Kayaks in the snow

For those of us living in temperate northern climates, fishing kayaks should be given special consideration when storing them for the winter.  In particular, sit on top kayaks have features that might make them more susceptible to damage from freezing.  Here are some tips and things to consider when you are winterizing your fishing kayak.

Kayaks in the snow

My desire to fish right up to the arrival of Old Man Winter led to my sit on top fishing kayak getting caught out in a rain that quickly turned to snow. Luckily the next day there was a brief thaw that allowed me to get my kayak properly prepared and stored away and ready for its cold season slumber.

Kayaks are waterproof, so people tend to think that they can take whatever mother nature dishes out while they are stored outdoors.  Not so.  Freezing temps makes plastic very brittle and any water collected in tight spaces will freeze and could actually cause cracks.

Sit on top kayaks, particularly those set up for kayak fishing, are much more susceptible to damage from freezing because there are extra spaces and compartments in which water can collect and freeze, and often additional equipment and features that can also be damaged.

Ideally, you should store your kayaks someplace indoors in a drier and warmer location like a shed, basement or garage.  Not everybody has the ability to do this, so here are some steps you can take to protect your kayaks when stored outside for the winter.

-Remove all fishing equipment and electronics.  The constant cooling and warming early and late winter combined with moisture in the air can wreak havoc on metal parts and electronics that are susceptible to corrosion.

-Never leave batteries stored uncharged for long periods of time in freezing weather.

-If possible, remove transducer cables prior to cold weather because wire insulation can become brittle and crack when moved around.  Also, rodents like to chew on wiring.

-Store your kayak up on an elevated  rack or flat surface.  Even when cold, your kayak can still deform if left long-term stored on an uneven surface.  I’ve known friends who have stored their kayaks on the ground only to discover that their kayak had been sitting in a block of ice or had become the home for some rodent or other animal.

-Store your kayak upside-down goes for sit on top kayaks too.  You might think that water would run right out through the scuppers, but what happens more often than not (see photo above…) is that snow collects in the wells, then freezes and blocks the scuppers preventing water from draining out.  Also, flush mount rod holders can fill up with water, freeze, and crack the plastic.

-I recommend removing the scupper plugs from sit on tops even when they are stored upside down for the winter.  With they plugs in, it makes a nice collecting area for water which can freeze, expand, and cause cracks.

-Be careful moving kayaks and opening hatches in freezing weather.  Plastic becomes much more brittle and can snap much easier.  Even the slightest amount of water condensing and freezing around hatch seals can cause problems.  I once learned the hard way when I unthinkingly forced open a hatch late winter when it was still freezing temps and tore a foam-rubber seal.

-Remove all fabric and padding from your kayak such as seats, PFDs, and cushions and store them indoors.  Rodents love to chew on cloth and foam padding and use them for building nests.

-If you take the above precautions, you may not really need to cover your kayak with a waterproof, but it might be something to consider if you live in a place where their is still plenty of sunshine during the winter, in which case you might want to cover your kayak to prevent damage from ultra-violet radiation. I’m not a big fan of putting covers on my kayaks because I’ve found that they can cause as much damage as you are trying to prevent when they collapse under the weight of water or cause abrasions due to flapping in the wind.  Other alternatives might be to store your kayak in a shaded area or to apply a UV protection product such as spray-on 303 Protectant.  Because I know live in an area with fewer sunny days that Seattle Washington, I have not used this product, but friends who kayak fish in sunnier climates say it works great and gives your stuff protection from solar radiation at SPF 40.

Just as when quarry workers used to use the power of freezing water to cleave large blocks of stone, your kayak doesn’t have a chance should water collect and freeze in a tight space such as a scupper hole.  Quarry workers would drill holes in rock then fill them with water over the winter.  The water would freeze and expand and actually split the rock along carefully measured lines of drilled holes.  In this manner, they were able to use the power of nature to make very symmetrical blocks of stone.  Imagine what it could do to your kayak’s brittle plastic!

If you have any tips for storing your kayak over the winter, you are welcome to share them with us here on Fishgator.