As the mercury climbs, Arizona waters fill with fish enthusiasts. The fishing is hot, the weather is hot and sometimes the thrill of getting outdoors is so intense that we forget to think of the importance of safety. A great day on the water can suddenly turn fatal when we don’t put safety first. Take the time to remind yourself and those with you of these essential tips.
1. Wear a Lifejacket – Find a jacket that fits and wear it. Forget about looking cool, it is not worth your life. According to the United States Coast Guard there were 4,730 accidents resulting in 736 deaths and 3, 358 injuries related to recreational boating in 2009. Of the deaths, 75% were due to drowning, and 84% of these people were not wearing lifejackets. Seven people out of ten who drowned were in open boats less than 21 feet in length.
2. Say No to Alcohol - The dangerous of mixing alcohol and boating on open waters is well documented. Intoxicated people are not able to react quickly in emergencies, have impaired judgment and are more likely to fall overboard than sober people. The United States Coast Guard recommends taking other non-alcoholic beverages on board and waiting until your feet are on the ground to enjoy a cocktail.
3. Plan – Plan your day so that you know where you are going. Carry maps of the water you are boating on so that there are no surprises. This is especially true if you are boating on unfamiliar waters. If you’re exploring somewhere new, send a link in an email to a friend outlining to the general area you will be with Google maps.
4. First Aid Kit – Pack a waterproof first aid kit with essential supplies including emergency flashlights.
5. Check your Equipment – Always check your boat before heading on the water to be sure that all of your equipment is in proper working order.
6. Weather - Always check the weather forecast before heading out on the water. Always bring a first aid kit. Every year boaters die when they get caught out in open water during a storm. Although storms can pop up unannounced, never boat when the risk is high.
7. Follow the Water Rules – Comply with all signs and follow speed limits, no-wake zones and underwater obstructions.
8. Never Boat Alone – Always make an effort to boat with a friend. Boating alone is never safe and should be avoided if possible.
9. Store Tackle Safely – Always keep your tackle box neat and organized so that you know where to find things and can avoid unnecessary injury. A disorganized tackle box is a recipe for disaster. Keep your tackle box shut when not in use and out of the way of foot traffic.
10. Look Back than Cast - Always look behind you before you cast. Wear a baseball hat and sunglasses or safety glasses to protect you from other people’s hooks.
11. Baiting and Removing – Take your time when baiting your hook and removing hooks. Rushing can result in serious injury.
12. Off Limits- Never fish in areas that are off limits. There are exceptionally legitimate reasons why fishing is prohibited in certain spots. Very likely, it is for your safety.
13. Clothing – Wear lightweight, sun-resistant clothing and a hat. The sun is immensely strong on the water, and sunstroke is common. Never wear open – toed shoes when fishing.
14. Radio/Cell Phone – Bring a battery operated radio and a cell phone to keep you in touch.
15. Water and Snacks – Bring plenty of fresh water and healthy snacks. Be sure that you are consuming at least 8oz of fresh water per hour. Remember soda and other sugary drinks will cause dehydration; it is best to stick to water.
16. Sunscreen – If you are particularly sensitive to the sun, be sure to apply paraben-free sunscreen to your face, nose, neck or other exposed areas.
For those who have never been through an Arizona summer, and for those who need a reminder, the heat can play tricks. Stay cool, stay hydrated and stay smart while fishing this summer.