Fishing Safety

Everett Johnson
While we never planned that this issue of TSFMag would feature a fishing safety theme, it has certainly turned out that way.

It all began with a letter from a concerned reader. Regular readers will no doubt recall the cover of our June magazine. Yours truly, celebrating an unexpected POC marsh lake prize, posed for the camera in lightweight camouflage shirt and pants.

As soon as the issue hit the newsstands my phone began ringing. For the most part, the conversations that followed were filled with good-natured ribbing. One emailer, though, was not very happy. He took great exception with my attire.

In his opinion, and rightfully so, camouflage duds have no place in wade fishing. Brighter colors would have sent a better message, in more ways than one.

So, to the degree that I set a poor example, I want to apologize to our readership. I also want to remind everybody that being seen makes a far better fashion statement. Many times we wade long distances from our boats and shorelines. Brightly colored headgear and fishing shirts should be our first line of defense. Being recognized as a wade fisherman is highly preferred to being run over by passing boaters.

Second on the list of safety related messages, our own Mike McBride was struck by a stingray over the Memorial Day weekend. Mike's bad luck grew as the days passed and a very nasty necrotizing faciistis (flesh eating infection) set in. The early prognosis was pretty grim as the infection was threatening to spread. Luckily, Mike is finally back home and on the mend but faces a long and painful recovery.

Mike was not wearing stingray protection which should be a lesson to every wade fisherman who reads this magazine. Saltwater is full of bacteria, especially during summer when the water temperatures rise. Streptococcus, staphylococcus, not to mention highly-dreaded Vibrio vulnificus, can be found in every bay and along every shoreline of the Texas coast. Recent information gathered by Texas A&M researchers indicate that fin clips from hardhead catfish can contain Vibrio bacteria in an astounding 90% of the samples.

If the wound incurred during a stingray strike is not enough of a problem, the infections that follow can be devastating, even life threatening. Stingray protective footwear and leggings can make all the difference. Don't be a hardhead – wear 'em!

Safety concerns and safety protocol should extend into every facet of our fishing activities. Just recently, well-known Texas angler, Larry "Flakman" Flak, perished in a boating accident in Louisiana. Larry and four friends were running a channel in darkness when they struck a barge. Sadly, all five men were killed instantly.

Nighttime navigation is serious business, even when you know what you are doing and where you are going. Never take chances and never trust your GPS alone for safe nighttime navigation. Slow down, use a powerful spotlight, and wear your PFD. Larry Flak will be missed by all who knew him.

Kayak fishing is serious business too, especially when paddlers venture onto rough seas in their plastic boats. Rick Underbrink shares a harrowing tale of offshore adventure this month and it certainly hit home with me. Without exceptional athletic ability and strong survival skills, Rick's trip would have surely ended in disaster. This is a "must read" for all kayak fishermen and all who aspire to become.

So, even though we never planned a fishing safety theme, recent events and circumstances turned it into one. Please allow these reports and messages to become a part of your standard fishing plans. Fishing is important, but not nearly as important as remaining healthy and alive to enjoy it!