Lightning Safety Tips for Fishermen

By: eWebMedia

Lightning Safety Tips for Fishermen

I love the phenomena of thunderstorms.
Like many of you, I'm fascinated by the crackle of lightning bolts and house shaking thunderclaps. Also, like too many people, I've unwisely continued fishing while a storm approached when I should have been long gone to safety. Lucky for me, I miraculously survived that ordeal. Honestly, even a record largemouth bass is not worth getting fried over.

Facts about Lightning & Fishing

  • Lightning kills 80 to 100 people yearly in the U.S.
    A little more than half of victims were engaged in outdoor recreation like fishing or boating. Ten times as many are struck but survived with severe, life-long injuries or disabilities. With the height of lightning season upon us, it's time for fishermen to consider lightning safety.
  • You Must Stop Fishing during Lightning.
    Lightning can strike as many as ten miles away from its source cloud. This is why it is recommended to stop fishing and move indoors as soon any thunder is heard.

    The debris clouds trailing behind a thunderstorm can produce their own lightning, fishermen should wait 30 minutes after the storm has passed to begin fishing to be completely safe. While inside during a storm stay away from doors and windows, plumbing, wiring, appliances and telephones.
  • When to Stop Fishing during Lightning?
    A somewhat less conservative response to seeing lightning involves the '30/30 rule.' Upon spotting lightning, if you can count to 30 before hearing thunder, the odds are you're out of range of the lightning. A count of five before hearing thunder equals roughly one mile of distance from a lightning strike, a count of ten equals two miles, etc. However, thunderstorms can move as fast as 50mph so the next bolt of lightning could be right on top of you.

William Becker, of the University of Florida, notes that lightning is very unpredictable and bolts contain as much as 100 million volts - a minimum of 500,000 times the electricity needed to power a sparkplug! Lightning follows Ben Franklin's 'path of least resistance' rule, and guess what? The path can easily be through a fisherman's body, which happens to conduct electricity quite well. So, if it's impossible to seek indoor shelter and you are trapped outside during a thunderstorm, reducing your exposure is critical.

Lightning Safety Tips for Fishermen
What to do When You See Lightning?

First thing to do

1) Lay down your fishing rods, they could act like an antennae and draw a lightning strike right to you. If on land,

  • seek like-sized shrubs or a group of small trees, get low and avoid touching the plants. On open terrain like fishing beaches or desert potholes with no form of cover, find a low spot and crouch on your heels.
  • Never move towards solitary trees and avoid isolated structures like gazebos or picnic table covers (especially if they are constructed of metal), lightning can travel as much a 60 feet sideways after striking an object. An automobile - but not convertibles or cars with a fiberglass roof - offer some shelter but put your hands in your lap and avoid contact with the steering wheel, radio, ignition, etc.

2) If you are on a Boat

Boaters are at great risk during lightnings. They are often the highest object on the water's surface. Even distant thunder or lightning flashes should trigger an immediate move toward shelter on land.

  • Lower all fishing rods and radio antennas
    Then crouch down without contacting any metal railings, wiring, or the motor; don't get in the water or dangle your legs or hands in the water.
  • Disconnect the VHF radio and GPS
    This way they may survive a lightning strike. Lightning protection systems are available for some fishing boats but getting off the water is safer.

Lightning strikes the United States
around 25 million times per year.

Most Florida fishermen won't be 'shocked' to hear their state annually has more strikes than any other. However, NOAA notes that lightning occurs in all fifty states. Lightning can occur at any time, but late afternoon hours are the most dangerous periods for lightning strikes, and folks spending time outside in open areas like fields or beaches are the most common victims. So make yourself aware of the weather forecast before heading out to fish and if the predictions include thunderstorms plan on returning home before the storms are due to bubble up.

Fishing for bass, walleye, trout, catfish, bream, or whichever species you favor, can be a fun way to enjoy the great outdoors if you keep in mind lightning safety whenever you grab your fishing rods for a day on the water.

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