If you read this blog then you know that I always close every tip & story with a reminder to always wear your life jacket when the boat is moving with the outboard. More drownings happen in the spring than any other time of year. We get high winds and thunderstorms in the Spring which means possible dangerous conditions on the water.
I lost a good friend and his grandson a few days ago on Richland Chambers Lake. In fact, as I write, the divers and helpers are still looking for the bodies. My friend Jerry King was one of the very best cat fishermen I have ever known in my life. For the past maybe 10 years, Jerry would spend 50% of his time on the water trot line fishing or catching a ton of catfish on rod & reel. Jerry had a habit of not using a life jacket. He refused to put one on no matter what and he had gotten away with this bad habit for years.
Well a few days ago his bad habit cost him his life and his grandson’s life. His grandson was 17 yrs old and a senior in Cross Roads High School out on Spring break. Jerry took him cat fishing on a very windy day but Jerry used his big barge to travel about 1 mile to his hot spot. I know Jerry thought the barge would be totally safe in the high winds. It’s next to impossible to drown on a barge. It won’t turn over, it won’t swamp and all you have to do is hold on and stay on the barge.
About 3 PM Jerry and his grandson had a 50-fish limit and the grandson called his grandmother and told her they were on the way back to the boat dock. At 6 PM they had not returned and a search party found the empty barge about 2 miles South of where they were fishing. The side gate was broken off of its hinges and gone. Jerry’s cap and cell phone were on the barge, the motor was turned off and in neutral. There was absolutely no sign of Jerry or his grandson. The real sad part is that there were 3 new life jackets on the barge that had never been used.
The searchers actually don’t know where the bodies are located so it looks like the family will have to wait until the water warms enough for the bodies to bloat and then float to the surface. This might take several days or even weeks.
Please don’t take a chance of putting your family through this torture as you can see accidents can happen even on a non-sinkable boat. Whenever the outboard is moving your boat have the jacket on and fastened and make every one of your friends have a jacket on. If they refuse to wear a jacket, leave them on the bank. If you are driving the boat you are the captain of the boat and responsible for everyone of the occupants of the boat.
Have fun with your fishing and — PLEASE–always wear that life jacket!