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Winter Time Fishing/Boating Safety
By Barry Featheringill

 

With winter upon us and several still not wanting to suffer the pains of cabin fever we still try to get that last few days on the water before the lake freezes over. There are several special concerns that need to be addressed when winter fishing/boating.

  1. Plan your trip.  It only makes sense to let somebody know when you plan to leave and return home but also plan on items necessary in case of an emergency and what actions you might need to take. A cell phone or two-way radio, dry clothes and matches in water proof container,  food and fresh water, flashlight with extra batteries, flares or signal kit are just a few items that might be beneficial in an emergency.
  2. Leave a Float Plan. Leave a description of your boat, the number of people in the boat, the area you plan to be in while on the water, and the time you expect to return with a family member of friend.  If you are overdue on your return this gives specific information to aid in search. Time is important in cold-water exposure and your time is limited.
  3. Weather Conditions. The weather is always very unpredictable but more so in the winter months. It is really had to have a nice day come along after a long spell of cabin fever to not just jump at the chance to get out and try for some fish. Always check the weather and NEVER depend on a small overloaded boat to get you safely on the water and return, especially if wind should happen to make conditions rough.
  4. Personal Equipment. Your Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is the most important piece of equipment on your boat. It is important that you wear your PFD during the winter months. Not only should your PFD be on when the big motor is in use, but all the time you are on the water. If your boat should happen to capsize or you fall overboard in cold water and you are not wearing your PFD the chances of survival are greatly decrease.
  5. Actions in an Emergency. The most important thing for a victim of fall into cold water is to focus on getting out of the water. The fact that water conduct heat out of the body much quicker than air makes it important to get out of the cold water as quickly as possible. Hypothermia is “dangerously low body temperature” according to the dictionary. Being in cold water causes the body temperature to drop at a rate 25 times faster than in air. As heat escapes the body hypothermia is speeded up and can cause cardiac arrest if not rescued and re-warmed. If you should happen to find yourself in the water don’t panic, do not remove clothing in the water, they trap air and keep you afloat as well as  keeping body heat in. Keep your head above the water since most heat loss is from the head. Draw your knees up to your chest and your arms to your sides in the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (H.E.L.P) protecting the major areas of heat loss. If you are with others huddle up as this will help your morale

There are a number of factors that influence the rate of cooling of a person’s body.

            Age, body size, physical condition

            Activity – such as trying to swim, thrashing about, floating

            Water temperature

            Amount and type of clothing

            Alcohol consumption

6         Effects of Alcohol. Cold weather and alcohol, especially in cold water can be    fatal. Common sense and responsibility are major factors to avoid injury or death. Drinking clouds common sense, which causes a false sense of security. Alcohol also lowers the body’s resistance to cold greatly increasing the effects of a sudden blast of cold of cold water (or air) causing the metabolic rate to increase and the demand for oxygen to increase in cold water. Alcohol also decreases a person’s coordination abilities to decrease.

Above all be safe it is better to have to suffer with cabin fever than it is to suffer thru hypothermia or even worse. Be safe.