The 20th annual Grand Isle Speckled Trout Rodeo begins Friday.
And CCA Louisiana’s Statewide Tournament and Angler’s Rodeo — it’s the 21st S.T.A.R. — begins its summer-long run Saturday.
If it hasn’t happened already, now that fishermen have reported world-class speckled trout, redfish, tuna and red snapper catches daily for the past three weeks, these two Memorial Day Weekend events mean the fishing season soon will hit overdrive across Louisiana’s coast.
All of which means more people on the water, and increasing chances for boating accidents and boating fatalities.
Louisiana doesn’t have anything approaching a good track record when it comes to boating deaths, and while the state’s numbers improved in 2014 — last year’s 18 boating fatalities were the second lowest on record following the record low of 15 in 2013 — there’s a fear among state Wildlife and Fisheries’ Enforcement folks that we could be slipping back to the bad old days of boating safety. Through 4 1/2 months this year, there have been nine boating deaths, two coming in the past 10 days.
Three simple letters, P-F-D
While most boating fatalities are the result of unwitnessed accidents, it’s clear when Enforcement Division agents and sheriffs’ flotillas recover a victim who wasn’t wearing a PFD — personal flotation device, a life jacket — that there was every reason to believe a life could have been saved, and a family shared days, months and years of grief, had a life jacket been used.
Those 2014 numbers put us ninth on the nation’s list for boating fatalities, and was included in the latest U.S. Coast Guard statistics: 610 boating fatalaties across the U.S. in 2014, the second lowest on record and following 2013’s list that showed 560 boating-related deaths, which was the lowest on record.
If you want to know what triggered record keeping and the establishment of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, it came in the 1970s after 1,754 reported boating deaths in 1973.
“There are three basic things a boater can do to be safer on the water,” NASBLA President Eleanor Mariani said.
Mariani’s list included, first, taking a boating safety course; second, wearing a life jacket; and, third, not consuming alcohol while on the water.
She backed up her points with these facts:
That 88 percent of the boating accidents recorded in the country came from boaters who had not successfully completed a safe boating class;
That “where cause of death was known, 78 percent of fatal boating accident victims had drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket,” she said;
And, that alcohol was a primary cause in nearly 25 percent of all fatal boating accidents.
Then you can add another check-off item — if you have a kill switch on your outboard, remember to use it.
Word to the wise
Along with the Louisiana Safe Boating Week declaration comes the annual increased presence of LDWF Enforcement Division personnel on the waters, not because of the fishing rodeos, but the increase in boating activity for the holiday weekend and the summer months.
During the past 10 years, that’s meant stepped-up enforcement of state boating laws, and it’s no secret that on-the-water agents will check for life jackets, alcohol-impaired folks who might be operating boats and checking for proper equipment, boat registration and fishing licenses.
The LDWF’s reminders included:
The requirement that all boats need to have a serviceable life jacket for everyone aboard;
That anyone 16 and younger in a boat less than 26 feet long must be wearing life jacket while the boat is under way;
That, depending on the vessel, all boats must have a list of items to include a throwable device to aid anyone in the water, a working fire extinguisher, a noise maker and signaling device;
That DWI penalties on the water are the same as DWI penalties on roadways;
And that state law requires anyone born after Jan. 1, 1984, to carry a certificate showing they have successfully completed a state-approved safe boating course if operating a boat powered by an engine rated at more than 10 horsepower.
Check these sites:
For more on state boating and life jacket regulations visit www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating.
For a list of state-approved safe boating courses visit: www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating/courses.
The U.S. Coast Guard’s 2014 boating report: uscgboating.org/statistics/accident_statistics.php.
A public service announcement on the importance of wearing a life jacket: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RQ4QNT1a40.
If you didn’t know
Boat trailers, really all trailers on Louisiana roads, are required to have an inspection sticker similar to the one you have for your vehicle. It helps make sure you keep your trailer lights working and have a serviceable trailer. Boat inspections are available at most state inspection stations.
You can be a winner
Mercury Marine is teaming with Brunswick boat brands for a National Safe Boating sweepstakes on social media, and the 13 winners will receive an boating safety kit with an Attwood’s bailer safety kit, a multi-function LED sport light, a first aid kit, a telescoping emergency paddle and a 40-liter dry bag along with two Mustang personal flotation devices and a Mercury Marine emergency-shutoff lanyard.
To enter, go to Mercury’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MercuryMarine. You can enter once each day and Mercury promises prizes will be shipped within 15 days of the announcement of the winners.