Boating / POSTED 13-Oct-2022

Weather: The Risk Doesn’t Outweigh the Reward

Whether it’s a slick calm evening for the perfect kayak trip down the river, the sun is shining for a family lake day, or the wind is blowing to make the bass crush a spinnerbait – the weather plays a key role in us enjoying the outdoors. Boaters are responsible for monitoring the weather and for making smart choices about how they spend time outside accordingly. Preparation for an outing to the water should begin well in advance. Use these key tips to respect the weather and maximize your time enjoying the great outdoors.

Know before you go
Respecting the weather begins by checking the conditions and your localized forecast before ever leaving home. Gather a detailed weather forecast of the situations you may encounter throughout the day. If the forecast calls for some less-than-ideal conditions, you can decide if you need to reschedule or simply pack your rain gear. 

When checking the local weather forecast, look for the following: 
• Wind directions and speeds 
• Wave heights
• Tides
• Chance of precipitation
• Humidity 
• Cloud cover 
• Temperature 
• Heat index 

This information can help you understand how to dress properly for the outing, what boat ramps might be the most efficient to use based on the tides, the time you need to leave the water before a severe storm is expected to hit, or if you should stay home due to a small craft advisory. The more information you gather to establish a full weather picture, the better you can prepare for your next outdoor adventure.
Prepare for the conditions
Once you have an idea about what the weather will look like, it’s important to properly prepare. The old saying, “It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it,” is true when it comes to getting ready for your trip to the water. There are several recommended items you should always keep on hand to ensure an enjoyable experience including plenty of life jackets, sunscreen, snacks, water, first aid supplies, rain gear, change of clothes, and multiple GPS/ communication devices. 
You should prepare for the weather by performing a thorough walk-around of your equipment before hitting the water. If you’re boating, taking steps like making sure your bilge pump is in proper working order and all your transom bolts are tight will allow you to be better protected should you have to navigate rough conditions.

Know your surroundings 
Whether you’re fishing off the pier or paddling down a river, be sure to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Understanding how your surroundings can aid during a weather event is key to maintaining safety. Although you should continually monitor forecasts, keep your head on a swivel to observe the early development of weather events.   
Have you ever been enjoying the sunshine while boating and a thunderstorm appears from nowhere? Immediately thunder rolls and lightning strikes along with sudden rain in the distance. You quickly realize you need to seek shelter, but where? Understanding your surroundings allows you to navigate back to the boat ramp, find a covered public dock, or paddle to the kayak launch to load up before the storm hits. Knowing where covered shelter is and how to remove yourself from a severe thunderstorm is key to being safe.  

Make smart decisions 
The most important part of monitoring the weather is using the information you obtain to make smart decisions. No matter the weather, the risk does not outweigh the reward. If a storm develops, seek shelter immediately. If waves are too rough to navigate safely, return carefully to shore. If lightning is near, get off the water.  
Recently, during practice for a Bassmaster® Open on the Upper Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, I checked the weather before ever leaving the hotel. Upon waking up, I noticed a severe thunderstorm causing localized flooding and severe lightning. I elected to stay inside the hotel, wait out the storm and venture out after the storm had passed. As critical as getting practice time in was, I knew the best decision was waiting out the storm. 

Respect the weather
The weather is constantly changing making forecasts unpredictable at times. It’s your responsibility to continually monitor the conditions with your own eyes. Remember, there is no reward for taking chances in a weather event. Respect the weather, know the conditions before you go and prepare for anything you might encounter.
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