Don’t Be Stupid: Fish Safely In The Cold

This is the time of year where we begin hearing tragic stories of anglers killed by the cold, in most cases, by errors of judgment.

Since smallmouth bass are highly concentrated in areas of North America where winters are cold, I thought I’d take a few minutes to review a few basic safety tips.

I personally made a stupid mistake several years ago which could have turned out really bad.

The story goes like this…

I was fishing by myself on my Tracker Jet Boat on the Susquehanna in cold weather. It was late February, with air temps of 45F and water temps of 38F. I had taken my PFD off and was drifting down river.

I reached down to pick up another fishing rod when I drifted right into a rock and went head over heals right into the river. I had talked about joining the polar bear club in the past but definitely wasn’t prepared on this day! The shock of hitting the water and my adrenaline combined and I grabbed the side of the boat and rocketed right back into the boat!

Unfortunately, my cell phone was in my pocket (it was ruined) and I had no dry clothes on the boat. I immediately started my journey back to the ramp (about 15 minutes) and got into the car and warmed up. I got the boat loaded and stripped into my underwear and drove off into the sunset.

I often think to myself how lucky I was that I wasn’t in heavy current and that I didn’t whack my head on a rock when I fell in.

So what should you do? Learn from my mistakes!

    1. Wear your PFD! I actually had mine on while under power but when I stopped, I took it off because I had the kill switch cable attached to it and instead of unhooking the kill switch, I took off the PFD. If wearing one bothers you, try one of the small inflatables or a jacket with a built in PFD.
    2. Don’t go fishing by yourself – you never know when you’re going to need help and when the water is cold, this is especially true. In a river situation, the current can pull you away from the boat and you need to have someone there yo help you.
    3. Have a throwable flotation device – this is very helpful no matter if you are in a lake or river
    4. Bring waders if you have any risk of running aground – Jet boats are amazing for getting into skinny water but every now and then, we get hung up and need to get out of the boat deal with poor navigation decisions!
    5. Carry extra clothes and a blanket in a sealed plastic bag so that they stay dry.
    6. Carry a fire starting kit and some snacks, beverages with you so if you end up stranded, you can survive until help arrives.
    7. Keep the cell phone out of your pocket and in a safe place – it’s great to have easy access to your phone for taking pictures of the bass you catch but if you go in, so does your phone.

These are my top recommendations.

If you have some of your own, please leave them in the comments section below!

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