This question comes up quite often actually. Are fishing kayaks easily flipped? My answer to this is always a simple yes, no, and maybe.. I know, not so simple, but with further explanation, hopefully you will understand. At different times in your experience with kayak fishing, you will discover exactly what I mean.
Yes, they are easily flipped. When you find their sweet spot, most fishing kayaks will dump you quick. They are generally very forgiving to leaning back and forth. This is called initial stability, and deals with the kayak feeling “stable” or not. You can usually lean over pretty far to one side, before the kayak begins to feel like it is going to tip. Wider kayaks allow for more leaning, because of the greater surface area on the water.
It is once you find these limits, or the sweet spot, that your kayak will dump you. No warning, just over you go. This is considered secondary stability. Fishing kayaks are wider, and this helps with the secondary stability. However, like a canoe, when you get to that sweet spot, you usually don’t have time to react before you are in the drink. Length helps with secondary stability as well, but doesn’t play as big of a role as width does.
One thing that you should practice, and the only time that I believe you will dump your kayak will be when exiting and re-entering the boat. There is an art form to entry into a kayak, especially in deep water. You should get sufficient practice with wet entry before you take your gear with you as well. Not only could it save your life, but save you money too!
Sit in fishing kayaks generally have less initial stability, meaning they feel like they are going to tip at any moment. This is because the weight of your body is below the waters surface, and makes the kayak act like a pendulum. The sweet spot on a sit inside kayak is very minimal. These kayaks have a tendency to roll you over before you realize it.
If you are just exploring, paddling, and doing some fishing though, they are not easily flipped. I can count the number of times on one hand that I have flipped my kayak. And every one of these times was not an “accident”. I had something to do with it in one way or another. Trying to bust a branch in our way one time, I stood up in my Potomac, pushed on the branch, and down I went. It is usually your fault when something like this happens!
To sum it up, wider kayaks are harder to flip, longer and wider kayaks are generally unflippable. Most people can hang their legs over the edge of a kayak to rest them. Some sit on tops, you can even climb on it without even worrying about it dumping you. As long as you practice with what you are using, and use your brain while on the water, you will make it home safe!