Wading is a popular means of fishing for many saltwater anglers, especially those who want to be close to nature and do not want to invest thousands of dollars in a saltwater fishing boat.
Many inshore species can be caught in waters shallow enough to wade, whether in the surf, on shallow flats, or in bays and lagoons. For some prized saltwater game fish, such as bonefish and permit, wading may be the most effective strategy available, because the fish often inhabit waters inaccessible to most boats, or the use of a boat may spook these wary fish.
Depending on water temperature, wading can be done with or without waders (known as wet wading). Obviously, cool to cold water necessitates the use of waders at varying degrees of thickness. Waders are used occasionally in warm salt water, but many anglers prefer to just wade in a pair of shorts or swimming trunks. Here, without the boot portion of the waders, its often necessary to wear sandals, sneakers or specialized neoprene wading boots to protect the feet from sharp rocks, corral and stinging fish and rays burrowed in the bottom.
There are a variety of wader styles and materials available to suit virtually any need or situation, as well as a number of accessories that enhance the effectiveness or safety of wading, with or without waders.
Chest Waders As the name implies, these are waders that reach the upper chest and are used for waters up to chest high. They are usually held up by suspenders and come in either bootfoot (boots attached) or stockingfoot (no boots) styles. Wading boots are used with stockingfoot waders and purchased separately.
Waist-High Waders This relatively new type of wader covers the body from the waist down and is suitable for moderately deep water. They are secured by a built-in belt and are available in bootfoot and stockingfoot styles.
Hip Boots Hip boots actually reach only the upper thigh but are widely used in very shallow water. In many cases, they are preferred over chest and waist-high waders because they are easier to get in to and out of and are lighter and less bulky. Hip boots are secured by vertical straps attached to a belt or waistline and almost always come in bootfoot style.
Materials Originally, waders were made of heavy canvas, then rubber-coated fabric. Some waders today include those materials, but the majority are made from 3- to 5-inch neoprene rubber, heavy-grade nylon, or tightly knit nylon with waterproof, breathable membranes. Some waders offer a combination of these materials. In general, heavy nylon waders are the most economical, followed by neoprene and breathable membranes. In terms of warmth, neoprene is the preferred material.
Soles Whether part of bootfoot waders or wading boots, felt soles are ideal for most bottom conditions, including gravel, slippery rocks and other hard surfaces. Felt soles become even better when metal spikes are attached. Felt grips the slippery surfaces at the bottom better than any other substance, and the spikes allow for even more gripping power. However, if soft, muddy bottoms are encountered, lug soles (waffle-stompers) can provide superior traction.
Wading boots or shoes are popular with stockingfoot waders especially in areas that are known to be unstable. They are specifically designed to combat slipping and give support to the feet and ankles. Wading boots/shoes come in a variety of materials from leather to neoprene depending on the type of support the angler will need for their fishing terrain.
Few wading anglers consider wearing life jackets, but every angler should. Even strong swimming fishermen can be overwhelmed by powerful currents or impaired by a fall. There are now many life jackets on the market that double as fishing vests. Some of today's inflatable personal flotation devices (PFDs) will only inflate when needed, leaving the angler with almost no bulk and complete freedom of movement while fishing. Become familiar with how to quickly unfasten the life jacket if swept away by strong current and the jacket becomes snagged on a tree or other object.
Wading staffs are helpful in navigating the trickier parts of a sea bottom, acting as a stabilizing "third leg." The advantage of a staff at least armpit high is that you can use both hands on the stick, but the main thing is to have one sturdy enough to support your entire body weight. They can be purchased at many tackle shops, and devices such as an old ski pole can easily be converted to a wading staff.
Many anglers wear a strap or belt around the waist that closes off your waders, preventing most of the water from spilling in after a fall. This also keeps air inside the waders that will help you stay afloat in the water.
Polarized sunglasses reduce glare from the surface of the water, allowing the bottom of the steam or river to be seen and analyzed more easily. Even in extremely clear water, a deep hole may not appear as deep to an angler without polarized glasses.
A whistle can serve as a signal to either a fishing partner or others that someone is in trouble.