Spring is a good time of year to go fishing on land and boat. It’s especially important to you wear your life jacket during this season, even if you’re standing on the bank or edge of a lake or river, because of additional rainfall, winter melt and water temperatures.
Wear Your Life Jacket When There’s Fast Moving Water
The winter melt can raise some streams and make them fast water. Also, the banks may be less stable because of the runoff. The chance of the bank breaking or falling apart is a little bit higher due to the excess moisture.
In fast moving water, a life jacket, or PFD (personal flotation device) keeps you at the surface level and makes it easier for a rescue. According to the PFDMA (Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association), “it only takes 60 seconds for an adult to drown, and 20 seconds for a child to drown.”
Wear Your Life Jacket When The Water is Cold
Regardless of the water’s speed, cold water can also be dangerous. You might think a life jacket is unnecessary when the air temperature is nice and warm, but the water temperature can still create a chilling effect. When you fall into cold water, you can be at risk for hypothermia.
Hypothermia is a physical condition that occurs when the body’s core temperature falls below normal to 95° F or cooler. But wearing a life jacket can slow this process and increase your chances of survival. Hypothermia Prevention: Surviving in Cold Water explains how flotation and insulation are important in increasing your survival time. For example, a life vest offers more protection than a collar type personal flotation device, and insulated jackets protect even more of your body from the cold water.
This PFDMA Brochure gives more tips on selecting the appropriate personal flotation device.
How Cold is “Cold” Water?
“Cold water (less than 70° F) can lower your body temperature, causing hypothermia. If your body temperature drops too low, you may pass out and then drown,” according to this PFDMA Brochure.
Another source says water temperatures as high as 75° and 80° F can be dangerous.
Cold Shock Response & Hypothermia
Extremely cold water is even more dangerous because you’re at risk of cold shock response before hypothermia even sets in. This article describes “when you first go into extremely cold water there is this weird response called a cold shock response. People start to hyperventilate immediately. For one to three minutes you breathe very fast and deep, uncontrollably. If you go underwater, you could swallow water and die.” But a life jacket can help keep your head above water.
After cold shock goes away, your body temperature begins to drop. That’s when you’re at risk for hypothermia. The more of your body that’s submerged, the quicker your core body temperature will cool, “even if the water temperature is 20° higher than the air temperature.” A flotation device, such as a life jacket, keeps more of you out of the water. This slows the cooling and gives you more time for help to arrive.
Wear Your Life Jacket When You’re On a Boat
What if you’re fishing on a boat? Life jackets are required to be on a boat. The best place to carry a life jacket on your boat is on your body. In the event of an emergency, you don’t have to think about where your life jacket is… it’s where it needs to be.
It’s important to wear your life jacket while fishing on land and on boat throughout the whole year. This fishing season, please remember to wear your life jacket.