Coast Guard urges safe practices for anglers

HOUSTON — The Coast Guard and Texas Parks & Wildlife Department are urging the public to heed risks and enact recommended safety practices when fishing along Texas coasts and waterways.

So far in 2021, 19 people have drowned while fishing in or near Texas waters, nine of whom were wade fishing, or fishing on foot in shallow waters. Twenty-two people died fishing in 2020, nine of whom were wade fishing.

“With a few popular fishing months left in the year, now is the time to raise public awareness of safety hazards facing local anglers, especially those fishing on foot,” said Assistant Cmdr. Cody Jones, TPWD Boating Law Administrator. “River currents, rip tides and the ever-shifting bottoms in tidally influenced areas lead to significant risks for wade fisherman in these coastal environments, making it imperative that participants take steps to mitigate such risks.”

Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston personnel have responded to five incidents involving wade fishing in 2021, including a case on Oct. 3, during which two men went missing while wade fishing near the Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry terminal. Coast Guard boat and helicopter crews, along with TPWD, Galveston County Sheriff’s Office and Crystal Beach Fire Department personnel, searched for the two anglers; both were found deceased.

“Fishing along the Texas coast, rivers and bays is an enjoyable pastime for many, including me and my family, but it is critical to understand the risks involved and follow recommended safety tips,” said Coast Guard Capt. Jason Smith, commander, Sector Houston-Galveston. “While the Coast Guard, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and our many other partners on the water are always ready, we are not always everywhere. Be safe and keep your fish on the line, not your life.”

The Coast Guard and TPWD recommend that anglers follow these safety tips:

  • Always wear a life jacket. Even if wade fishing, fishing from a pier, or fishing from shore, you can unexpectedly fall in the water or encounter unseen hazards. There are many types of life jackets that do not restrict anglers’ movements, such as manual inflatable flotation devices worn over the shoulders.
  • Know your fishing area. Many hazards may be present in shallow water and along shorelines, such as sneaker waves, strong currents and sudden drop-offs. Wade fishermen should be especially cautious around areas where the water funnels, such as points and cuts, which can produce stronger currents.
  • Be cautious when retrieving gear. Don’t enter waters to retrieve entangled fishing tackle when you don’t know what the bottom is like. Stepping off into a large hole or encountering an entrapment such as debris on the bottom can be deadly.
  • Beware the effects of hypothermia. Even in Texas, the water can get cold enough to negatively affect you and your body if you’re exposed too long without protective clothing. For example, 30 minutes in 60-degree water can limit your dexterity, while two hours can render you exhausted or unconscious.
  • File a float plan. Before heading out on a fishing trip, notify a friend or relative where you are going, when you plan to return and your method of communication. In the event of an emergency, this information can help the Coast Guard, TPWD and other first responders find and assist you.
  • Carry a personal locator beacon. A PLB is a small device you can attach to your life jacket while fishing that will transmit a distress signal if you are stranded or need help. With the press of a button, a PLB will transmit your location to emergency responders via satellite.

For more fishing safety tips and information, visit TPWD’s fishing homepage.

Visit the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety website for more information on life jackets, PLBs, and other safety equipment.

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