By Todd Forcier

Spending time fishing is wonderful family sport, but in order for it to be enjoyable it should be safe and comfortable especially for small children. Fishing isn't a dangerous sport, but as with any activity, especially activities held in the ever-changing outdoors conditions do change. Unexpected bad weather, too much time in the sun, or encounter biting insects are a few factors that can spoil a fishing trip. Safety comes first. All the checklists in the world can’t anticipate all of the safety problems you or your young anglers might encounter on a fishing trip. So the best advice is think safety at all times. Look for trouble before it finds you. If it finds you anyway, know how to deal with it.

We recommend to start out to assemble a safety or a boat bag. A small duffle bag that would carry all of the required as necessary essentials on the water or on shore.

  1. First Aid Kit
  2. Chap Stick
  3. Suntan Lotion
  4. Sunburn Crème
  5. Insect Repellent
  6. Insect Bite Treatment
  7. Small Inexpensive Binoculars
  8. Packable Rain Gear or Ponchos      
  9. Disposable Waterproof Camera
  10. Aspirin or any Required Medications

Keep these important guidelines and tips in mind for a safe fishing experience

Fishing with small children. Whenever around water shoreline/dock or in a boat children should always wear a properly fitted Coast Guard approved (PFD) personal flotation device. Young anglers need constant adult supervision and guidance, establish a few rules; No running. Before each cast check for people behind and other obstructions. Have patience with small children they have a tendency to be impatient, reward them by allowing to keep a few small panfish in a bucket while fishing keeping there attention.

New anglers. Should always learn how to cast overhead first. This cast teaches the proper technique and is safer than side casts.

Athletic Shoes. Shoes should always be worn, fishing from shore, off a dock or in a boat. Sharp rocks, glass, stray hooks and other objects on the shoreline could cut your feet. On a boat or dock shoes are designed to keep your feet from slipping in a wet boat or off a dock preventing you from taking an unexpected fall into the water.

Prevent Sunburn. Always wear sunscreen, the ultraviolet (UV) light of the sun can do a lot of damage to skin, eyes and lips. Apply sunscreen on youngsters cover face, neck, ears and all other exposed skin with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher.

Wear a billed cap. Hats keep the sun out of your eyes while fishing. They also keep your head cool in the summer and warm in the winter as well as protecting your head from stray cast with hooks.

Sunglasses. Everyone should wear glasses or sunglasses (preferably polarized) Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays reflecting off the water, protect your eyes from errant casts with hooks and allows you to view below the surface of the water to see fish and other objects.

Bring Cold Drinks. During the summer temperatures can get very warm, to avoid dehydration or even heat stroke bring lots of cool water and other healthy drinks, Make sure the youngsters drink plenty of fluids. Liquids are also very important during the fall and winter months.

Insect Repellent. Keep the pests off by applying insect repellent. Mosquitoes, ticks, bees and other insects not only sting, they can carry diseases. Follow the directions on the container. If your insect repellent contains "Deet," it may be better to apply it to the clothing instead of the skin.

Bring Appropriate Clothing. Always dress for the weather and be prepared for unexpected changes. As an example it might be 75 degrees on shore but 10 degrees cooler on the lake with wind. Bring along a sweat shirt or a wind breaker just in case.

The listed guidelines below are to recognize and treat some outdoor hazards you may come across this season on the water. Note: The information provided herein should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical matters.

On the Water Safety

Drowning is second only to auto mishaps as the leading cause of death for teens.

Drowning Causes

  • Life jackets not worn.
  • Swimming in lakes or rivers is a LOT harder than swimming in a pool.
  • Water is cold enough to cool the person so fast that they can't swim (Hypothermia).
  • Swimmer's strength is overpowered by the current or other factors

Water Safety Precautions

  • Never use alcohol or drugs while you're swimming, diving, or in a boat.
  • Wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device when you boat, raft, go tubing, or swim across a river or lake.
  • When buying a life jacket or vest, select one that is comfortable, won't slip, and offers good freedom of movement.
  • Learn CPR and lifesaving, and take refresher courses.
  • Do not chew gum or eat while in the water, to prevent choking.

Water Rescue
Your diving into a lake or river to save potential-drowning victims is NOT recommended.

What to Do
Shout for help. When another person arrives, ask them to phone 911 and then come straight back.
Look around you for something to help the victim. This might be an empty ice chest, a pole, rope, tree limb, soccer ball, or even your spare tire! If a rope tie one end around a tree or post and throw the other end to the victim. Then, crouch down to maintain your balance and pull the victim to safety.

Even professional rescuers virtually NEVER attempt a water rescue without equipment. They bring a rescue tube, rescue board or other buoyant device to the victim.

Lightning Hazards
Lightning can create a sense of awe, excitement, and danger all in one. Most lightning strikes occur between noon and 6 p.m. in the summer.

Basic Precautions
Get an update weather forecast before you go. Develop a plan for emergency shelter If you hear thunder, you are at risk! Go to safe shelter immediately!

Learn CPR and keep your skills current through refresher training. Your CPR may save the life of someone struck by lightning and in cardiac arrest!


Any projection above the flat surface of the water acts as a potential lighting rod. Do not become a lightning rod!

Don't be a Target
Try to STAY OFF, and definitely GET OFF the water before a thunderstorm hits. If you are caught in open water during a thunderstorm, stay in the center of the cabin or low in the boat. Disconnect and do not use or touch the boat's major electronic equipment.

Stop fishing at the first sign of a storm, and get off the lake

Get out of the water and seek shelter at the first sigh of a storm.

If caught outdoors and no shelter is available, find a low spot away from trees, fences, power lines, and poles. Squat low to the ground, making yourself the smallest target possible. Minimize contact with the ground. DO NOT lie down! If you are in the woods, take shelter under the lower trees!

Cold Water
What is it? It is difficult even for an expert to define. It is estimated to be around and under the temperature of 70 degrees. However, this will vary in each case due to the specific circumstances and physical condition of the person involved.

What Happens In Cold Water?
Many of the fatal boating accidents occur in the "out-of-season" months when the water is cold.  What happens to the body when suddenly plunged into cold water?

The first hazards to contend with are panic and shock. The initial shock can place severe strain on the body, producing instant cardiac arrest, as happened to a 15 year old scout in the month of March in Pennsylvania several years ago.

Survivors of cold-water accidents have reported the breath driven from them on first impact with the water.   Should your face be in the water during that first involuntary gasp for breath, it may well be water rather than air.  Total disorientation may occur after cold-water immersion.  Persons have reported "thrashing helplessly in the water" for thirty seconds or more until they were able to get their bearings.

Immersion in cold water can quickly numb the extremities to the point of uselessness. Cold hands cannot fasten the straps of a lifejacket, grasp a thrown rescue line, or hold onto an over-turned boat. Within minutes, severe pain clouds rational thought. And, finally, hypothermia (exposure) sets in, and without rescue and proper first aid treatment, unconsciousness and death.

Normal body temperature of course, is 98.6. Shivering and the sensation of cold can begin when the body temperature lowers to approximately 96.5. Amnesia can begin to set in at approximately 94, unconsciousness at 86 and death at approximately 79 degrees.

What to Do In the Water
Cold water robs the body's heat 32 times faster than cold air. If you should fall into the water, all efforts should be given to getting out of the water by the fastest means possible.

Persons boating in the cold-water months should be thoroughly skilled in rescue and self-rescue techniques. Most accidents involve small boats, which with practice, can be righted and re-entered.  Most boats, even filled with water, will support the weight of its occupants. If the boat has capsized and cannot be made right, climb on top of it.

Physical exercise such as swimming causes the body to lose heat at a much faster rate than remaining still in the water. Blood is pumped to the extremities and quickly cooled. Few people can swim a mile in fifty degree water. Should you find yourself in cold water and are not able to get out, you will be faced with a critical choice - to adopt a defensive posture in the water to conserve heat and wait for rescue, or attempt to swim to safety.

Should you find yourself in the water, avoid panic. Air trapped in clothing can provide buoyancy as long as you remain still in the water. Swimming or treading water will greatly increase heat loss and can shorten survival time by more than 50%.

The major body heat loss areas are the head, neck, armpits, chest and groin. If you are not alone, huddle together or in a group facing each other to maintain body heat.

Proper preparation is essential when boating on cold water. Make sure your boat and equipment are in first class condition. Check the weather forecast before leaving for your event.  Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. Dress in several layers of light clothing. Next to a diver's wet suit, wool clothing offers the best protection. Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD) when boating.

First Aid Considerations for Cold Water Victims
Treatment for hypothermia depends on the condition of the person. Mild hypothermia victims who show only symptoms of shivering and are capable of rational conversation may only require removal of wet clothes and replacement with dry clothes or blankets.

In more severe cases where the victim is semi-conscious, immediate steps must be taken to begin the rewarming process.

Get the person out of the water and into a warm environment. Remove the clothing only if it can be done with a minimum of movement of the victim's body. Do not massage the extremities.

Lay the semi-conscious person face up, with the head slightly lowered, unless vomiting occurs. The head down position allows more blood to flow to the brain.

If advanced rescue equipment is available it can be administered by those trained in its use. Warm humidified oxygen should be administered by facemask.

Immediately attempt to rewarm the victim's body core. If available, place the person in a bath of hot water at a temperature of 105 to 110 degrees. It is important that the victim's arms and legs be kept out of the water to prevent "after-drop". After-drop occurs when the cold blood from the limbs is forced back into the body resulting in further lowering of the core temperature. After-drop can be fatal.

If a tub is not available, apply hot, wet towels or blankets to the victim's head, neck, chest, groin, and abdomen. Do not warm the arms or legs.

If nothing else is available, a rescuer may use his or her own body heat to warm a hypothermia victim.

Never give alcohol to a hypothermia victim.

Some Important Facts to Remember

  • Most persons recovered in cold water "near" drowning cases show the typical symptoms of death:
  • Cyanotic (blue) skin coloration
  • No detectable breathing
  • No apparent pulse or heartbeat
  • Pupils fully dilated (opened)

These symptoms, it was discovered, did not always mean the victim was dead. They were, on the other hand, the body's way of increasing its chances of survival through what scientists call the mammalian diving reflex. This reflex is most evident in marine mammals such as whales, seals or porpoises.  In the diving reflex, blood is diverted away from the arms and legs to circulate (at the rate of only 6-8 beats per minute, in some cases) between the heart, brain and lungs. Marine mammals have developed this ability to the point where they can remain under water for extended periods of time (over 30 minutes in some species) without brain or body damage.

Human's experience the diving reflex, but it is not as pronounced as in other mammals. The factors, which enhance the diving reflex in humans, are:

Water temperature - less than 70 degrees or colder, the more profound the response and perhaps the more protective to the brain

Age - the younger the victim, the more active the reflex

Facial immersion - the pathways necessary for stimulating this series of responses seem to emanate from facial cold water stimulation.

The diving reflex is a protective mechanism for humans in cold water immersions, but it may confuse the rescuer into thinking the victim is dead. Resuscitative efforts for these victims should be started immediately utilizing CPR in accordance with your training.

Remember, numerous children have been brought up from freezing water after 30 minutes and been successfully resuscitated.

Expected Survival Time in Cold Water


Water Temperature Exhaustion or Unconsciousness Expected Survival Time
70-80° F
(21-27° C)
3-12 hours 3 hours - indefinitely
60-70° F
(16-21° C)
2-7 hours 2-40 hours
50-60° F
(10-16° C)
1-2 hours 1-6 hours
40-50° F
(4-10° C)
30-60 minutes 1-3 hours
32.5-40° F
(0-44° C)
15-30 minutes 30-90 minutes
<32° F
(<0° C)
Under 15 minutes Under 15-45 minutes



Sunburn Prevention
Over the years the risk of developing malignant skin cancer has increased by 800%, to the extent that it is now considered to be at epidemic levels. And, 90% of the skin cancers are sun related.

Here is some skin protection guidelines to follow:
Sunscreen is a must! Choose one with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30. This number means that you are protected at least 30 times longer than you are without the sunscreen.

Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going out.

  • Be sure that your sunscreen protects against both UVA & UVB rays, and re-apply about every 2 hours.
  • Don't neglect your sunscreen on a cloudy day. Clouds filter only about 20% of the sun's ultraviolet rays.
  • Sunblock products containing titanium may offer additional protection and should be applied to your sensitive lips and noise.
  • If you are fishing on a day when the sun is strong, try to limit the amount of bare skin that is exposed. Also a hat should be worn.
  • No sunscreen will protect you completely form the damaging rays of the sun. So, try to minimize outdoor exposures between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. - when the sun's rays are the strongest.

It is never to late to benefit from protecting your skin from sunburn. Try to avoid additional intense sun exposure to allow your skin to repair some of the damage on its own.

If you should bet sunburned.

  • Take a cool bath or apply wet cloths to the sunburned area.
  • Apply aloe gels or first aid sunburn sprays as needed.
  • Try to limit additional sun exposure by staying cool indoors, or in the shade outdoors while your sunburn heals.

Eye Protection from Glare (Polarized Sunglasses)
During direct exposure to the sun, ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage the unprotected eye. These UV rays are simply invisible light waves that carry more energy than the visible light. People who spend lots of time outdoors without eye protection, especially near the water, will probably experience headaches, eye fatigue, and eventually, cataracts. Brightness and radiation are virtually doubled with reflected sunrays from the water surface! UV radiation has also been linked to a condition called photokeratitis - temporary but painful sunburn of the eye's surface. With this condition, which may not show effect for 12 - 24 hours, the person awakens in the middle of the night with searing eye pain and a feeling of sand or grit in the eyes.

Wear Your Sunglasses
Any polycarbonate sunglass lens can be expected to provide complete UV protection as well as excellent impact resistance. Also, a voluntary standard, ANSI Z80.3 has been adopted by some manufactures; and their conformance is referenced on some sunglass labels.

Guidelines for Purchasing Sunglasses
Ensure that lenses:

  • Block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays
  • Screen out 75-90% of visible light
  • Are polarized to minimize reflected glare from snow/water
  • Match perfectly in color and adsorption
  • Have Zylonite (ophthalmic grade plastic) frames
  • Are free from optical distortion and lens flaws
  • Are dark enough so that you can't see your eyes easily when looking in a mirror with the sunglasses on
  • Preferably are gray. (They do not modify colors)
  • Carry the American Optometry Association seal of acceptance

Prevention is the best defense against flying or crawling critters that can bite or sting. When your warm weather activities take you outdoors to hike, camp, fish, picnic, or just mow the lawn, you need to be aware of the insect problems that you may encounter.

Experts recommend that you:

Use a quality insect repellent and reapply every 2 -3 hours If your outdoor activities take you to a field or forest, wear light color long pants and long-sleeve shirts. Wear a hat, and working gloves if appropriate

These pests live near where water collects, and bay be more prevalent during the late afternoon and evening hours during calm weather. Staying indoors during these times may keep you from getting bit. If you do, scratching may make maters worse. Instead, treat bites with an anti-itch lotion.

Avoid bee problems by not wearing bright colored clothes or floral cosmetics, and by covering any sweet drinks. If a bee should land on you or your food, either blow or gently brush the bee away. If you are stung, tweezers are useful for removing the stinger. Otherwise, you can probably scrape the stinger off with a credit card or even your fingernail.

Although the vast majority of spiders that you will encounter are not harmful, caution and common sense must still be used. Keep any spiders that you see at a safe distance, and wear heavy-duty gloves when working with piles of brush or wood where spiders like to hide.

Wood Ticks
Ticks are the leading carriers of diseases to humans in the United States, second only to mosquitoes worldwide. It is not the tick bite but the toxins or organisms in the tick's saliva transmitted through the bite that cause disease.

Ticks are arthropods, like spiders. There are more than 800 species of ticks throughout the world. They are responsible for carrying such diseases as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, babesiosis (Texas fever), ehrlichiosis, and tularemia (also transmitted via rabbits), as well as Colorado tick fever and Powassan (a form of encephalitis).

In addition to disease transmission, ticks can also cause tick paralysis. This condition occurs when neurotoxins in the tick saliva make you ill; cause paralysis of the body; and in extreme cases, can stop you from breathing in extreme cases.

Two groups of ticks are important to humans because of the diseases they can transmit. Hard ticks have a tough back plate or scutum that defines their appearance. The hard ticks tend to attach and feed for hours to days. Disease transmission usually occurs near the end of a meal, as the tick becomes full of blood. Some of the more common hard ticks are these:

American dog tick
Wood tick
Deer tick (they carry lyme disease)
Lone star tick

Soft ticks have more rounded bodies and do not have the hard scutum found in hard ticks. These ticks usually feed for less than 1 hour. Disease transmission can occur in less than a minute. The bite of some of these ticks produces intensely painful reactions. Two common soft ticks found in the United States are the Pajaroello tick and spinose ear tick.

Outbreaks of tick-related illnesses follow seasonal patterns as ticks evolve from larvae to adults. They hide in low brush to hitch a ride on a potential host. Ticks require a "blood meal" to grow and survive, and they are not very particular upon whom or what they feed. If these freeloaders don't find a host, they may die.

Once a tick finds a host-such as you, your pet, a deer, a rabbit-and finds a suitable site for attachment, the tick begins to burrow with its mouthparts into exposed skin. Tick mouthparts are barbed, which helps to secure them to the host.

Often the tick secrets "cementum" to more firmly anchor its mouthparts and head to the host. Ticks may secrete or regurgitate small amounts of saliva that contain neurotoxins. These nerve poisons cleverly prevent you from feeling the pain and irritation of the bite. You may never notice the tick feeding on you. The saliva may contain a blood thinner to make it easier for

Tick bites are generally painless. You may not even notice the bite. And you may never find the tick if it falls off. Small ticks, like the deer tick that transmits Lyme disease, are so tiny they may be nearly undetectable. Some ticks are about as small as the period at the end of this sentence.

The actual bite may cause symptoms only after the tick drops off. You may notice local redness, itching, and burning-and, rarely, localized intense pain. The results of the illnesses transmitted by ticks often begin days to weeks after the tick is gone. That's why doctors may not suspect a tick-related illness.

You may have any of these symptoms:
Feel as if you have the flu

  • Fever
  • Numbness
  • Rash
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Pain and swelling in joints
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting


Todd Forcier is a licensed EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) since 1991. In 1993 he became a Wisconsin licensed and National Registered EMT-Intermediate. In 1997 he became a Wisconsin licensed EMT-Paramedic (highest level of pre-hospital care).