Selecting a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) for Kayak Fishing

Also known as a PFD, a personal flotation device is commonly called a life jacket. One of the principle requirements for all types of boating, each passenger must have a PFD available to them. While they do not need to be worn at all times, there must be one for every boater, sailer, crew member or passenger on a boat. There are several types of PFDs, each of which is designed to keep a person afloat in the event they fall overboard. For kayak fishing, PFDs are especially important, as the chance of capsizing or sudden deflation is far more likely than with a solid-hull watercraft. 

Types of Kayaks

Many types of kayaks are available as well. The main distinction is between hardshell and inflatable kayaks, although many varieties of each are available. Hardshell kayaks are primarily used for high-intensity whitewater expeditions, but they are found on lakes, in bays and the ocean as well. Inflatable kayaks combine the sleekness and maneuverability of a hardshell kayak with a wider base and a bit more stability. This makes them ideal for river, lack or stream fishing. 

Personal Flotation Device Types

There are 5 types of personal flotation devices, aptly named Type I through V. Each will keep a wearer afloat, but the different types should be used in the right situation.

  • Type I: This type of PFD is usually bulky, but it will keep a wearer right side up, even when unconscious. Best when out in rough, open waters, for kayak fishing, this type of PFD is usually not necessary.
  • Type II: Known as a near-shore buoyant vest, a Type II PFD is best for use in calm or inland waters such as rivers, lakes or streams. For kayak fishermen, this is an ideal choice.
  • Type III: Called a flotation aid, Type III PFDs are good when worn continuously. For kayak fishermen they are especially helpful, for they may feature numerous pockets or padded strips from which to hang tackle.
  • Type IV: This is the familiar life ring seen hanging from boats. Known as a throwable device, this type of PFD should not be used as a primary device, but only as a backup.
  • Type V: Special use devices, in order to count as a PFD, a Type V model must be worn continuously. Equal to a Type I, II or III PFD depending on its label, a Type V PFD is usually a full vest or even a jacket that will keep a wearer buoyant.

The Right PFD

Knowing which type of PFD is right for you requires an understanding of the water area, potential weather conditions and other factors. For those fishing from a kayak, the waters will usually be inland and calm, although there may be a current in the case of a river. Type I PFDs are probably not necessary as rough, open waters are usually only found on the sea or large lakes. For most kayak fishing adventures, a Type II or Type III personal flotation device will work just fine. Type III PFDs are less bulky, however, and come in specialty models designed exclusively for fishermen.