Safety first when hunting, fishing

By Al Smith - Guest Columnist

Safety should be a concern on any outdoor endeavor, but especially at this time of year.

People are still fishing as the weather and water turns colder. Hunters are climbing into tree stands. Both should make safety their top priority.

A fall from a tree stand can be fatal or leave one with serious injuries. Falling out of a boat also can be fatal.

A teenage bow hunter I talked to recently fell while climbing down from his tree stand. He had taken his safety harness off. He was fortunate to have sprained only a wrist. An Indiana hunter recently broke his leg when he fell 18 feet while climbing down from his tree stand. He, too, had taken his safety harness off. He was fortunate his hunting partner was nearby and was able to call 911 for assistance.

Wildlife personnel stress the importance of using a harness and other safety equipment such as a lifeline when hunting off the ground.

Anglers should always wear a life jacket, especially during cold water times in the spring and fall. The safety device can keep you afloat and alive. Anglers fishing out of a kayak or canoe are at a greater risk of cold water immersion.

When a person unexpectedly is plunged into cold water below 70 degrees, the body’s first response is usually an involuntary gasp. Without a life jacket, a victim may inhale while under water and drown. The ability to swim is restricted by shortness of breath or hyperventilation.

The following are some cold water survival tips, one should follow:

- Wear clothing that continues to insulate when wet, such as fleece, polypropylene or other synthetics.

Bring a fully charged cell phone with you in case of emergency, and store it in a waterproof bag or container.

If possible, stay with the boat. Get back into or climb on top of the boat.

- While in cold water, do not remove your clothing.

- If you cannot get out of the water, get into the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (HELP). In this position, individuals bring their knees to their chest and hug them with their arms.

- Once out of the water, remove wet clothes and warm up as soon as possible.

- Seek medical attention when necessary. Err on the side of caution. Some effects of exposure to cold temperatures can be delayed.

* * *

If you have finished fishing for the season, you should be preparing to store your equipment until next year.

Here are a few tips to help you out:

Check rods, reels and lines.

Take your reels apart to clean them and then grease and oil them.

Use rod sleeves to store your rods so the parts do not get mismatched.

If you fly fish, remove fly line from the reels. You can clean line by using dish soap.

Store rods vertically to avoid any bends from occurring.

Keep the rods at room temperature.

Check out the hooks on your lures and determine if they need replacement or sharpening.

Check and see if you need to replenish worm or tube hooks. Do the same with jig heads. Certain sizes or sizes you use a lot may have dwindled through the summer.

See what worms and tubes might need replenishing.

Check the wear and tear on spinnerbait, buzz bait and jig skirts.

If you use waders or hip boots, check for any leaks. A pinhole-sized leak can be found by putting a flashlight inside them in a dark room.

* * *

After several weeks of being close, the boat ramp at Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area, located northwest of Defiance, is back open,

I ran into a couple of Limaland anglers there a couple of weeks ago who were quit disappointed when they stopped off at the lake on their way back from Lake Erie. They were unaware the ramp had closed. A number of area anglers fish the 40-acres lake.

The ramp was completely replaced after an inspection in the summer found it needed extensive repairs. Boaters can use any sized motor on Oxbow Lake, but at idle speed only without creating a wake.

* * *

Fun fishy facts: The size of a salmon is usually related to its age. Chinook can live up to nine years, the longest of all salmon species, which is why some can grow to more than 100 pounds.

There are about 32,000 species of fish in the world and scientists are still discovering new species every day.

By Al Smith

Guest Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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