Cold water kills – wear that PFD

April 16

I remember one late-April Saturday well over a decade ago spent trout fishing and kayaking on a remote Adirondack pond. The thermometer hit 70 that day, but the water was still quite cold as the ice had just gone out.

The next day I read in a local newspaper that a young angler had drowned in a nearby pond after capsizing. He was not wearing a life vest/PFD and the ice-cold water quickly took its toll.

New York didn’t have a PFD law back then, but we do now. From Nov. 1 to May 1, anyone in a vessel shorter than 21 feet in length is supposed to wear a PFD.

Apparently, many have forgotten about this law, are not aware of it, or just blatantly choose to ignore it.

The stretch of unseasonably warm weather we enjoyed in early April sure brought out the water sports enthusiasts. Anglers in small boats and others simply paddling canoes and kayaks dotted waters everywhere, especially near where I live in the Southeastern Adirondacks.

Social media lit up with pictures of people enjoying themselves on the water, which was nice to see. But unfortunately many were not obeying the PFD law.

Perhaps what was even scarier is the fact that when someone reminded these posters of the law, they were the ones who were, in turn, belittled, scolded and insulted. Such can be social media.

I’ll admit, I do not wear a PFD on every kayak/fishing outing, especially during the summer months in certain situations. But I do obey this law, am extra cautious when paddling solo, and have always been leery on big lakes and in cold water situations at the start and end of the season.

Just a few years ago, two of my fishing buddies capsized one early spring day in a small fishing boat. Had it not been for wearing their PFDs, I doubt they would’ve survived.

One April 1 trout opener, I was fishing in a solo canoe when a rowboat capsized nearby. The ice had gone out on this lake just a week earlier.

The three men in the water were not wearing life vests, and equally as dangerous, were dressed in blue jeans, heavy work jackets and cotton hoodies. They nearly capsized a large canoe that had come to their rescue and may have done so if I hadn’t convinced them to do some shifting to better balance the weight. Fortunately, this story had a happy ending.

But for some it does not. As the Editor of this publication I regularly scour headlines on the Associated Press wire to which Outdoor News subscribes. The number of drownings across the country – anglers, hunters and especially paddlers – is astounding, and these numbers are creeping up again as of late.

The water is dangerously cold, and will be for some time. Wear your PFD.

Categories: Dan Ladd

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