Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Ben was never short on wisdom or clever sayings. When it comes to fishing in the surf, preparation can prevent many unnecessary injuries and headaches. Surf anglers are known to spend vast sums of money on rods, reels, and tackle, but what they need to consider is the need to invest wisely in safety equipment.
Once you accept the fact that no fish is worth risking serious injury or worse, a good angler should plan to be outfitted with the appropriate clothing/safety gear to make their day- or night- in the surf a safe and successful one. The first rule is to remember that the conditions you encounter at the beginning of the trip are not always those you experience over the duration of the trip. The current conditions can change dramatically throughout the excursion. This means, according to Ben, you need to be prepared.
First, the basics- a waterproof jacket with pockets will provide protection for a cell phone, car keys, a mini-flashlight and other key items you want not only close at hand, but kept dry. Next, investment in a quality pair of waders will insure warmth and the ability to stay dry during the outing. In recent years I have noted a good trend towards more surfcasters outfitting themselves with personal floatation devices. These devices add a layer of protection and can give peace of mind to the novice fisherman facing a slippery jetty or adverse wave conditions. For those who object to the bulkiness of a typical flotation device, there are a number of companies making floatation belt devices that are thin, lightweight, and retail for under $100- trust me, you are worth it. Devices such as these can be found at West Marine and various other fishing and boating retail outlets and online “web stores”.
Another important consideration is carrying extra clothing in your vehicle should you need dry clothes or need to adapt to a change in weather conditions. When it comes to clothing one item that cannot be underemphasized is the importance of footwear. It is imperative to make sure your choice of footwear is appropriate for the terrain you will be fishing. If you are working a rocky jetty you should absolutely have some kind of spiked footwear (Korkers) to reduce the chance of slipping into the water and becoming part of the habitat. Jetties are known to be covered with algae and seaweed, and are almost always wet and slippery, making them an accident waiting to happen. Think about the potential for broken bones or head trauma from a fall or even drowning. Flip-flops, bare feet, and unsupervised children are three things that just do not belong on this type of slippery surface. Remember, safety first- yours and that of those you are with.
Unfortunately, in the words of Forrest Gump, “_ _ it happens”. So you need to be prepared for what happens if your preventative measures do not prevent an accident. This means you need a first-aid kit. It is a base necessity for any surf/beach rig. It needs to be easily accessible to those who might need to render help in a hurry. Besides the basic first-aid necessities- such as band-aids, ointments, gauze pads, etc., you will definitely add a very sharp knife and a wire cutting device should a hook get lodged in your body. Fortunately, I have been blessed, and have only been hooked seriously once that required medical assistance. However, I have witnessed deep hook-sets in hands and faces. I strongly recommend sunglasses in the day and safety glasses at night to protect your eyes from that lure flying back at you. I say it again, safety first.
While not necessarily the case fifteen years ago, today we all have cell phones. Nevertheless, I believe it is essential to have at least one other alternative communication device. Cell phones are not always reliable while fishing certain areas and not always reliable when you are fishing in adverse conditions- especially when your hands get wet. I use a wetsuit when fishing Montauk, often at night, with clients and friends. I purchased waterproof Motorola walkie-talkies for $99. These serve two purposes: First, they help us track one another should we get separated, thereby helping us keep contact in the dark when we spread out; Second, I purchased a handheld CB radio for $75 out of necessity, because there are certain places- like one particular spot on Montauk- I fish that do not have any cell phone service at all. So my CB radio purchase was one of those purchases made in hope I would never need to use it, but would absolutely need in the case of an emergency requiring that I contact the proper authorities when no cell signal is available. Good to know that
channel 9 is always monitored for emergencies by law enforcement- usually emergency reducer centers, highway patrol, local police stations or other emergency organizations, not to mention private individuals as well. Always remember, safety first.
In closing, I want to remind you of what we too often take for granted- the most important part of a successful day of fishing is returning home safe, without injury, to share stories with your loved ones. We all need to use common sense both in our planning and when we get out on the water. Share your itinerary with family members or friends on any given day as an additional safe guard. No fish is worth getting seriously hurt or even killed (yes, even that 50 lb Striper!). Catching big fish should not come with big problems. Remember, Safety First, Keep the lines tight, and Live The Passion!
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Bernie Hoyt is from Aquebogue, Long Island. He is a NYS Certified Fishing Guide specializing in surfcasting with over 30 years experience fishing the legendary waters of Long Island. He is well known for his informative seminars at saltwater shows up and down the Atlantic seaboard. He offers trips for all ages and skill levels throughout the outer beaches and inlets of Long Island, as well as the Cape Cod Canal, Cuttyhunk, and other Striper locations in the northeast. He is a team member for S&S Bucktails, ODM RODS, Eposeidon.com and GOIN’ EAST as well as being a long time member of the Long Island Beach Buggy Association and the Montauk Surfcasters Association. We are honored to have Bernie join the blogging Team! You can contact Bernie on Facebook through Bernie Bass Surfcasting Services, on Instagram @Bernie_bass and through his website at www.Berniebass.com