Oregon Marine Board offers winter boating safety tips
Not only is it “not nice to underestimate Mother Nature,” it’s particularly bad karma to underestimate Mother Nature in winter. Nowhere is that more true than on the water.
Here are some tips provided by the Oregon State Marine Board for prudent ways to boat safely during these cold, volatile months:
Crabbing: Crabbing in the winter is very weather dependent, but on a calm day with moderate tides and river flows, it can be extremely productive. Wind, rain and fog are the challenge – make sure you check tides before heading out, and you might want to look at river levels, too. Typically, strong outflows of fresh water reduce crabbing success, so avoid going out after big storms or high tidal swings. Also, the water and weather combine for potentially cold conditions – dress appropriately, wear your life jacket and avoid the mouth of the river on an out-going tide when breakers often form without warning. Check here for ODFW’s Fishing report.
Fishing: Sturgeon in the Columbia, salmon and steelhead in streams, trout in reservoirs – there is actually quite a bit of fishing opportunity this time of year. Winter waters are VERY cold, often in the 40s or lower. Again, take plenty of clothing and wear your life jacket. Avoid boating if storms are forecast, especially on large waterbodies where waves form quickly. Watch for debris in rivers, including dislodged tree trunks, deadheads and hidden gravel bars. Many reservoirs are drawn down for flood control, so access can be difficult. Check here for reservoir levels.
Waterfowl hunting: Waterfowl hunters often depart before light to set up decoys and blinds. The Columbia, Willamette and other larger rivers are popularly used this time of year. All boats must display running lights before sunrise or after sunset. Check here for additional information on waterfowl hunting from a boat.
Wildlife viewing: Waterfowl is the main show this time of year: wood ducks, teal, scaups, mallards and numerous others frequent backwaters and sloughs.
The OSMB reminds outdorr people to be especially aware of hypothermia this time of year. It suggests people dress in layers, carry high-energy food and always wear a life jacket. There’s a rule: A 50-year-old swimmer has a 50/50 chance of surviving a 50 yard swim to shore in 50 degree water.
The bottom line is that the shock of immersion in cold water immediately reduces blood flow to extremities, increases respiration and inhibits your ability to rescue yourself. A life jacket, or better yet, a float coat, will reduce the shock, slow the onset of hypothermia and help you rescue yourself. Physical condition and swimming ability are only a minor asset here – it is best to be prepared.