend or family members usually reports the fisherman missing by dusk depending on the time they were supposed to be back. The time it takes authorities to contact the US Coast Guard, then we are airborne within 20-30 minutes of the alarm going off.  The initial search is normally started after dark by the time we get on scene. The most important piece of gear is a PFD to keep you afloat until a search starts, at that point the most important device is something to signal the aircraft or boats searching for you. One of the best and cheapest devices is a chem-light or glow stick. You take the glow-stick and tie a 12-inch line to it and spin it in a circle. On night vision goggles and the naked eye alone it’s a very effective signal at night. My best signal device is more expensive, it would be an aerial flare or strobe light.  If a US Coast guard aircraft is searching for you at night, the pilots are wearing NVG’s and any light source waving will be very visible to them.


Radios and or GPS devices-


A handheld VHF radio is a critical tool to be rescued, every US Coast Guard aircraft that is flying is monitoring VHF Ch 16, 156.8 MHZ at all times. There are also many different GPS based devices like the Spot GPS device where you can send distress signals. E-Pirbs are more expensive but are the top of the line satellite distress beacons.


Protective clothing-


Staying warm is a huge deal when the air temps start falling. Hypothermia can set in quickly and you can start losing your decision-making abilities and start making bad judgement calls due to it. Always have the gear to not only fish when you plan but to survive the night if you get stuck or stranded.  However, when you go in the drink the only things that will dramatically affect your survival time is immersion suits or wet suits.  Dry suits are the most effective of anything on the market but are costly, the lesser effective mustang suits will keep you alive but you will be in contact with the colder water.




At the end of the day, the most important tool is your brain, if the weather is bad or foretasted to get bad and you absolutely must fish, do what I do and instead of open water fish a backwater creek that is protected from wind and waves. I personally wear a life jacket not just for survival gear but so if god forbid I have a heart attack, get bit by a snake a go into shock, or hit my head on something they search can find my body for my family. It’s a morbid thought but it’s an honest one. There is nothing worse than closing a search and rescue case without recovering a body for the family.  I hope this article helps shines some light on some of the lesser discussed topics in the kayak community. Stay Safe and come back next week for some Fall bass fishing tips and techniques to catch some monsters with the falling temperatures.


Kayak fishing 101

Hey everybody and thanks again for checking out the blog, today’s post will be covering  Kayak Fishing 101, my 7 steps and tips to becoming a better kayak fisherman and also touching on some safety issues.

#1  Keep your rig simple,don’t do this…

Courtesy of www.tenthousandislandskayakfishing.com
Courtesy of http://www.tenthousandislandskayakfishing.com

A crowded kayak is no friend to a fisherman, snag hazards and frustration can set in quickly, and if there is one thing I have learned form kayak fishing over the last 8 years it’s that if something can catch your hooks, it will. If something can go wrong during your trip, it probably will.  I have hooked myself, bird-nested bait casters to the point of cutting all my line off, and broke rod tips by hooking my rod behind me. A simple less crowded kayak will result in less gear but pay off in the quality and enjoyment of your fishing trips.

#2 Have a float plan with a friend or family member-

A USCG float plan might sound stupid , but in my 7 years of serving the the Coast Guard performing search and rescue nothing helps in a speedy recovery more than properly filled out float plan. A float plan consists a complete description of your vessel/kayak, the equipment you have available to you, but mainly focuses on your planned route and stopping points. When you fill one out you leave it with a family member or friend and if you haven’t returned by a certain agreed upon time they call the coast guard with the information given on the float plan. Below I have filled out and example and there is a page on my main menu with a blank float plan you can save to your computer.

Scan 4

#3 Safety equipment-

The most important thing to have on your kayak is a handheld VHF marine radio set to CH 16 or 156.8 MHZ for distress signals. You might not be the person who needs help another kayaker could be close by and having an emergency and you could be his or her saving grace.  The safety equipment I have on my kayak at all times consists of the following. An Atlantis VHF handheld radio, a Orion marine emergency signaling kit, a Firefly strobe light, my PFD, emergency water and next month I will be purchasing a 406 MHZ personnel locator. A good trick I learned form watching Ty Southerland on his  30Milesout Youtube Channel is I use frozen water bottles as my ice , it cools my catch and also serves as my emergency water rations.

Courtesy of www.farmandfleet.com
Courtesy of http://www.farmandfleet.com

#4 If you’re new to kayak fishing, try to reach out and go on trips with more experienced yak fisherman.

A beautiful factor of today’s technological world is the availability of kayak fishing forums on the internet and group pages on Facebook. If you are new to the sport its best to learn and shadow other fisherman you can go fishing with or meet on kayaking forums. Make no mistake their experience will teach you everything they have learned not to do over the years, saving you from making some of the mistakes and learning hard lessons along the way. Plus you might be able to get a couple of spots to fall back on during slow days.

#5 Wear protective clothing-

Sometimes people look at me funny when its 80 degrees outside, and I’m wearing full fishing pants , a long sleeve fishing shirt, a hat that covers my neck, a buff that covers most of my face, and Buffusa.com’s performance gloves, but at the end of the day I’m more protected from the sun, not burnt, and have a less chance of developing skin cancer from my kayak fishing trips. Every male member of my family has had melanoma skin cancer from fishing ,so I take it very seriously.

Courtesy of www.Tackletour.com
Courtesy of http://www.Tackletour.com
Courtesy of  www.BuffUSA .com
Courtesy of
http://www.BuffUSA .com

#6 Be versatile in your species targeting- 

My love is saltwater fishing, whether I’m fishing the flats or paddling offshore for some larger species I love saltwater fish. But there are plenty of days where I can’t drive to the beach 45 minutes or I can’t dedicate a long period of time for a trip. If I can’t fish saltwater I will immediately target bass and panfish in the creeks and rivers by my house. My favorite way to target bass and panfish is with topwater or floating flies. I even fish large ponds in my kayak when I can’t make a big water trip. Be very adaptive and try new places and styles of fishing. There are many days where your primary target species isn’t going to bite and you have to adapt. There is nothing wrong in my book with spending a day catching large ladyfish and jack’s or false albacore. Although they are considered trash fish by most people, large Lady Fish are some of the best fighting fish you can catch inshore.

#7 Should I use a GPS/ Depth Finder?

A good GPS/Depth-finder is one of my favorite things about my kayak, I don’t have to guess the bottom features of my surrounding areas, I can easily target structure listed on navigational charts, and I can view the depth fish are active in when fishing structure or even drift fishing along in my kayak. My GPS unit is a Lowrance Mark 4 HDI, I used it in my aluminum boat for duck hunting and fishing before I sold it with the arrival of my daughter in November 2014. My favorite way to utilize my depth finder is when targeting fish around bridges and submerged structure, I can clearly see the bait suspending and can adjust my rigs and presentation accordingly to better target the predatory fish on structure.

Courtesy of www.Lowrance.com
Courtesy of http://www.Lowrance.com

I hope these tips better help you understand some basics on kayak fishing and I will have more posts on different types of gear and homemade items for kayak fishing in the future. Thanks for stopping by and good luck out there. Always remember to be safe, no fish is worth putting yourself in a dangerous situation or jeopardizing your safety.

Please leaves comments below to help me on my future posts.

How to catch fish in the outer banks.

Hey everyone thanks for stopping by Apto Outdoors, the water and air temperatures are finally starting to warm up which means puffer fish and sea mullet are soon to follow. Today’s blog is going to be a short and simple article on the easiest ways for local surf fisherman and tourists to catch fish along the beaches of the outer banks.

What bait do i use?

I have seen everything you can imagine used as natural bait for saltwater fish. The number one bait to use in my opinion is dead shrimp. It will catch just about everything. If you want to spice it up I add a piece of fish bites shrimp flavored pink artificial bait to the hook as well.

What rigs do i need to use?

A simple bottom rig with a 2-5 oz pyramid weight and no. 2 long shank hooks will catch everything from puffers to skate to red drum. The smaller the surf the less weight you need to use.


Where do i need to go to fish.

The easiest way for tourists is to go to a pier because your fishing license is included in your pier fee. But don’t be fooled, you can catch fish anywhere from the beach as long as your are putting your line in the water. My favorite spot is the Coquina beach access area. Colder water can catch tons of whiting and puffer fish, otherwise called “sugar toads” in NC/VA, and warmer waters in the summer and early fall yield spanish bluefish and good size pompano.

North Carolina Citation pompano on sand fleas.
North Carolina Citation pompano on sand fleas.

Can i eat a puffer fish in NC?

Yes i love to eat the NORTHERN PUFFERS, they are not lethally poisonous but there bile can still cause some serious food poisoning. Below are the pictures of a northern puffer vs a horned puffer. ONLY EAT THE NORTHERN PUFFERS.

One of my favorite ways to catch fish is to put a small piece of shrimp or a sand flea on a small hook, about 2 feet under a popping cork and i fish it just past the beach break. It produces fish consistently and is a lot of fun for younger fisherman and your kids.

Northern Puffer

Northern Puffer Fish = safe to fillet and eat. CAUTION The bile will cause food poisoning but does not contain tetrodotoxin
Northern Puffer Fish = safe to fillet and eat. CAUTION The bile will cause food poisoning but does not contain tetrodotoxin

Horned Puffer on left – Northern Puffer on right.


2015 Apto Outdoors Bucket List.

Hey everyone and thank you for swinging by. Today’s quick post is covering the yearly goals  or the “Bucket List” for the blog and youtube channel. As soon as i can start getting out on the water and getting videos there will be episodes on YouTube. below is the month by month Bucket List.


  • Crappie- catch a 1lb or larger crappie on the fly rod.
  • Bass- Catch a 5lb bass or larger on the fly rod
  • Chain Pickeral- Catch a 20 inch or longer Pickeral on the fly rod
  • Rainbow trout- catch my first rainbow trout on the fly rod *


  • Pompano on the fly rod from surf
  • Bluefish on the fly rod from the surf
  • Spanish Mackerel on the fly rod from the surf
  • 20 inch or longer Red Drum on the fly rod
  • 18 inch or longer Speckled Trout on the fly rod
  • Flounder on the fly rod
  • Bonita on the fly rod from the surf
  • Atlantic Mackerel on the fly from the surf



  • Green Winged Teal Drake
  • Blue Winged Teal Drake
  • Mallard Drake
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Bufflehead Drake
  • Bluebill  Drake
  • Redhead Drake
  • Canvasback Drake
  • Wood Duck Drake
  • Ringneck Drake
  • Canadian Goose
  • Snow Goose

Outer Banks surf fishing.

Hey everybody and thanks for swinging by AptoOutdoors.com, Please feel free to comment below. Today we will be covering the basics of surf fishing in the outer banks. Its mid February and today the low is in the high teen’s so fishing has been slow but every day we get closer to higher temperatures the bites will increase. Hopefully whether you come to the outer banks on vacation or live close by this article will help you catch fish.

Smooth Dogfish- aka Fish and Chips
Smooth Dogfish- aka Fish and Chips

The basics of surf fishing-

Surf Fishing is quite simple, the fish stage on the edges of sandbars and deeper sections between the sand bars called “troughs” or “guts”. These locations provide ambush points for larger fish and congregation areas for small bait fish, which leads to a food chain cycle that will bring every fish into the surf from tiny glass minnows to sharks

What baits to use-

There is no shortage of types of dead and live bait to use in the surf. the most effective in the outer banks regardless of the time of year would be dead shrimp, blood worms, and sand fleas also known as mole crabs. Artificial bait sections can be intimidating to a new surf fisherman, so here are a few artificial baits that will catch fish in the OBX. Gulp swimming mullet in chartreuse catches fish whether worked on a jig head or literally left hooked on a bottom rig and left to sit on the bottom. A Gotcha plug or Silver spoon is very effective in catching bluefish, occasional red drum, spanish mackeral, and other predatory fish in the surf, I have even hooked a Mahi from Janette’s pier in the summer months on a Gotcha Plug.

What Rigs to use-

A two hook bottom rig is the most effective way for a new fisherman to fish the surf, it provides two baits per rod which is helpful when dealing the pesky bait thieves in the surf. One thing that is important to note is the wave and current the day you are fishing, if the waves are small to nothing a 2 ounce weight will be enough to hold your bait but the larger the waves the larger your pyramid weight needs to be. If your weight is to small your bait will drift down the beach. #2 Saltwater hooks are small enough to catch sea mullet and puffer fish, and strong enough to catch drum and big pompano, but if you are targeting larger fish use a heavier hook as to avoid bent shanks and lost fish.

Where should i fish the beach at?

Beach fishing on vacation can be complicated, the beaches get crowded and I have literally had parents tell their kids to play in the water underneath my fishing lines, the best advice for beach fishing the summer months is to get out of the towns and go to the beaches away from the vacation homes. Generally speaking the further south you go the better the fishing. I Mainly Fish summer months from before sunrise to around 11 am. by that time beaches get crowded and fishing slows down a bit. Our family will go shopping during mid day and I’ll come back to fish the evening to sunset when the beaches are empty again. If you feel like kayak fishing there is no shortage of shipwrecks within a quick paddle from shore if you research them.

I hope reading this article was helpful to you and starting in march i will have instructional videos covering surf fishing on the site and our you tube account.Thank you for reading and come back to see use next week.