Live to fish another day
Wow, that water is cold! That’s the first thought that entered my mind yesterday when wading into my pond at home to whack a few wayward cattails that I had missed last summer during my annual cattail-control program.
I didn’t know why it should have come as surprise, it being early November and all. And it is not like I haven’t waded in November waters in Ohio before, what with the duck hunting and steelheading and such. But there it is.
Be careful, I told myself as I slogged across the mucky bottom, en route to the first cattails. The actual cold-shock surprise came when I first swung my machete sharply at the first cattail cluster and I got my sleeves wet to the elbows. (Many years ago an Army Corps of Engineers biologist tipped me off to the machete-trimming trick; it works like a charm, as long as you cut the shoots below-waterline.)
The last thing I wanted to do was lose my footing and suffer a dunking. I didn’t test the water temperature, but my bones guessed it was 40 degrees, maybe less. Even with a cinch-belt snugged up around the waist of my old waders, I wanted no part of a soaking and having to thrash my way out of trouble.
Then today I was en route to southern Ohio to join a buddy and fellow outdoor writer/photographer, Greenie Grewell, for a bow hunt. Passing through the north end of Delaware on U.S. 23, I noticed two black rigs pulled well off the east side of the road along the Olentangy River.
“Ohio Water Rescue” said large signs on the pickups and trailers. About 10 men in what looked like neoprene outfits, and a pile of gear, were spread out on the riverbank. As of this writing, I haven’t learned what the water-rescue crews were up to, but it didn’t look like practice along this crowded, heavily traveled highway.
In any case, it was a second reminder to me in two days to be careful out there this time of year, whether waterfowling, steelheading, late-season yellow perch fishing from a small boat, or just crossing a creek on your way to a deer stand. Icy water can mean big trouble, fast, and the initial cold-shock of a dunking can readily lead to panicky behavior that, frankly, can kill you.
Plenty of public agencies, including both the Divisions of Wildlife and Watercraft in the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, each fall issue safety advisories about outdoors activities in and around cold water. The advisories are not just hot-air make-work some staffer was assigned to do. So pay attention out there. Live to hunt or fish another day.