Water safety – eyes to skies and put safety first
Thursday, June 29, 2017 by Sandy
by Guest Blogger: AMFisHguy
Hi fellow fishing enthusiasts, anglers, and AMFisHers, this blog post is about water safety while fishing in general and specifically to all park visitors that fish Island Lake Conservation Area. I have always talked about water safety over the years and I am touching on it again as I recently got caught in a furious storm this past weekend on another lake that came out of nowhere and has been caught in a pretty bad storm on Island Lake before as well, which is why safety always needs to be at the top of the list.
When I got on the water it was slightly windy and sunny, blue skies with several white clouds as you can see in the photo below. The chance of storms was 30%, which explained why the day was not looking too bad until it all changed extremely quickly right out of the blue.
Then this intense sky in the photo below started rolling in, talk about a sky engulfing storm moving in at warp speed. I had very little time if any to make a decision on which shore to get to ASAP, as being on the water in a storm is very unsafe. Once I knew where I was trying to get to I did everything I could to get there as quickly as possible, unfortunately, this storm did not make it easy. Winds picked up to well over 47 km/h, high waves arrived, thick heavy very intense rain started coming down, visibility was about 15ft in any direction and it even started to drop hail.
I did not feel safe at all but I made sure I kept my composure, continued paddling as quickly and as safely as I could to get to shore, any shore was an option at this point, as I wanted to safely be on land. I managed to get to an abandoned old cottage, where I secured my kayak that had over 6 inches of water in it at this point. Those first few steps on land felt so wonderful, even though I was completely soaked and freezing cold.
Getting to shore is always your safest bet when a storm is rolling in but it’s no easy task when the wind, rain, and waves pick up, so there are a few options to choose from. The first thing to do is make sure everyone has their PFD securely on, then make sure you lower all fishing rods to the lowest position possible, as you want to minimize all high points on the water to prevent lightning strikes from reaching you. From here make sure you turn off all electronics as well and avoid any metal components you might be around. If getting to shore is not possible, next best thing to do is dropped the anchor, then get as low as possible in the boat to ride the storm out. None of these options are fun to go through which is why I always remind everyone to do multiple weather checks when planning a fishing outing, right up until the night before the outing, then observe the weather upon arrival and while out on the water, this is truly the only way to avoid dangerous days out there.
Decisions in emergency situations like this need to be made pretty quickly but safely and with smart thoughts. I was about an 8-minute walk back to the main dock where my truck was and being totally soaked to the bone, I decided to jog back to my jeep so I could build up some warmth. After this short jog in the rain with my life jacket on for warmth, I got to my to my truck where I had some extra clothing and rain gear, changed quickly and waited the storm out. The key thing here is I had made it to shore and was already planning ahead I was cold from all the wind and rain, which is why I chose to job back to my truck to create some much-needed body heat.
Keeping eyes on the skies is critical on any day, as Mother Nature can change things in a blink of an eye sometimes. The chance of this storm was so low percentage wise and the clear skies fooled everyone fishing that day. I knew the weather could change and was keeping an eye out on the sky, but when these intense systems roll through sometimes they are packing a serious punch at serious speed, hence why I got caught and really had to act as quickly as possible to minimize any chance of injury.
When I got caught in the storm on Island Lake, it was something that rolled in far too fast to create any easy options of getting off the water. The first sign I looked for that day was a drastic change in air pressure, that moment where any wind completely stops then changes direction after several seconds and intensifies, key indicator a system is about to roll through. Once that air pressure changes you have mere minutes to make a decision and head for shore. We were in boat #5 that day and turned the electric motor off, each grabbed a paddle and headed for any shore we could reach the fastest. Visibility was minimal, wind and waves were up high and paddling felt like it was getting us nowhere, but we pushed forward and finally climbed up on the shore where we tied the boat off.
Smaller bodies of water can whip up very quickly when a storm passes over them and Island Lake is not a very large lake so it got rough then even rougher within minutes. Making sure you are proactive on days that look like they can change is key, as that feeling of being prepared provides an element of confidence to survive the situation at hand.
Keep safety at the top of your list always and when you see dark skies like this from a large distance start making your way into shore as it can only take a few minutes for them to show up.
The AMFisH guy…Billy
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