Being Prepared - Keeping Safe
By Capt. George Welcome
Summertime arrives with temperatures that are hot and nighttime fishing becomes
an inviting proposition. However, fishing your hometown lake at night requires
much more preparation than daytime fishing does.
That body of water so familiar and friendly during the day becomes foreign
and sometimes hostile as darkness descends. With just a little more preparation
it can be enjoyed however and the results can be absolutely super. Being pro-active
instead of reactive will ensure a safe and enjoyable venture in the darkness of
Fishing day or night requires that your boat be properly equipped as per U.S.
Coast Guard required equipment. Personal floatation devices (properly fitted)
for each person on board are at the top of the list and should be worn by everyone
when fishing at night. Finding someone that has fallen overboard in the daytime
is generally easy, but in the dark can be quite difficult. A throwable flotation
device is also required equipment and should be in a convenient location.
Bow and stern lights are required and essential equipment on your boat, and
they must be lit when visibility is reduced. Striking unseen objects at night
is the most often reported nighttime accident and unlit boats lead as those unseen
objects. The temptation to venture forth without proper lighting is not only illegal,
but also extremely foolish.
A proper and fully functional warning device (horn) becomes a vital piece of
equipment in the darkness. It can be used to warn approaching craft as to your
presence and also can be used to draw attention in the event of problems arising.
Although not required unless off shore, visual distress signals (flares) should
be on board.
An approved type fire extinguisher that is currently dated should be onboard
and in a convenient and ready location. During a fire is no time to find out that
the extinguisher will not function because it is out of date.
A paddle is required, not optional equipment, and again should be in a convenient
and accessible location.
Recommended equipment that should be on board would include an anchoring device
with adequate line in both size and length for your boat. Deployment of the anchor
should occur at the first sign of trouble to keep your boat in its present safe
location. Too often then anchor is the last thing thought of and boats end up
drifting into dangerous situations.
Some sort of bailing device should be on board. Pumps are useless when the
battery goes dead.
Flashlight and batteries (that have been checked) and spare batteries should
be onboard when fishing at night. The one flaw in flashlights is that they seem
to fail just when we need them. Check the operation before launching!
A radio with weather band capability is not only recommended for day operation
but is an essential piece of equipment at night. Those clouds that look harmless
that you see floating over can be hiding a serious storm. The whole world could
know about it but if you have no means of hearing the warnings you can be caught
by natures worst.
First aid kit, basic tools, manuals etc. are all recommended.
Navigation tools, which are helpful in the daylight, become absolutely essential
for safety at night. Obviously your best choice for nighttime operation would
be a GPS. However, a compass would be a considerable assistant in the dark. Not
only is everything different out there at night, but also things such as fog can
move in with no apparent warning and without a means of determining direction
you are dead in the water.
With both pieces of equipment that are mentioned above, being completely familiar
with their functions is of extreme importance. A GPS is a basically simple piece
of equipment but it does take some practice to use it correctly and efficiently.
It's a little late to start reading the manual and trying to figure out how the
GPS works when trouble raises up to mar your trip.
A compass is a very basic piece of equipment, but again to follow a path and
navigate with it does take some practice. For example, did you know that when
you make an initial turn to the left that your compass would swing right? For
someone that has not used the compass this can be very confusing, especially when
stress adds to your navigational problem.
In addition, a compass only shows direction of travel, not the direction to
your destination, so when fishing at night you should already have made the trips
during daylight hours so you know the direction you need to go from your fishing
spots back to the dock. Not many lakes have sufficient markers to combine with
a chart so pre-locating and sticking to those pre-locations for fishing at night
is essential for nighttime fishing.
File a fishing plan with someone so that in event something occurs you can
be found. Of course sticking to that plan is absolutely a must if it is to have
any value. Ideally, when fishing at night, make your plan so that you stay relatively
close to the shoreline. However, with practice and experience you can venture
further and further out without mishap.
With just a little preparation you can venture out in the dark and have a safe
and enjoyable fishing experience. Without this preparation that adventure can
turn into your biggest and darkest nightmare. The results can be a simple scare,
or quickly turn into total tragedy. It is not uncommon to hear stories of absolute
fantastic times fishing at night. Be prepared and have one of those fantastic