Safe boating tips for fall and winter
As the leaves begin to change and the weather turns colder, many boaters are thinking about winterizing their boats and making storage plans. But some aren’t ready to pull their boats out of the water just yet. Boating in the winter months can be enjoyable for many reasons: less boat traffic, calmer waters, and — as dedicated crappie, bass, and sauger anglers know — the chance to catch some big fish.
If you plan to be out on the water this winter, it’s important to be aware of the dangers associated with lower water levels. Know the area where you are boating, especially the bottom topography. Many reservoirs have areas that go from 30 feet of water to two feet of water in a short distance. By staying in the main channel and areas that you know well, you can keep from grounding your boat. If you are going into an unfamiliar area, be extra careful. Drive slowly and watch your depth finder.
It’s also a good idea to check the water level at your favorite boat ramp to make sure it’s usable at winter elevations. You could damage your trailer or boat by backing off a ramp that doesn’t extend far enough into the water.
Because there are fewer boaters on the water during winter months, it can be more difficult to get assistance from another boater in case of an emergency. Make sure you carry a cell phone or a marine radio, and let friends or family know where you are going and when you expect to be back.
Finally, be prepared in case you fall into the water or have a boating accident. Never boat alone, and always wear a life jacket. Not only can a life jacket save your life if you are knocked unconscious, it also allows you to stay afloat with a minimum of expended energy; that can help ward off hypothermia, a serious, life-threatening condition. Always dress for the water, not for the boat. Dress in layers, since each layer traps another pocket of air to help insulate your body and hold in heat, and be sure to take along extra clothes in case you get wet.