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First Aid for the Boat

Posted by chris on July 14, 2013

Many of us spend time on the water without worries other than hoping to catch that elusive trophy fish we may be in search of. The beautiful sunrise, cool breeze blowing on your face and the peace of just being outdoors puts us at ease. Being in this relaxed state can often times lead to poor judgment or even accidents. We all know accidents will happen and when they do, being prepared can mean the difference between a fun day on the water or a trip to the emergency room. Being that I have over 15 years in law enforcement I have had plenty of training in first aid and survival skills, this does not mean I know everything but I am prepared to deal with accidents that might occur on the water. Here are a few things that might help your next outing be a little more comfortable and safe the next time you hit the lake for a day of fishing.

Sunglasses to me have to be one of the most important safety features I count on every time I hit the water. Of course a life jacket is one of the most important but let’s jump over all of the basic boating safety issues and look at some of the things people may often overlook. I carry several pairs of glasses and lenses in my boat to cover all of the light spectrums. The main reason for this is I just want to be able to see well if it’s cloudy, early morning or bright sun. By having these different lenses I am able to always have glasses on. The most important reason however is over the course of the day you have sharp treble hooks flying by you which if struck in the eye would cause major damage. Driving your boat from location to location you are likely to come across insects and depending on how fast you are going this will also cause major damage. My boat will do about 76 mph; imagine getting struck in the eye by a junebug at that speed! The next reason for wearing good glasses is UV protection. A few years ago after spending countless weeks and hours on the water I began experiencing, blurry vision, watering eyes and a burning sensation every time I would get off the water. I changed my sunglasses to a better brand with a higher UV rating and since then I have not had any of those issues. I am not saying you have to purchase a $200 pair of glasses, but spend a few extra bucks to protect your eyes.

The next obvious thing is sunscreen. I always make a habit of when I get up in the morning to put it on while my coffee is brewing. This ensures I have a good coating on before being exposed to the UV light. If you are on the water and start to feel the burn it’s too late the damage has already started. Quality lotion also makes a difference so with this don’t be cheap and purchase a good quality lotion especially that you apply to your hands and face in the morning as these will be areas that will be exposed the most.

The next thing I want to touch on is being prepared to remove a hook from yourself or your partner. This is where having the proper tools is crucial. I will touch on the rest of the first aid equipment following this. Over my fishing career I have embedded a hook in myself three different times. Two of those times ended up being trips to the hospital, one to be removed from my shoulder the other from my head. The last one I was prepared for and was able to remove the hook from my thumb by myself. I caught a large Northern Pike and attempted to quickly remove the hook from the fish without taking the fish from the water. The fish shook and buried the other treble hook into my thumb. Now I was connected to a Northern Pike that was not in my boat. Fortunately I was able to get a quick grasp on the fish and get him onto the deck of my boat and pin him down. I have a quality pair of pliers at hand that will cut hooks in an instant. I was able to reach over grab my pliers and cut the split ring freeing myself from the fish. Now all I had to do was remove the hook that was buried past the barb from my thumb. Imagine not having pliers and attempting to remove the hook from the Pike while connected to the fish, not good. Luckily I studied some you tube videos on how to remove a hook with fishing line. There are also companies now that make hook removing tools just for circumstances like this.  I was able to tie off the fishing line to the steering wheel of my boat while holding the hook in the proper position, a quick yank and I was free. I am a bleeder so I had that to deal with for a short time but other than that I was back fishing again within a half hour.

As a result of some of the above unfortunate mishaps I have compiled a list of items that I carry in my boat which may assist you in being prepared for similar mishaps.

  • Adhesive Plastic Strips
  • Adhesive dressing tape: 2.5 cm x 5 cm x 1
  • Non-adhesive dressings
  • Disposable latex gloves
  • Sterile tubes of saline solution
  • Medium combine dressing pads (9 x 20cm)
  • Gauze bandage 5 cm width x 1
  • Blunt scissors (for cutting gauze and bandages) x 1
  • Antiseptic Cream
  • Sunburn relief lotion
  • Betadine
  • Tweezers
  • Instant Ice Packs
  • Insect Bite Cream
  • Pain Medication(Asprin, Ibuprofen)
  • Cotton Balls, Q-Tips
  • Benadryl


I hope a few of these tips are helpful and save your day of fishing if you are one of the unfortunate people to have your day interrupted by an accident on the water.


Don’t chase your dreams….Catch them!!