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River Safety

Dan Draz

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I've been a member for a little over a year now and cannot recall seeing anyone post on this issue so I thought it important to start a thread on this topic. A couple years ago, I had the unfortunate pleasure of having to assist in the search and rescue efforts of a river steelhead fisherman who was missing and had not returned home from a river fishing trip. The man's car was found in the parking lot at a location someone suspected he might have gone to but he was nowhere to be found. There was no fishing tackle found in the car so the theory was that he had gone fishing somewhere and was out on the river.


The search teams scoured the river very thoroughly for quite some time over several weeks and never found him. They looked from the point they suspected he had entered the river at and worked their way downstream which seemed like the logical thing to do if someone was going to float away... they would be downstream and not upstream. The body was not recovered during that search.


About a year later, a fisherman saw some tackle floating in the water and when he went to check it out discovered a body wedged between several logs. When the police arrived, they determined that it was the fisherman they had looked for a year earlier. However, no one ever thought to look upstream because there was no suggestion that is where he would have been going.


That said, I have fished rivers all around the Pacific NW and am now fishing rivers in Illinois. It is always advantageous to fish with someone else but I realize most of us tend to be fishing "loaners" and often capitalize on a couple of hours when we can get out on the river by ourselves.


If you are going by yourself, be sure to tell someone where you are going. The other day, when I was heading out solo, I told my wife what my fishing plan was, where I was going to drop in at, what the streets were, where I was parking the car and the area I was planning on fishing. First river area and second river area as a backup, and how long I was planning on fishing. Another ISA member knew that I was out fishing and had some similar information since I'd discussed it with them prior to going.


In the event something happens which triggers some type of search and rescue, now several people are informed and have solid information to tell the people where to go start looking. While the Pacific NW situation might have still ended the same with the same result, there is a chance someone could have found the person earlier while they were alive or they would have found him earlier even if it still ended badly, saving the family and loved ones much aggrivation.


A little communication goes a long way...


What other suggestions do you guys have for river safety things you do? Let's kick it around.

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Dan - fortunately I do all of my stupid things fishing while out with friends who never let me live it down.

You've given good advice. Here's what I find w/ some of the smallie fishermen I know - they tend to fish walking upstream

and working the water. The theory is to keep from kicking up silt downstream into your strike zone. I also

practice this more often than not. It is rare for me to wade downstream - save that for float & canoe trips I guess.


Life preservers & personal floatation are serious business - especially the deeper/swifter the water. Stay away

from those that self inflate when soaked especially in the rain! One minute you're fishing, the next POW!!!!

I do some wading alone but only in very familiar water & more shallow areas than anything else (4 foot or less where you've got to manuever). Hearing these stories repeated

is caution enough - if I want to be a bit more adventuresome I go with someone else who knows how to swim.

I always tell my wife where I'm fishing and if its alone, it can only be because I only made 3-4 phone calls for a

fishing buddy. Then, those other 3-4 know where I'm at.

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When I fished the streams of Illinois I always fished moving downstream. This being easier for and older guy such as myself. So if you have someone older they may very well be moving downstream instead of upstream as a younger man may do. It is alway good to let someone know where you plan to fish. I always told my wife where I was putting in and going to be fishing. Good advice Dan I hope other contribute.

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Interesting discussion.

I've already heard the advice to let people know where you intend to go, etc.

My typical outing is likely similar to many others.

"I'll see ya later honey. I'm goin' down to the river a for a couple hours."

Who knows where I might end up?

Depends on the fishing.....

State Park, Downtown Kankakee, Wilmington, Momence.......

59 miles of river, don't ya know?


Most all of which has ZERO cell phone capabilities.

Common sense should always rule.

But when in doubt, it's in God's hands.

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I used to tell my wife where I was going, but she never listened. I know this because friends would call my house while I was gone and ask my wife where I was fishing, she never was able to remember the location to tell them. Who knows, maybe she was trying to keep my fishing areas secret ;)

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I think it is safe to say your wife is "protecting your spots!" Women remember EVERYTHING including what color shirt you had on ten years ago when you made a rediculous comment which led to an argument. She is like my wife who gives up nothing on the phone unless 1) she knows who you are and 2) she knows she has clearance to reveal what I am doing or my exact whereabouts. Of course, she's an investigators wife... but the same principal applices to double secret fishing locations.... trust me!

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