10 Safety Tips While Fishing Alone

Fishing is one of the few pursuits in life that can be done alone. Fishing alone, however, does require specific precautions and preparation. Here are 10 safety tips every fisher should follow when fishing by themselves.

10 safety tips while fishing alone are:

  1. Scout the area
  2. Map the route
  3. Tell someone where you’ll be
  4. Set up a simple survival/first aid pack
  5. Hydrate
  6. Watch the weather
  7. Be cautious handling fish
  8. Dress appropriately
  9. Set your phone up for an emergency
  10. Know the critters

These tips apply for every type of fishing with some modification to address unique challenges. Overlooking any can result in minor inconveniences all the way up to life threatening incidents. Here is a rundown on each preparation tip and why it is vital to the well being of an angler fishing alone.

Know The Dangers Of Fishing Alone

This is perhaps the best tip, even though it is not included in the list above. By being aware of dangers, you can plan on how to best neutralize them before they cause you trouble. Knowing what you are facing also lets you reasonably plan for how to react if you encounter a threat or danger.

At the same time, it’s easy to gloss over the dangers that go along with fishing, especially if you are in an area that you know well. In some cases, familiarity breeds contempt, or so the saying goes, but in others, it breeds complacency, and, in some scenarios, complacency can kill you.

An Example

Suppose, for example, you’re on a boat. There is a chance that you could drown. If you are careful and take the appropriate precautions, by having a life jacket and being sensible, you can reduce the risk, but there is always a chance the “one in a million” could happen.

That is why understanding the threats you might face can help you prepare, whether to mitigate a risk or address a threat. The following are common issues associated with fishing that are easily avoided, but can be deadly if ignored:

  • Drowning
  • Puncturing yourself with a fishhook
  • Getting caught in a flash flood
  • Getting struck by lightning
  • Developing hypothermia
  • Becoming dehydrated

Each of those risks exist for at least three of the four seasons, no matter where you live. You can even get hypothermia in the summer in Florida, for example, if the right mix of wind and you being immersed in water occurs.

By understanding what each risk is, you can develop a strategy that reduces the threat and ensures you are prepared if you must confront it.

Things To Prioritize When Fishing Alone

It is impossible to avoid all risks or even to be prepared to handle all emergencies. With proper planning, however, you can prioritize the likelihood of a specific type of emergency occurring and plan for it.

For example, if you live in northern Maine, you are undoubtedly aware how the weather can turn against you in a heartbeat. You also know that your chances of getting swarmed by killer bees is almost non-existent.

Conversely, if you live in Florida, you know hypothermia is a possibility, but extremely unlikely. There is a far greater risk you will be struck by lightning if you ignore the warning signs. By understanding the risk factor of each danger you can face while fishing, you can prioritize the threats and develop a mitigation strategy accordingly.

Focus On The Generic

What all that means is that your fundamental risk mitigation strategy should focus on the most likely threats while also preparing generically for everything else.

Using that approach, for instance, that fisher in Maine should pay attention to the weather, avoid really bad weather, and have preparations to avoid hypothermia. They also, though, should have a first aid kit that can handle insect bites and stings, including medicine to combat an allergic reaction.

At the same time, the angler in Florida should focus on all of the above, including taking some basic precautions against the slim possibility of hypothermia.

Many Fishing Dangers Are Common

One positive aspect of the threats facing the average fisher is that no matter where they are located, many of the same threats exist universally. Bad weather, for example, is not just limited to the deep south in the dead of summer. And insect or animal attacks can happen anywhere.

At the very least, this makes it easy to prepare for most threats and then tailor your tactics to tackle location specific threats. But let’s take a closer look at the 10 tips we outlined above for fishing alone safely.

10 Safety Tips While Fishing Alone

1. Scout The Area

Every good angler scans their surroundings before wetting their line. Current, depth, insect hatches, minnows, water color, clarity and temperature are but a few of the many things a seasoned fisher wants to know to help them increase their chances of catching a fish. Walking in blind reduces fishing to a game of luck.

The same applies to a person fishing alone and safety precautions. Whether from the shore, on a boat, during winter, or during summer, an angler must understand the water they’re fishing. Here are just a few questions that can help:

  • Is there a current or an undercurrent?
  • How deep is it in the zone you will be fishing?
  • What are the water and air temperatures?
  • If confronted with an emergency, how difficult is it to get to shore?
  • If on shore, how difficult is it to get to help?

These are just a few of the many questions every fisher must know before they cast a single lure. Not knowing can lead to being unprepared when confronted with an emergency, and you could put your own life in danger.

If you are fishing from the shore, walk the shoreline and look for tripping hazards, areas that drop off quickly into deep water, how currents affect shore erosion, etc. The more you know about your fishing location, the better the chances of landing a lunker and keeping yourself safe.

2. Map The Route

Most anglers have at least a general fishing strategy before they start fishing. This strategy is developed from testing the water temperature, observing its clarity, mentally tracking any currents, etc. The strategy is based on measured observation and whether the fisher documents it or not, it serves as the framework from which all that fishing trip’s strategic and tactical decisions are made.

A fisher should do the same regarding the route they plan to take while fishing. If fishing from the shore, plan where you’re heading as well as where any hazards are (if any exist). If fishing from a boat, create a general nautical chart of planned vessel movement.

This map doesn’t have to be precise, but it should serve as a guide for search and rescue personnel should they become necessary. Not at least casually documenting the planned route can lead to very costly delays in finding the fisher as well as treating any injuries or illnesses.

The reason this is so important is that often people assume they know where a person will be hiking, fishing, or hunting. They can be very wrong, especially if the angler is able to move around easily. By mapping out a plan before hand, it’s far easier for people to work out where you are, even if you do wander off course.

3. Tell Someone Where You’ll Be

A map of where a person is planning on fishing is invaluable. It serves no purpose, however, if the plan is never shared with anyone. Make sure that you tell a family member, significant other, or friend where you plan on going, the direction you plan to take, and how long you plan on going for.

Some will assume that leaving a note is sufficient. While a note is great (and you should leave one) as a reminder, it’s not the same as having a verbal conversation. Discussing your plans with someone helps with recall if that person must talk to the authorities because you are missing.

Discussing your plans does more, though, than give people looking for you a general roadmap. It also helps relay your mental mindset as it pertains to your goals for your fishing trip. If you have in mind a type of fish you want to catch or a part of a lake or river you want to fish, the chances are very high that you will reveal that in a conversation.

When trying to find someone because they might be lost, ill or injured, every little bit of information can be invaluable. Knowing, for example, that you were going to fish for trout up river tributaries can help authorities narrow down where to look and, more importantly, where not to look.

4. Set Up A Simple Survival/First Aid Pack

Even if you are only going to be gone for a few hours, you need to make sure you have certain items with you should you become injured, lost or stuck somewhere for a long time.

The packs don’t have to be large or contain everything you could possibly want or need in either a survival or first aid situation. Instead, both should cover the basics. Keeping it simple makes it easier to carry or stow on a boat.

Your survival kit should include:

  • Water
  • High energy food (energy bars, trail mix, etc.)
  • Fire starter
  • Tinder
  • Poncho
  • 50 feet of paracord or lightweight nylon rope
  • Water purification tablets
  • Knife
  • Windbreaker jacket
  • Bear spray, mace or pepper spray

Your first aid kit should include:

  • Antiseptic cleaner
  • Bandages
  • Alcohol pads
  • Headache medicine
  • Tourniquet
  • Insect bite/sting medicine
  • Antibacterial ointment

These lists are by no means comprehensive. They cover the basics, however, for most types of survival needs and/or injuries sustained on a fishing trip. Each list is also designed to accommodate spacing needs as well as any weight concerns.

5. Hydrate

Dehydration leads to poor decision making, disorientation, heat related illness and, if left untended, it can lead to delirium. It also can be very sneaky in that it can happen in virtually any setting, no matter the temperature, season or weather.

To hold off dehydration, it is critical that water is included with “must have” equipment for any fishing trip, be it locally for an afternoon or miles away from home for several days. It is recommended that the average male consumes 3 liters of liquid every day.

That means at a minimum, for a half day trip, a liter and a half of liquid be brought along. If you are mapping out a multi-day fishing trip, go for 3 liters of water per day, per person. If you can’t pack in the water you need, make sure you have water purification tablets as well as a container to purify water in.

6. Watch The Weather

On just about any fishing trip, weather can wreak havoc. That havoc can be caused by lightning, wind, hail, snow whiteouts, flash floods, etc. There are few things that can make a fishing trip go sideways like the weather is capable of doing.

Because of that, it is important to have a source for weather updates as well as to know the signs of impending weather. Set up your smartphone and/or bring a radio to listen to local weather forecasts, purchase a book on recognizing the weather and take every opportunity you can to learn the signs of impending weather events.

This doesn’t just help keep you safe. Weather also plays a huge role in affecting how and how often fish eat, roam or hunker down. Understanding how weather affects fish can lead to a very effective period catching fish or it can help avoid wasting time because the fish aren’t going to bite.

7. Be Cautious Handling Fish

Fishing is by nature dangerous. Fishing equipment poses dangers as well as the fish themselves. Both should be taken very seriously. Fishing involves water, knives, hooks, and heavy-duty lines in some cases. All of these can inflict injuries on the unwary, ranging from simple to severe. Just about every fisher, for example, has at some point gotten gouged by a hook, requiring medical attention.

Even handling fish comes with risks. The barbs in the fins are very sharp and a puncture that breaks the skin means an almost assured and sometimes instantaneous infection. Likewise, any fish with teeth pose a risk of a bite that may or may not need stitches.

In addition to the equipment being dangerous and the fish wanting to inflict injury on you, most aquatic environments are ideal for bacteria growth and hostile towards keeping a wound clean.

Every injury on the water should be treated as a possible point of serious infection. Do not delay treating wounds and do not ignore them. Marine life and the marine environment are teeming with ways to hurt a person, and invisible bacteria and parasites that want to make a person sick.

8. Dress Appropriately

The elements encountered in fishing are rarely ideal. In the winter, everything is frozen and presents an opportunity for hypothermia. In the summer, heat can overcome a person quickly if you don’t wear the right clothes and have a way to cool off readily available.

Always check the temperature and get a weather forecast, paying close attention to the highs and lows during the duration of your fishing trip. Utilize an hourly temperature and weather estimate as it can help in generally preparing for what you might encounter.

Remember that it’s always easier to take clothes off to cool down than it is to try and get warm with just the clothes you have on.

9. Set Your Phone Up For An Emergency

Every smartphone has a series of tools that can be used to maximize safety. This includes instant contact options, SOS signals, lighting for signaling, and location services. Make sure you utilize every emergency tool, app or feature you are comfortable having on your phone whenever you head out on a fishing trip.

10. Know The Critters

Every fishing location on the planet has critters that can be entertaining, interesting, humorous, and dangerous. Wild animals and insects are unpredictable and often assume that any human being is a threat.

Keeping that in mind, learn the local wildlife you may encounter while fishing. Additionally, learn the best ways to avoid wild animals. Finally, learn how to address threatening animals. In all probability, you will never have an encounter with a hostile or sick wild animal. If you do, however, it’s worth it knowing what to do.

Final Thoughts

The best advice you can take with you when fishing alone is to map out your route and tell someone about it before you go. After that, adhering to the rest of the points on our list above will help you mitigate the risks and address the dangers before you become lost, sick or injured.