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The Education of a Fisherman: Freshwater Fishing Safety

Freshwater fishing safety should be front of mind for all anglers.

Read the first segment of “The Education of a Fisherman” here.

Before heading off into the wilds in search of redfish and brookies, I thought it prudent to do a feature on safety.

Waders and shoes

If you plan to wear waders, either waist or chest style, consider wearing a wading belt as well. All it takes is one slip or one step into an unseen hole and your wading britches will be full of very heavy water. A life vest is in order in some instances as well.


If you are in unfamiliar waters, consider using a wading staff of some sort, along with wading shoes and soles, to match the bottom you are walking on.

Countless injuries have resulted from a mishap on slick underwater rocks. A knee jammed into a hidden boulder can ruin a fishing trip, and possibly the rest of your outdoor adventures.

It’s a safe bet that more than one expensive fly rod lies at the bottom of some stream, flung there as some poor misfortunate angler flailed about while trying to recover his balance.

Sun and safety

Not to be overlooked is the sun and its possible ill effects on our health. A hat, sunglasses and a good sunscreen are essential while out on the water with one caveat; some sunscreens contain chemicals that can soften or ruin your expensive fly line. Look for a fishing-friendly brand.

Do not be fooled into thinking an overcast day is safe, it is not. There is a multitude of sunblock clothing on the market, which is great, but don’t get caught without applied sunscreen on exposed skin, or you’ll regret it.

Dam release schedules

In some areas, the flow of river water is subject to change based on power generation needs, local rainfall and government policy. Water levels can rise quickly, trapping hapless anglers away from the bank.

If you are fishing in an area that may be subject to these changes, make yourself aware of published schedule times and alarms that may be sounded. I was fishing the Chattahoochee River in Georgia when the blast of air raid sirens echoed off the hills during the middle of the day. The water rose rapidly and I almost didn’t make it to shore without having to swim for it.

Snakes and indigenous wildlife

The weather is warm in most places, and critters are out and about after a winter lull.

Use caution and good sense and you should be alright.

RELATED: We Have Venomous Snake Questions, and the Houston Zoo Has Answers

Alligators are out and about as well. Do not stick around if you find yourself in an alligator nesting area.

Don’t feed them either, or they will begin to associate humans with food, and that is never a good thing. Keep Fido on a leash in gator territory or he may be on the menu. Better yet, leave him at home for that trip.


Of course, the bugs are out too, so a good repellent is a must.

As much as I dislike putting chemicals on my already leathery epidermis, a repellent with a high DEET percentile seems to work the best. There are clothes on the market saturated with known anti-bug ingredients, but we’re unsure if they are suitable for the angler.

The other alternative is mega-consumption of garlic. This works, but will also drive off anyone else, including your spouse and children.


A common wetland plant is aptly named needle grass, and if you get it stuck in your eye, face or posterior, you will understand how it earned its moniker. Sunglasses (see # 3) are important for more than one reason.

RELATED: Bloody, Blistery, Oozy, Weepy and Itchy: Know Your Poisonous Plants

A few added thoughts

Bring a good first aid kit and know how to use it. A little forethought and preparation can make an accident into a problem that can be resolved onsite and the fishing won’t have to stop.

Close down the barbs on your hooks. It’s less damaging to the fish and easier to remove from your backside should the need arise.

Communicate to your plans to someone, and tell them where you are going and when you will be back. This could be lifesaving information in case of emergency.

Well, if you are still with us and haven’t decided to stay indoors all summer, then good for you. We hope you will head to the water a little better prepared after reading this article.

Do you have more freshwater fishing safety tips to keep in mind? Share them below in the comments section.

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The Education of a Fisherman: Freshwater Fishing Safety