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Fisherman with a bucket on a boat.

Whether you’re fishing in the winter or summer, taking appropriate precautions should be an essential first step. Considering and understanding the unique safety concerns associated with each season will help you make informed decisions to protect yourself and your party.


One of the most obvious and immediate concerns is weather.  In the winter months, fishing on frozen lakes or rivers can be a pretty exciting experience, but it’s important to remember that ice conditions can change rapidly and pose significant risks. The National Weather Service (NWS) provides a Marine Weather forecast providing general information as well as tropical and ice forecasts.

This can be critical information as the thickness and stability of the ice should be assessed before venturing out. Ice that is too thin can break under the weight of a person or a fishing vehicle, leading to potentially life-threatening situations. Checking with local authorities or experienced ice anglers for up-to-date information on ice thickness and safety is an easy and smart way to get local info and recommendations.


An obvious safety concern during winter fishing is the extreme cold temperatures. Hypothermia becomes a real risk when exposed to frigid conditions for extended periods. Hypothermia affects the entire body while frostbite usually generally affects the fingers, nose and toes. Proper clothing, including insulated layers, waterproof outerwear, and appropriate headgear, is essential to stay warm and protected from frostbite. It’s easy and crucial to bring emergency supplies, such as extra blankets, hand warmers, and hot beverages, to combat the cold and ensure your well-being.

Before you head out, check the weather forecast, and if storms are predicted, it’s generally best to err on the side of caution and postpone your trip. Be prepared to adjust your route if necessary. As an added safety measure, always be sure to tell someone about your plans, including where you’re going and when you expect to return.

Boat Safety

With 4,040 boating accidents reported by the US Coast Guard in 2022, safety must be your top priority. The unpredictability of the weather and water conditions, the possibility of crashing the boat, slipping on the deck, falling in the water, and of course, drowning, are all very real risks when on a fishing boat. You can even hurt yourself using the sharp tools and hooks required for fishing. By taking appropriate precautions, having up-to-date first-aid training, and planning for the unexpected, everyone can look forward to a safe and enjoyable fishing trip.

On the other hand, summer fishing brings its own set of weather and safety considerations. Unpredictable weather patterns that can quickly turn a calm day into a stormy and dangerous situation. Thunderstorms can develop rapidly, bringing strong winds, lightning, and heavy rain or even hail. Keeping an eye on the local weather forecasts, and having a sheltering plan in place can be crucial for your safety.

Water conditions can also present risks such as high waves, strong currents, or sudden changes in tides which can make boating and swimming hazardous. It’s important to be aware of these conditions and adjust your plans as necessary. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, it’s wise to consult local authorities or experienced anglers who can provide insights into potential hazards – they know the area and will likely be happy to help.

Summer fishing often involves more recreational boating which can lead to congestion and potential collisions if proper precautions are not taken. Being vigilant and following boating regulations, such as maintaining a safe distance from other vessels and obeying speed limits, is crucial to ensure everyone’s safety, not to mention it’s respectful to everyone else out on the water.

Always Wear The Right Gear

One of the most important aspects of fishing boat safety is wearing the right gear and clothing, regardless of the time of year and whether or not you’re a strong swimmer. Accidents on a fishing boat can happen very quickly, and wearing a well-fitted life jacket could literally save your life. Everyone on board the fishing boat, especially children, should wear a life jacket at all times, preferably along with non-slip footwear. REI, BackCountry, Any Mountain and many more outdoor stores can guide you and provide you with plenty of the right gear for the weather and more.

Be Prepared For Emergencies

Even with all the planning in the world, accidents on fishing boats still happen. Carrying a well-stocked first aid kit and having some basic first aid and CPR training beforehand is a good idea. Both can buy you crucial time while waiting for professional help to arrive and potentially make all the difference to the outcome of a situation. Everyone onboard should also know the location of safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers and lifebuoys, and know how and when to use them. AED’s are one of the most significant life-saving devices that are usually left out of emergency plans, typically due to their high price.

Finally, on-board communication is critical. You should have either a marine radio or a waterproof cellphone onboard that everyone can access and call for help in an emergency.


A fishing boat trip can be a fantastic experience if you take the right precautions. By following these tips, you can ensure everyone onboard has a safe and enjoyable experience with peace of mind that you’re prepared for the unexpected.