Updated: May 10
I had originally planned to devote this column to foraging for mushrooms. Then, the realization hit me. I just don’t know enough about the topic to safely write about it. There are just too many poisonous, even deadly, wild mushrooms. Some, such as hen of the woods, are obviously okay, but others, while looking delicious, could be poisonous. Hence the names Death Cap and Angel of Death. Therefore, I have picked another topic.
With fishing headed for high gear, and lots of other outdoor activities right around the corner, it’s time for our annual look at some of the dangers and hazards that await those of us of the outdoor persuasion, and some steps that can be taken to deal with them.
Few people spend more time out in the sun than anglers. Needless to say, sunburn is an unpleasant side effect. For many years, sunburn was viewed as little more than a painful nuisance. Over the course of the last ten or so years, many new facts have come to light, and they are disturbing. Continued exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can, and will, cause skin cancer. The problem is especially severe for anglers. Not only are we exposed to the sun’s direct rays, but also indirect, reflected rays from water and other shiny surfaces. It’s like a double dose of trouble. The skin’s first response is sunburn. Over a period of time, the results can be premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. Some individuals are more susceptible than others to the sun’s harmful effects, but no one is immune. In general, the lighter the skin, the greater the risk. People like me, with red hair and freckles, seldom if ever tan, and are among those with the highest degree of risk. I have already had one skin cancer removed. Fortunately, this form of skin cancer is really quite preventable. A good sunscreen lotion will do the job. Sunscreen protection factors are rated numerically. The higher the number, the stronger the screen. The typical sunscreen poses a few problems for the angler. For one thing, the protection factor is often not high enough, as many are also suntan lotions. In addition, some products wash off rather easily. Some anglers report problems with the scent of the lotion being deposited on baits and lures, although I have never, to my knowledge, encountered problems in this area. In the end, your best bet is one of the many sunscreens made especially for those who spend a lot of time in water-related sports. I’ve spent entire days in the sun using some of these products, without even getting sunburned, and, for me, that’s really something.
Be careful not to miss any spots when applying sunscreen. A couple of years ago, while shore fishing at Chapman Dam, I missed the outside of my right ankle. It was an especially hot and sunny day, and I was out in it the whole time. The end result was a horrifically large blister, along with days of agonizing pain. In fact, I had to use a cane to get out of bed, as I couldn’t stand pressure on the ankle the first thing in the morning. I still carry the scar and the memory. It’s a mistake I hope to never make again.
Too much sunlight can be bad for your eyes, too. A good pair of sunglasses is a must for both safety and comfort. Make sure that they are of good enough quality to not distort your vision. Most anglers opt for some type of polarized glasses. This eliminates the glare off the water, allowing you to see beneath the surface. Some models have little magnifiers on the bottoms of the lenses. This makes knot tying and other tasks easier for those of us whose vision has been affected by Father Time.
This is also the time of year when you often encounter young wildlife. Whatever you do, don’t try to pick them up or pet them. I know, they’re really cute and cuddly looking, but they are, in fact, wild animals and should be left alone, both for their safety and yours.