Most kayakers cherish their encounters with wildlife as part of the pleasures of paddling. Sometimes, however, the wildlife comes too close for comfort.

A few paddlers have reported that fish have slammed against the sides of their kayaks or even leaped onto their decks at night. The likeliest reason is that the fish are drawn to the paddlers’ lights or lightsticks.

Marvine Cole has a scarier story. A few years back, she and her two sisters were paddling in the Texas Water Safari, a nonstop 260-mile race from San Marcos to the Gulf of Mexico. They were all using headlamps to make their way in the dark when an alligator garfish suddenly leaped out of the water, attracted by the flickering light. The fish hit her on the side and broke one of her ribs!