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Dog Days dangerous for fishermen

Larry Woody • Jul 20, 2017 at 9:30 AM

Growing up, I assumed the scorching days of mid-summer were called Dog Days because old dogs tended to spend their time lying in the shade, panting.

Later I learned that Dog Days were named after the “dog star” Sirius and its mid-summer position in the heavens.

Bottom line is, they’re hot.

And for fishermen, the Dog Days of summer are not just uncomfortable, they can be downright dangerous.

Lebanon fishing guide Jim Duckworth years ago was advised by his doctor to avoid the midday heat. Once spring melts into summer, Jim hangs up his tackle.

Another fishing guide acquaintance suffered a heat stroke a few years ago on Old Hickory Lake that could have ended tragically.

Luckily, his client that day was a doctor who immediately recognized the symptoms of heat stroke when my buddy suddenly fainted in the boat. The doctor splashed water on him to cool him off as he sped to a nearby marina for help.

The paramedic who revived him said he might not have survived if he had passed out alone in the boat, under the searing sun.

I’m not sure if its Global Warming or Global Aging, but summers seem a lot hotter than they used to. As a teenager my summer jobs included working in hay fields from sunup to sundown, including stacking heavy bales inside sweltering tin-roofed barns. I never noticed the heat. Now when I walk to the mailbox I have to sit down and cool off.

The same goes with fishing. As a kid we spent lazy summer days on the water, getting toasted to a crisp, but never gave it a second thought. I vaguely recall hearing something about “heat stroke” but I assumed it was something that happened to old folks and visiting pale-skinned relatives from Ohio.

My fishing buddy who suffered the potentially-fatal heat stoke said he’d always thought the same thing: it couldn’t happen to him. He was a veteran fisherman who had spent three decades on the water, fishing through the hottest days of summer without a problem.

Then suddenly, one day the heat almost killed him.

Symptoms of heat stroke vary, but generally include dizziness, nausea and hot, dry skin, followed by a splitting headache. Sometimes – as was the case with my buddy on Old Hickory – the victim abruptly faints.

The victim should be cooled by dousing him with water and using a shirt or other item to shield him from the sun while hurrying off the water into a cool area. If symptoms persist, seek immediate medical help.

Precaution is the best advice. Limit time on the water during the hottest days, especially through the scorching noon-to-four period. Sometimes when you’re busy fishing you’re not mindful of how hot it is with the sun reflecting off the water.

Drink plenty of water before heading out and continue to drink water during the trip. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and a hat, preferably wide-brimmed. Periodically dunking the hat in the water will help cool the head as the water evaporates.

Fish generally are not active during the sizzling mid-day. But even if they were, the biggest fish in the lake is not worth risking heat stroke to catch it.

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