Cold Water Safety for Ohio Hunters and Anglers

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COLUMBUS, OH– The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has good advice for the thousands of anglers who soon will be wading in and boating upon frigid waterways in hopes of landing a prize catch—dress for the water temperature instead of air temperature.

“Recreational boaters and anglers are among those most at risk of sustaining hypothermia due to a cold water immersion if they are not dressed properly for the water temperature,” said Pamela Dillon, chief of the ODNR Division of Watercraft. “Boating and fishing safety begins with the choices people make before getting on the water; it is critical to take steps to reduce the risks of hypothermia exposure at this time of year.”

Hypothermia is a condition in which body temperature drops below normal due to exposure to cold temperatures and requires medical treatment. Unexpected immersion into cold water can result in drowning and often contributes to hypothermia for those persons who are unprepared for extremely cold water.

People are usually inclined to dress for the air temperature instead of water temperature when enjoying outdoors recreation on or near the water. Generally, the water temperatures of Ohio’s waterways remain bone chilling and are very slow to warm during March, April and early May.

The following are some safety tips to help reduce exposure to the risks of hypothermia while boating and fishing:

  • Dress for the current water temperature and not the air temperature when boating in early spring. Wear layers of protective clothing including neoprene, polypropylene, wool, synthetic fleece and Goretex. Avoid 100 percent cotton and denim garments, such as blue jeans, sweatshirts and flannel shirts. The final layer of protective clothing should always be a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket or vest.
  • Carry a cellphone inside a plastic bag in case an emergency should arise.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption to help prevent the onset of hypothermia symptoms.
  • Avoid capsizing and swamping by ensuring that boats are not overloaded, but are properly loaded and balanced before leaving the launch ramp or dock.
  • Properly and safely anchor a boat from the bow when using a single line.
  • File a float plan with a person of responsibility so that assistance may be requested if boaters are significantly overdue in their return from the water.

Additional information on boating safety tips and education programs may be found online at or by following the Division of Watercraft on Facebookor Twitter. You may also call toll-free (in Ohio only) 1-877-4BOATER.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at

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