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Anglers Need to Be Safe Boaters First

Help reduce the surprisingly high rate of fatal boating accidents among anglers.
Boating Safety

Complete a Pre-Departure Check List

One of the reasons there are so many fishing-related accidents is that a lot of fishing enthusiasts consider themselves anglers first and boaters later. That attitude can make them complacent, neglecting the basics of boating safety. Anglers may not pay close enough attention to their surroundings, may fail to prepare for emergencies, or engage in behaviors that put themselves at greater risk than those who see themselves primarily as boaters - this includes boating and drinking.  In 37 percent of all 2009 recreational boating accidents involving a fatality, the boat was engaged in fishing prior to the accident.

For safety’s sake, be a boater first.  Complete a pre-departure checklist prior to launch to make certain your boat is in good working order and has all the necessary safety equipment on board.  File a float plan with the marina or with a friend or family member, letting others know where you’ll be boating and when you expect to return. Be sure to wear a life jacket at all times. And be sure to check the weather report and waterway conditions, bearing in mind that weather conditions can change quickly.

All anglers should remember that boating is an intrinsic part of their sport, not merely a
means to an end.  Practicing safe boating probably won’t improve your chances of reeling in the “Big One,” but it will certainly help ensure that you live to fish another day.

Equipment to Have On Board

Life jackets have been well adapted to fishing and now include vests and auto-inflatables that allow the wearer a full range of motion. Besides having life jackets for each person on board, here are other items anglers should keep on hand, depending on the size of their boat.

Throwable Type IV flotation device with line
First Aid kit
Blanket and a dry change of clothes stored in a waterproof bag
VHF marine radio
U.S. Coast Guard-approved marine fire extinguisher
U.S. Coast Guard-approved visual distress signals
Boarding ladder
Chart of the local area

If fishing in unfamiliar waters, research the area in advance.  Ask about water and weather conditions and the number of boats you’ll encounter. Watch your speed.

Don’t Rock the Boat

Small boats require special care in loading passengers and gear. Here are a few important tips anglers can follow when preparing to head out to their favorite fishing hole:

•    Avoid standing in a small boat and take care in changing positions.  Both actions raise the center of gravity, which increases the chance of a boat capsizing or a passenger falling overboard.

•    When sitting, keep your legs spread and lean against a seat for increased stability.

•    When loading, hand your fishing equipment to someone already in the boat.

•    Distribute gear and passengers evenly around the boat, by weight. To make sure no one trips, be sure gear is properly stowed.

•    When boarding, step gently toward the vessel’s center —never onto the gunnels or seats.  Keep one hand on the boat.

•    Don’t drink alcohol, or take any drugs – even over-the-counter medications - that induce drowsiness and impair judgment.

•    Remember to always file a float plan with the marina or with a friend or family member.

•    Finally, be sure you and all passengers wear a life jacket at all times while on the water.  Check out the new inflatable vests designed specifically for anglers.

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The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit

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