Just because the winter has set doesn’t mean you can’t get out fishing by boat. I fish regularly during the winter in the southeast and often have great success. However, due to the cold air and water temperatures, it is critical to keep safety in mind. Here is how to remain safe during winter fishing from a boat. 

Check The Weather Forecast

Undoubtedly, you’ll want to monitor the weather before and during your fishing trip in the winter months. 

Plan Ahead

Understanding the predicted temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and wave height will allow you to make a more informed decision. Also, reading the marine forecast ahead of time will allow you to dress appropriately. 

In the event the weather conditions are dangerous, such as the issuance of a small craft advisory, don’t attempt to leave the dock. The last thing you want is to put yourself and your passengers at risk. Remember, hypothermia sets in quickly if the boat capsizes and you end up in the water. 

Beyond determining not to go is being prepared with what to wear if the conditions are acceptable. Ensure that you bring enough warm clothing if the temps are low. If rain or snow is expected, I suggest packing rain gear. 

Monitor The Weather While You’re On The Water

Don’t be surprised to encounter changing weather conditions during the winter. In the winter, the winds tend to be stronger, making for rough waters. Additionally, heavy cloud cover will decrease visibility as it blocks out the sun. 

In the event that the weather becomes dangerous, never push the limits. The best decision is to return back to the dock. 

Pack Layers Of Clothes

Being out on a boat in the cold is less than desirable if you’re not dressed appropriately. Remember, it is better to overdress than underdress. With that said, you can always shed layers as needed. 

I suggest wearing at least three layers, depending on the temperature. As the daytime temperatures heat up, stow a layer in a dry place that you can add back on when needed. 

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to keep your hands warm, especially when you’re constantly immersing them in cold water. I suggest insulated fishing gloves to stay warm. However, remove the gloves when you’re grabbing bait or a fish from the water. Place the gloves back on your hands once they are dry. 

Wear Non-Slip Footwear 

When winter fishing, the last thing you want to do is end up in the water. One of the biggest ways to prevent that from happening is wearing the proper footwear. 

A quality pair of deck boots will not only aid with traction but also keep your feet warm and dry. While boat shoes are a good alternative, they will become inundated with water. Walking around with wet feet in the winter cold will be less than desirable. 

Let Someone Know Of Your Plan

In the winter, anglers die because of the effects of temperatures on the body. With that said, in order to survive if you capsize, a quick recovery is a necessity. 

Unquestionably you must make someone aware of your fishing plans. Tell a friend or family member where you plan to fish, how many people are onboard, and when you intend to return. 

In the situation where you have not arrived on time, they can first attempt to call you. Secondly, emergency services can be notified to perform a search and rescue. 

Remember, if nobody knows you went winter fishing by boat, nobody will know if you’ve come back.

Perform Routine Boat Maintenance

If you’re not going to winterize your boat, the last thing you want is a mechanical issue. Being stranded on a cold and windy day is less than desirable. 

For this reason, it is imperative to perform maintenance based on the engine manual. Failing to do so can result in the loss of power. Additionally, batteries are under more strain in the cold. It’s never a bad idea to run a trickle charger on them the night before the winter fishing trip. 

Lastly, test the bilge pump before leaving the dock. Having a bilge full of water with no way to remove it is a frightening experience, especially in the cold. 

Remain Safe While Winter Fishing

Staying safe while fishing in the winter is particularly important because of the harsh weather conditions. Planning ahead of time when it comes to analyzing the weather and dressing appropriately is paramount. While you’re on the boat, remain vigilant because ending up over the side and into the water is extremely dangerous.