Woody's Outdoors: Summer heat can be an outdoors killer

Larry Woody • Updated Jul 27, 2013 at 12:48 AM

I don’t know if it’s a matter of global warming or global aging, but summers seem to get hotter every year.

Temperatures have already starting popping thermometers and we’re just getting warmed up – no pun intended. So I thought it would be a good idea to go ahead and write an advisory column that I normally run during the searing Dog Days of August:

Heat can be a killer for outdoorsmen, and particularly for fishermen.

Being involved in any outdoors activity – from golfing to gardening -- means exposure to the sun and heat, but it can be particularly dangerous for fishermen for a number of reasons:

• The water surface reflects the sun’s rays, increasing the effects.

• There’s no shade on the water, and the nearest may be a long boat-ride away.

• When an angler is concentrating on fishing – especially if the fish are biting – he or she may lose sight of how hot it is.

Youngsters, the elderly, and persons suffering from respiratory problems are especially susceptible to sun stroke, but even the most fit and hearty aren’t immune. If fact, in some ways they are more at risk because they feel they are impervious to hot weather.

I have a friend who’s a veteran fishing guide and makes his living on the water. A few years ago, when he was in his late 30’s, he took a client out on Old Hickory Lake on a hot summer day.

The sun was blazing down, and around mid-day he began to feel weak and dizzy. He kept fishing, and before he knew what was happening he fainted and collapsed in the boat.

Fortunately for him, his client recognized the symptoms of heat stroke. He doused him with water, took control of the boat, and sped to the nearest boat dock. My buddy was carried inside, where there was air conditioning, and covered in cool, wet towels until paramedics arrived.

He was transported to a hospital for further treatment and observation. Doctors said he came close to dying, and probably have if he had been alone in the boat and unable to get off the water and seek help.

He was in good physical condition and had fished during hot summers since he was a kid without a problem.  Yet he was suddenly stricken by a heat stroke that could have been fatal.

The best way to avoid heat stroke is to avoid the heat – at least the worst of it. On most summer days the hottest times are from noon until four in the afternoon. It’s wise to avoid those particularly brutal times. Fish from dawn until mid-morning, or from late afternoon until dark. That’s still a lot of time on the water.

If you insist on fishing during the worst of the heat, experts advise taking precautions. Drink lots of cold liquids before and during the trip. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a ventilated wide-brimmed hat.

Frequently soaking the hat in the water and splashing water on clothing will help cool off. Take breaks in the shade, and at the first sign nausea or light-headeness, quickly get off the water and cool off. If the symptoms persist, seek medical attention.

Anyone, no matter how good their physical condition, can suffer a heat stroke, and the first one might be the last one.

No fish is worth that risk.

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