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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Sweat the Details for Summer Angling Safety

Scott County True Value Hardware Guns Ammo

Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications

LITTLE ROCK –  The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission often talks about caring for fish during hot weather to prevent their mortality, but we’re just as concerned with angler health during the dog days of summer. 

The three most common issues AGFC game wardens run across during the heat of summer are life jacket use, overexposure to the sun and indulging in too many alcoholic beverages.

Keep Your Jacket On
Summer heat can be stifling if you don’t have much of a breeze, but that’s no excuse to take off your life jacket, the one thing that can save you from drowning in the event of an accident. Sure, those old orange “horse collar” life vests are downright uncomfortable, but there are many other options anglers can choose to stay safe on the water. Modern inflatable life jackets provide little more weight than a pair of suspenders and automatically deploy when submerged. 

According to AGFC Boating Law Administrator Capt. Stephanie Weatherington for the AGFC, wearing this one piece of equipment could save more lives on Arkansas’s waters than anything else.

“Nearly every boating fatality we deal with could have been avoided if the victim had been wearing a properly fitting life jacket,” Weatherington said. “And if it’s a child who is 12 or under, they are required by law to wear their life jacket any time they are on a boat unless it is a houseboat or party barge with railing that is not moving under power.”

Sun-Screen Test 
At one time, a “healthy tan” was a side effect of spending the summer on the water or lounging at the beach. While a certain amount of sunlight is essential to the human body, like anything else, overindulgence can lead to problems. Not only can too much sun cause a nasty sunburn, but it can cause long-term damage to the skin and even skin cancer. The easiest thing to remember is pack and use the sunscreen. The scent and brand really doesn’t matter; what you’re looking for is the SPF factor. 

SPF isn’t the number of minutes it’s good for; it indicates the amount of UV radiation the liquid shields from the skin. An SPF of 30 allows 1/30th of the sun’s radiation through, meaning it would take 30 times longer to receive the same effects as unprotected skin, but that’s only if it stayed on. Even water-resistant sunscreens will only last for a couple of hours before they begin to deteriorate from moisture, be it lakewater or perspiration.

Another way to cool down is to stay in the shadows. On some rivers and lakes, there may be plenty of trees overhanging the shore to offer some shelter, but if you know you’re going to be fishing or boating out in the open, invest in a sunbrella. Game wardens and other law enforcement officers on the water often can be seen under the shade of a canopy or roof on their boats when the summer sun is breathing down. Not only will it prevent overexposure to UV radiation, the shade feels a little cooler for these individuals who spend many days on the water each summer. 

Dress for the occasion
A tank top or T-shirt may have been common years ago, but many anglers you see today cover up a bit more. Thin UV-protective materials have come a long way. Lightweight facemasks, hoods and gloves also are available to help protect portions of the body most people don’t think twice about, until they receive a painful sunburn. Clothes like this also come with SPF factors, so pay attention to the labels.

Dodge high noon
Anglers can beat the heat and the sunburn if they simply avoid those hours when the sun is beating down from straight overhead. Summer fishing often is best during the first few hours of daylight and dusk, leaving a lot of time to bake in the sun between. Instead of slogging through a sweaty day on the water, get to the lake early and catch up on some naptime on shore once the sun is high. If you’re not an early bird, head out an hour or so before sunset and enjoy that end of the fishing day. Just be sure your navigation lights work properly so you can make your way back to the ramp safely if the fishing picks up and you stay out a bit later than planned.

Hydrate with real water
Sun not only stings the skin, it saps your body of moisture, which can cause dehydration. Sugary or carbonated drinks can magnify the drying effect of the exposure to UV rays. It’s always smart to have some extra drinking water nearby and remember to take an occasional drink, even if you don’t feel all that thirsty.

“Alcohol isn’t a good option for rehydration either,” Weatherington said. “Alcohol actually reduces the amount of water that gets into their cells.”
Aside from contributing to dehydration, alcohol impairs judgment and can cause very dangerous situations for boaters and their passengers. The effects of alcohol are more potent when out in the summer heat because of natural stress factors like the sun, wind and waves rocking the boat.

“A person who might have a drink or two at home and not feel anything may discover the same amount of alcohol really impairs their response time, balance and judgment when they combine it with the common surroundings of summer boating,” Weatherington said. 

This summer, be safe. Take the simple steps that could save your life. Summer heat and alcohol are such mundane things that their dangers are easily overlooked. Wear your life jacket, bring plenty of water, wear sunscreen or protective clothing and pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you decide to drink, make sure not to overindulge, and have a designated driver.

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Tammy Teague
Tammy is the heart behind the brand. Her tenacity to curate authentic journalism, supported by a genuine heart is one her many wholesome qualities.
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