Dress right for early-season fishing
The story I’m about to tell is something I write about every year at this time. If you’ve heard me tell it before, my apologies for the redundancy. But if it saves one person’s life, then it’s worth it.
The date was April 1, 2006, which obviously is New York’s trout season opener. At the time I owned a solo Hornbeck canoe and at daylight was headed for a local trout pond that has a cartop-only boat launch. Although it was early, I was not the first one there and after launching my boat I waited my turn to troll over a deeper section of the lake known to hold rainbow trout. Ahead of me was an aluminum rowboat with three anglers, and a canoe with two others.
I had my head down fumbling through some tackle when I heard a clunk, a splash and then a lot of commotion. The rowboat had flipped over and the three anglers were now in the water. Just a week earlier this entire lake was still covered with ice.
I raced toward them, as did the guys in the canoe, and by the time I got up there all three were clutching to one side of canoe, which itself was starting to list to that side. I immediately began barking orders that someone had to get on the other side as I had visions of all five anglers being in the water. Thankfully, they took my advice and the canoe, which was outfitted with a trolling motor, righted and began heading for shore.
This was before New York passed a law requiring boaters in vessels less than 21 feet in length to wear a personal flotation device from Nov. 1 to April 30, and none of these guys – those in the water or the canoe – were wearing PFDs. Add to the fact that they all were wearing heavy, non-water friendly clothing like blue jeans, hoodies and those heavy jackets that contractors wear, and their attire was a recipe for disaster.
I paddled over and scooped up the floating PFDs and caught up to the canoe, but the guys in the water would not let go of the gunnels. One guy, apparently the operator/owner, became belligerent with himself over his predicament so we did our best to keep him calm.
Once they got to shore I tossed one guy a nylon pullover I was wearing and one of the guys in the canoe gave them a lighter. They quickly got a fire going while I went back to my truck and eventually gave them a ride.
With ice-out happening early and trout season coming soon, small-boat anglers are out there on some very cold lakes. Dress smart, considering synthetics like nylon or light merino wool. This stuff is light, warm, and dries fast. Also, avoid heavy and tall boots that can fill up with water.
Most of all, know that it’s the law to wear that PFD. Consider it the blaze orange of the water.