I would presume that all of the readers of this column are planning
to do some fishing in the coming months. Many of you have probably
already spent more than a few hours wetting a line, but it's never too
late to review a few basis safety tips. Each year here in Montana a
few folks head out for a day of fishing and never come back. It can
happen to you unless you listen up and practice a few simple safety
tips each time you head out to your favorite fishing spot.
By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
Boating accidents account for most of the fatalities associated with
fishing. Your favorite trout stream or bass lake can kill you, and
despite your warm feelings toward that special place it has no
concern for you. It will kill you with impunity and go right on
rolling along as if nothing had happened. If you approach any
body of water with those facts in mind you just might survive
to fish there another day.
Complacency and carelessness are the two major factors that
result in boating accidents involving anglers. A few years ago
a local guide with years of experience floating the Yellowstone
River nearly lost his life during high water by being overconfident
about his ability. The accident caused several hundred dollars
worth of damage to his expensive drift boat, but he survived
with only a few bruises, and a badly wounded ego.
The moral of the story is don't over estimate your ability. If
you're unsure that what you are about to do is safe don't do it!
It's better to walk your boat through a bad stretch of water than
to turn it over. It's better to fish from the bank if the river is too
high to safely float than to risk a swim in high, cold water.
Always make certain that your boat is equipped with Coast
Guard approved life jackets for each person in the boat. If
you fish from a float tube or pontoon boat always wear a life
jacket. They make Coast Guard approved life jackets that
double as a fishing vest so my advice is to get one and wear it.
If you are using a boat with a gasoline or diesel powered
motor make certain that you have an adequate fire extinguisher,
and keep it accessible.
Whether floating or just out wading keep an eye on the weather.
One of the biggest killers of people in the outdoors is literally a
'bolt out of the blue.' Lightening zaps the unwary every year. A
couple summers ago a guide and his clients were walking back
to their car when a bolt of lighting from a nearby thunderstorm
struck. While everyone survived the guide's career was over due
to continuing medical problems caused by the strike.
If you're on the water in a boat get off the water before the
storm is looming overhead. Take shelter in a vehicle or a
building. If there is no place to take shelter crouch down
on the balls of your feet away from trees and other objects
that might conduct electricity. Don't make yourself a victim.
Hypothermia is a very real threat to anglers. A quick dip in
an icy cold stream or lake, a sudden drenching from a storm
followed by a cold chilling wind can turn an otherwise pleasant
outing into a life or death emergency. Hypothermia can happen
even when the air temperatures are relatively warm. The symptoms
include drowsiness, loss of coordination, pale cold skin, confusion,
and uncontrollable shivering. Hypothermia is a life threatening
condition and immediate action is necessary to avoid loss of life.
When possible get the victim into a building or other shelter, and,
if possible, remove their wet clothing and replace it with dry clothing.
Do not use direct heat such as hot water to warm the victim. If there
is no available shelter get the victim out of the wind, keep them off the
ground, and cover them with blankets, tarps or any thing that can help
them retain body heat. If they become unconscious and unresponsive
you may have to perform CPR or rescue breathing. You can use your
own body heat to warm the victim. Cover the head and neck of the
victim since these are areas where heat loss is the greatest. If the
victim is conscious you can give them warm non-alcoholic fluids. As
soon as possible contact emergency medical services, or transport the
victim to the nearest emergency medical center.
The opposite of hypothermia is heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
The body becomes overheated and begins to shut down. Heat
stroke is a life-threatening situation, and heat exhaustion may
escalate to heat stroke if not treated promptly. Proper hydration,
wearing a hat, and avoiding overly strenuous activities during the
hottest part of the day are the best ways to avoid heat exhaustion
and heat stroke.
The sun also presents another more common problem to anglers
in the form of sunburn. Hats that protect the neck and ears, long
sleeved shirts, and sunscreen liberally applied to all skin that is
exposed to both direct and indirect rays of the sun are the best
protection against this threat.
Many of these situations can be avoided by taking a few simple
precautions before you head out into the field. Know your
limitations and don't exceed them. Check the weather forecast
and be prepared to take immediate action if conditions become
threatening. Go prepared with the proper gear including life vests
if you are on the water, rain gear, a windbreaker, jacket and hat.
Drink plenty of non-alcoholic beverages, wear a hat, and use
sunscreen are all good tips to make certain that you enjoy your
time outdoors and that you survive to enjoy it another day. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
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