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OUTDOOR WORLD: Play it safe, play it smart on the water

As anglers we spend a lot of time in, and on the water.

This may include fishing from a small boat or wading in lakes and rivers where depth and currents can be uncertain. As a result, we need to be extra careful when participating in our sport.

National Drowning Prevention Week in Canada is being marked July 15-21. It serves as a timely reminder that we all need to be extra cautious when around water, whether fishing, or swimming.

As anglers, our sport puts us in and on the water from spring to fall, and even in the winter, often when weather conditions aren’t ideal. Statistics show more than 500 people die in Canada every year in water-related incidents. In many cases these tragedies could have been prevented.

The Lifesaving Society organizes National Drowning Prevention Week across the country and they have several suggestions to follow:
– Make sure everyone in the family can achieve the Swim to Survive standard, including the ability to surface after falling in deep water; the ability to tread water for one minute; and the ability to swim 50 yards;
– Take a lifesaving course and learn how to reduce the risk of drowning;
– Teach children to swim and be comfortable around water;
– Always wear a life jacket or personal flotation device when boating;
– Do not consume alcohol while swimming or operating a boat;
– Keep children within arms’ reach when near water and, whenever possible, swim in an area supervised by a lifeguard.
As an angler I attempt to be safe when I am fishing. This can be as simple as making sure I wear a life jacket or personal flotation device when I’m on the water.

A few years ago, I bought one of the newer style PFDs which looks like a pair of braces and includes a gas cylinder which inflates when you pull a cord. You hardly know you are wearing it so it doesn’t interfere with your movement.

Looking at statistics for Canadian drownings, there are chilling facts. More than 80 per cent are men and, of the victims, 90 per cent were not wearing a life jacket.

Wading is another area where water safety is critical for anglers. Moving water has tremendous power and, in the spring or fall, the water is cold so hypothermia can be an issue. Make sure you wear a wading belt which helps prevent water entering your waders if you take a spill and include a wading staff. There’s a reason photographers use a tripod as three legs are more stable than two, so using a staff will help when wading in deeper water or strong current.

But, the most important skill to have is common sense and don’t place yourself in a situation where the water is too deep, too fast or too rough.

Stay on the shore and be safe, so you can fish another day.


Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.
 

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