As sport anglers venture out onto Lake Erie and other waterways for some early fishing action, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is pushing for a few precautions. The Division of Watercraft suggests safeguards be added to help reduce the effects of cold water immersion should an unexpected fall into the icy cold water occur.
The risks associated with a cold-water immersion for those who are unprepared can be severe and result in death if a boat capsizes or someone falls overboard. Most Ohio waterways remain free of ice, but water temperatures are only a few degrees above freezing. The most apparent risk to life results from the immediate effects of cold-water shock and cold-water incapacitation which often lead to hypothermia for those not properly dressed for conditions.
Properly loading a boat — and not overloading it with people and gear — is an important first step to reduce the chances of a boat capsizing. An approved life jacket or inflatable vest should be a part of every boat angler’s safety gear before getting underway. The Division also suggests paying close attention to current and forecast weather conditions and filing a float plan.
More safety tips are available on the Division of Watercraft website at ohiodnr.com/watercraft.
Information shared in a training program known as the Cold Water Boot Camp (www.coldwaterbootcamp.com) details the risks associated with cold-water immersions and also offers tips on how to be prepared for cold water boating conditions.