Eyewear for Anglers

Eyewear for Anglers
Photo showing a copper base lens tint.
Macular degeneration, pterygium, photokeratitis and cataracts. Maybe these don't sound familiar, unless you or someone you know suffers from one, but all are damage or diseases of the eye that can be caused by Ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

I am not a doctor, but I know and value what my eyes provide me each and every day. I think that one thing everyone can agree on is how valuable one's eyesight is. As fishermen, we know how a well calibrated eyeball can help spot and size fish out on the tournament trail. Whether picking out the 27.99-inch pig in a cruising pod of reds or seeing that once in a lifetime snaggletoothfrecklefish laying low, one of the keys to catching those fish is seeing them.

Like anything else, the more experience one has, the further away a fish can be spotted. Several years ago a fellow angler told me he could tell the size of reds down to the inch. At the time I did not believe him. I do now.

My partner and I have gotten pretty good at sizing reds by sight. We may not be accurate down to the inch, but we can pick out lower, middle, and upper slot reds. The most critical piece of equipment in spotting fish and providing valuable protection for your eyes is a good pair of sunglasses.

Being on the water all day long for hundreds of days can cause damage to the human body. Over the last decade, our knowledge of the damaging effects of the sun has become better understood. Protection for your eyes is just as important as protection for your skin.

The sun's high-energy rays that lie just beyond the visible spectrum are comprised of UV radiation. The UV radiation in sunlight is not useful for vision and one should be concerned with UV absorption by the eyes as it can contribute to age related changes in your eyes and eye diseases.

UV radiation is mainly comprised of UV-A and UV-B which affect the eye in different ways. UV-B is thought to be more damaging due to its higher energy. Most of the UV-B is absorbed by the cornea and lens and therefore can cause damage to these tissues. UV-A radiation is lower energy, but penetrates further into the eye and can cause problems there. Sunlight contains more UV-A than UV-B and neither has been shown to be beneficial. Fishing glasses should filter out both UV-A and B.

Cataracts are another source of visual impairment. The lens of the eye becomes cloudy and impairs vision. Cataracts normally occur over a period of many years. UV radiation, especially UV-B, has been implicated as a contributor to cataracts.

Tissue growth on the white of the eye that can extend onto the clear cornea and block vision is called pterygium. It is commonly found in people who work outdoors in the sun and wind, and is related to the amount of UV exposure one receives. In addition, excessive UV exposure is well known to contribute to skin cancer, including the eyelids.

Photokeratitis is something some of us may have experienced, but have not known the name. It is basically sunburn of the cornea from excessive UV-B exposure and occurs from long hours in the sun without eye protection. It is extremely painful and can last 1 to 2 days and a severe case can result in temporary loss of vision.

Anglers get more exposure to UV radiation than others in the outdoors due to not only receiving direct UV from the sun, but since UV is reflected off the water, anglers get a double dose. The best UV protection is a good pair of sunglasses and a wide brim hat. A good hat can block approximately 50% of UV radiation.

A good pair of sunglasses will block 100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation. In addition, the frame design can help provide additional protection. A pair of sunglasses with a straight lens frame and straight temples is a 6 base design (most regular glasses are this style) and does not provide good blockage of light at the edge of the eyes. A wrap-around design provides better protection. Sunglasses in an 8 or 9 base design wrap around the head and limit entry of light into the eyes.

Ideally, all types of eyewear including prescription spectacles, contact lenses and intraocular lens implants should absorb the entire UV spectrum (UV-A and UV-B). UV absorption can be incorporated into nearly all optical materials currently in use, is inexpensive, and does not interfere with vision. The degree of UV protection is not related to price. Polarization or photosensitive darkening (photochromatic) are additional sunglass features that are useful for certain situations, but do not, by themselves, provide UV protection. For outdoor use in the bright sun, sunglasses that absorb 99-100 per cent of the full UV spectrum are recommended.

Beyond protection, there are many other sunglass features that can help enhance vision on the water. Personally, when tournament fishing, I always look for any type of advantage, no matter how small in the equipment I use. Sunglasses are no exception.

Most anglers know that their sunglasses should be polarized. Polarization on the sunglass lens will reduce glare on the water and allow better vision below the surface "The better to see the fish my dear." When light is reflected off water it is reflected in a predominantly horizontal plane. A polarizing filter is oriented to allow vertical light in and block the horizontally oriented glare. If you are going to use your sunglasses for fishing, they should be polarized.

Another key feature is lens tint. If you ask 100 anglers the best color for eyewear, you will get many different answers. I have used Smith Optics (www.smithoptics.com) sunglasses for the last 10 years. The lens tint that I prefer is Polarchromatic Copper Mirror. These lenses have several great features. First is the copper color, it makes redfish appear bright orange. The polarchromatic feature is unique with Smith Optics in that this lens is polarized to cut glare, but also is photochromatic to allow it to adjust to different light conditions. Photochromatic lenses actually change their shade to allow more light to enter the eye in low light conditions and less light when the light is bright. Other good lens tints for fishing are green mirror and blue mirror for bright conditions and also yellow for lower light conditions. I also have a pair of Smith Optics Polarized Yellow for heavily overcast days and early morning tournament blast off.

One last thing to consider is lens construction. Get a lens made of glass, they will not only provide better scratch resistance but they will provide greater clarity without distortion. Glass is heavier than plastic or carbonic lenses, but the advantage is well worth it in my experience.

There is no question that when you head out on the water, a good pair of shades should be covering your eyeballs. Not only will they provide vital protection from damaging UV rays, but if selected correctly can help you see fish and other underwater objects. A good pair can cost up to $300 dollars, but when considering the cost of fishing equipment and the value of eye protection, the money for a good pair of sunglasses is well spent.