Tag Archives: Safety

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.


Affordability vs Quality

A common question among beginner kayak anglers or people looking to get into kayak angling is what kayak should I get to start out with.Unfortunately that question can’t be answered.  Every aspect of the different kayak brands better suits one style of fishing or one style of angler. Today’s post will be covering what all you should consider before purchasing your first fishing kayak or your next fishing kayak.

Price Vs Quality-

The price ranger of kayaks can ranger from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, and with so many brands out there it can get overwhelming with which kayak you should buy. I just purchased an Ascend FS12T kayak. And I was torn between the FS12T and FS128T, there is a $250 price difference between the tow and the only added features are a much wider stable, yet slower kayak you can stand on when looking at the FS128T. The FS12T is cheaper, more maneuverable but slightly less stable and can carry less cargo. My style of fishing is mostly in rivers and creeks so I don’t need a ton of gear and I’m not really looking to stand up much, so I spent the extra $250 on upgrading my tackle and gear. And that is where the arguments start.

FS12T on Left, FS128T on Right Photo courtesy of Texasfishingforum.com

How you decide which kayak should factor in these three factors.

#1- DO you NEED the added speed and features?

I would love to own a  Hobie mirage drive kayak, but at the price difference of the lower end kayaks I can’t justify spending the extra thousand dollars on a added luxury of feet propulsion that I think will get in the way more than help. However, if your fishing larger bodies of water or open water beyond the breakers of the beach it would be extremely useful. So deciding what features your looking for is completely unique to your style and your fishing area.

#2 Would I rather have the more expensive kayak, or spend the extra money on new tackle and gear?

This decision was a no brainer for me. I would much rather buy a $700-$1,000 dollar kayak and spend 300 on tackle and gear than buy a $1,300+ kayak and have no new tackle in my tackle box.

#3 Do i want stability or speed?

A common tradeoff with kayaks that don’t have a foot propulsion system is that the fast the kayak generally the less stable. The FS128T is one of the most stable kayaks out there and at $899 its a heck of a deal compared to the wilderness systems kayaks or Hobie’s. But with that stability comes weight, bulkiness, and slower tracking speed. So once again the perfect kayak is up to your personal preference.

SAFETY NOTE- My job is Long range search and rescue. I have had many cases where I have been looking in large areas for missing kayakers from the Great Lakes, to the Atlantic Ocean. When you chose the color of your kayak please chose something that contrasts the water you fish. If you have to get a camo kayak, and you fish blue water, get a green or tan camp, if you fish brown water get a blue or green camo. Imagine our thoughts when I’m told where are searching 500 square miles at an altitude of 1,500 feet for a missing kayaker in a camouflage kayak. Always plan for the worst case scenarios happening and always file a float plan with a family member or friend. ON MY PAGE MENU BAR THERE IS A LINK TO A BLANK USCG FLOAT PLAN THAT COULD END UP SAVING YOUR LIFE ONE DAY.




Getting ready for a new season of fishing.

Hey everyone and welcome back to AptoOutdoors, Today’s blog is going to cover getting your gear ready for fishing after a winter of sitting in the garage.

#1 Check your line-

Braided line has a tendency to weaken and fade after a season of use. An easy trick to avoid 45 dollars of new line for each spool a rod using the braided line from another . You are essentially putting the old line at the base of the reel and utilizing all the perfectly good line that was buried the previous season.  For fly fishermen and mono users  go over your line very carefully, if you think it could be replaced it probably needs to.

#2 Re-Stock on tackle and gear-

Make sure your tackle box is stocked again with what you use the most. For me what I go through the most is saltwater hooks, bottom rigs and popping corks. Go over your lures and see if any treble hooks need to be replaced. A common practice that has been hitting big with saltwater fisherman is to replace the treble hooks on topwater lures and suspending lures with circle hooks, providing an easier hook removal and survival probability for under-sized fish.

#3 Buy some Fish Grips-

A set of Fish Grips is something I consider an essential item. It doesn’t matter if I am fishing Freshwater or Saltwater, Inshore Or Surf, I will always catch something I don’t feel like touching or putting my hand near its mouth. Fish that come to mind are Pickerel, Bowfin, Snakehead, Rays, Speckled Trout, Flounder, Sharks  and other species make you cringe and really wish there was a way to get your favorite lure back. Fish Grips make that happen by providing a great way to firmly grab the lip of a fish and remove the hook or lure with ease.

Courtesy of Yakoutlaws.com
Courtesy of Yakoutlaws.com

#4 Safety Items-

If you don’t own a good first aid kit buy one, if you don’t have a CPR Mask or device Buy one, if not for the safety of the people on your boat do it for the other boaters who you will find having a bad day. We are all out on the water together regardless if someone is in your spot or acting a fool when bad things happen its better to be prepared. I can’t count how many times we have pulled our boat to someone flagging us down to find a wade fisherman stung by a stingray , and old man who hooked himself, my dad even pulled up to a drifting boat to find a 70 year old man clinging to the other side of the boat’s rails. His anchor had broke free while he was wade fishing and by the time he grabbed hold of the rails he hit a drop off and his waders filled with water. Always be prepared to help out other  fisherman. if something on the water does’t look right it probably isn’t right and you should always go check it out.

In conclusion one of the most important things to do is get out and fish. New structure is waiting to be found, new honey holes ripe for the taking, and good memories are waiting to be made this summer. So go out have fun, catch fish, but most importantly remember to be safe. No fish is worth risking putting yourself in a sketchy situation. Thanks for reading and come back next week.

When the fish don’t bite

Some days the weather is perfect, water is beautiful, and winds are 0-5 knots. A perfect fishing day but with one problem, The fish won’t bite.

During these situations it is easy to get frustrated, say some choice words, and end the day on a horrible note. What is just as easy to do however and much more productive is to always have a backup plan given the fish don’t bite. Whether its dive gear, a body board, or spearfishing gear always have something on hand so your day isn’t a loss.

It never fails that when I think I won’t need something such as my body board, a few hours of fishing with no fish landed the swells started to pick up and the wind switched offshore. I was not only upset that I wasn’t catching fish but that I had not brought my back up plan. Cue the wife! luckily my amazing wife had thrown my body board in the back of the jeep without me knowing, having seen me make this mistake of not bringing it before she thought ahead and ended up saving the day. While we didn’t catch any fish a random summer swell is much appreciated and i took advantage of a bad fishing situation and turned it into an enjoyable afternoon.

An Outer Banks summer swell
An Outer Banks summer swell

In conclusion, Always be prepared for a way to salvage your day. You can’t always outsmart the fish and having a backup plan will save your soul from some added frustration and stress!

A Sportsman’s dilemma

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Sorry for the delay in new posts, I have been through a dark spell the last two weeks. On Friday the 13th I was hunting the opening day of the December duck season and  my motor had multiple failures on the way to the boat ramp.  This amazing event happened as i have a month old baby and approaching the holidays with a recently purchased new truck.  I was faced with two options. Pay for the aging 1980’s motor to be fixed and keep driving the already ticking time bomb. or sacrifice my season and focus on gearing up for next years duck hunting.

I decided on gearing up for next year, as much as I love to hunt it is a wake up call that I can get fixated and make my life revolve around hunting and fishing but I want my life to revolve around my wife and new daughter.

In conclusion, as much as I would love to be in my boat hunting waterfowl, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than here at my house raising my daughter and being a good husband.  If you are ever in doubt that you are spending to much time away from your family, take a break and make sure things at the house are right before you take time away from them.   God Bless and

Merry Christmas!

My must have items for Duck hunters

My must have items for Duck hunters
Of the many items a duck hunter will have in his boat/ blind I have a few that I consider must have items.

A good decoy spread is a essential part of duck hunting. Typically I prefer 2 to 3 dozen decoys. The combination of species changes every hunt depending on my location. Any motion decoy will increase the realism of your spread however a moving wing decoy can flare birds on rare occasion.


A life jacket is a must for any duck hunter. One thing working Search and Rescue has taught me is to view my life jacket as a survival vest as well. I keep a high intensity LED Flashlight , a pea-less whistle, survival knife, and flare kit in the pockets of my lifejacket. In the event I need assistance I have every tool I need on my body at all times while operating my boat or wading away from it. Also not pictured I keep a Uniden Atlantis waterproof 16 channel VHF radio clipped to my waders or life vest at all times


Walker’s Game Ear’s are one of my favorite items. They amplify surrounding noises and have a Sound Activated Compression (SAC) circuit that protects hearing from both loud or sustained sounds. The only downside the game ears have is it amplifies my duck calls, which distorts them so I have to turn down the ears to call. The benefits of the game ears outweigh the call distortion because I can hear the whistling of ducks much better and can hear woodies from a mile a way


Last but not least is a tool/parts bag. My bag contains everything from a grease gun with grease canisters for my boat trailer, to spare batteries for electronics. If I have learned one thing from a lifetime of being on the water is that if something can break, it will break at the worst time and its good to have the parts and tools to fix it. My main spare part is an extra prop for my motor.


Thank you for reading and come back for future posts.

Duck Hunting Safety

Getting ready for Late Season Waterfowl-

A often overlooked aspect of duck hunting is the hazards involved and safety items that are must have for any serious duck hunter who operates boats in periods of darkness. During any break in the season spend some time to inventory and inspect the safety equipment on your vessel.

Courtesy of http://wlne.images.worldnow.com/images/24389385_BG1.jpg
Courtesy of http://wlne.images.worldnow.com/images/24389385_BG1.jpg

When operating your boat you should always where a life jacket of some type, one misplaced stump or awkward wave and you could end up in the drink wearing waders which is a situation most duck hunters don’t even want to think about.

Have a detailed plan of the area you will be hunting and what time to expect you back. In case you don’t return in a reasonable time that individual can contact the Coast Guard or local emergency services to initiate a search or at least tell friends where to look for you.

Have a kit with food rations, flares, space blankets, first aid,  hand warmers …etc. It might not be you that needs them, coming across a hunter in trouble/distress isn’t a everyday event but we are all out there together and you never know when someone might need your help.

Manufacturer information located on plates on the stern of most boats aren’t there for decoration. Manufacturers thoroughly test your boats safe operating limits and just because you have done it once with nothing bad happened doesn’t mean the next time in different conditions will be as fortunate. When hunting stretches of open water on calm days keep in mind winter weather can change very quickly and turn a river or bay from glass to a nightmare very quickly. And besides, most waterfowl hunters see bad weather days as a good day to be hunting migrating birds, increasing the chance for something to go wrong.

In conclusion it is always better to be prepared and have the right safety equipment than need it and not have it ready or in good condition. Using a  life jacket properly  will save your life when needed. Be safe and have fun.