Fishermen like to think that there’s nothing more wholesome than fishing. The lap of the water, the tug on the line, the glint of scales in the sunlight. They find a separate peace there, in the struggle of man and nature, of scale and sinew, rod and reel. It’s no wonder that so many obsess — that they buy more gear, that they go out in the early mornings, on rainy mornings, under sketchy bridges. That they fish for carp in the dirty Potomac, or in the pools and ponds of urban Los Angeles.
But for as much enjoyment as they get out of it, any fisherman knows to be cautious. They know the damage hook can do to hand, the dangers of water. But there’s more to keeping yourself and your gear safe during fishing than just knowing how to unhook yourself.
Start At Home: Lock Up Your Gear
Many fishermen keep their stuff in a carport, a shed, or an unlocked garage. Be it because of a spouse who doesn’t want a bait aerator and long, long rods in the laundry room, a lack of space, or simple trust, they’re willing to trust hundreds — maybe thousands — of dollars of materials to anyone who decides to go poking around. Fish-finders, Yeti coolers, a good Shimano reel, an expensive fly rod — these things are portable, easy to take, easy to offload, and basically untraceable once they’re gone. Lock them up, whether they be in your house or on your boat.
Know Your Area
Scout it out before you fish. Many good fishing holes are in isolated places or in less safe areas. Be sure you know what kind of place you’re walking into before you whistle in with hundreds of dollars in gear.
Start In The Car: Leave Everything You Don’t Need
You’re going fishing. You don’t need your wallet; you need a picture ID and a fishing license in case a game warden, ranger, or fish and wildlife guy shows up. If you decide to take your keys, make sure you’re as minimalist as possible — car only — and consider leaving even that one in a keytainer up under the car. Remove all expensive or attractive items from your vehicle, which includes that expensive fishing gear that may catch people’s eye. And do remember to bring a waterproof case for your phone.
Know Your Local Wildlife
You’re more likely to encounter a hostile moose in some areas than a hostile human. Know what’s around. Make sure you can tell a poisonous snake from a non-poisonous one, and that you keep away from either. Mammals out during the day that show no fear merit a call to your local fish and game agency: they could be showing signs of rabies. Rutting moose, deer, and elk can be dangerous in season, and bears need their own special precautions, including bear bells.
Know Your Local Humans
In certain urban areas, rivers are popular places for people to congregate. And people can cause problems, especially people who might want something from you. Be aware of your surroundings; know when to fight and when to flee, and remember: your most valuable possession is your life.
Carry Some Small Protection
Many fisherman prefer the type of baton a runner carries: an extendable weapon that can shatter a knee cap if aimed properly. This isn’t really for humans — it’s more meant for use on dogs, which people often don’t leash in rural areas, and which can be territorial or dangerous. Be prepared, if you have to use it, to get into it with a very angry owner, and call 911 immediately.
Fishing is by and large a safe pastime. If you’re on a boat, watch the weather. Always wear a lifejacket if you’re in the water or wearing waders. Keep watch on the current, and remember: if you’re on a river connected to a dam, like much of the eastern part of the United States, be sure to watch for suddenly rising waters. Stay safe. Keep your gear safe. And remember to check your local recommendations to see if the fish you catch are safe to eat.