ďDonít Get Yourself ZappedĒ
By Stan Fagerstrom
All's well when the weather is as peaceful as it was when this photo was taken. Once a storm moves in and the lightning starts flashing---get the heck off the water.
Nature presents few dangers to those of us who fish more than lightning.
Chances are you remember reading about golfers who have been struck by lightning. You may recall the national attention focused on Lee Trevino, the likeable pro who was nearly killed by lightning some years ago.
What many fail to realize is other outdoor types---especially fishermen---are also at great risk. That's especially true now that we so often fish with graphite rods. Graphite is a first class conductor of electricity. I found that out the hard way one spring many years ago.
One of my favorite rods is a G.Loomis flipping stick. I had just taken delivery of a new bass boat. The two batteries used to power the troll motor I used at the time were positioned on the boat's port side behind the bow seat.
When I fished bass out of that boat I always carried several rods. I laid them down next to my bow seat with the tips pointed to the stern.
I lived right on the shore of Southwest Washingtonís Silver Lake at the time. One calm morning in May I pushed away from my boathouse and began by flipping a pork frog along the outside edge of a big lily pad field.
When that procedure didn't pay off, I laid the flipping rod aside and picked up another outfit with a surface lure attached.
I had made perhaps a dozen casts when I noticed a strange odor. I jerked around to see if my big motor had somehow caught fire. It hadn't. Then I looked down at my feet. My prized G.Loomis flipping rod was burning. I had carelessly laid it across the two trolling motor batteries so the rod made contact between the battery posts. By the time I managed to snatch that rod up and dunk it into the lake it had almost burned in two.
I knew better than to pull such a dumb stunt. My own past experience, along with the experience of some of my friends, had provided plenty of evidence of how efficiently graphite conducts electricity. When Mount St. Helens blew up back in 1980, the unbelievable cloud of ash blasted skyward was filled with electricity.
The graphite rod I'm holding is a great fishing tool. It's also a darn good conductor of electricity. Have one in your hand when there's a thunder storm and you may find that out the hard way.
There were anglers fishing rivers on the eastern slope of the Cascades that morning who knew nothing about the mountain's eruption. They didn't, that is, until a strange dark cloud moved over them from the west. The sight of the cloud was their first indication something was wrong. The second was when the graphite rods they carried suddenly came alive in their hands.
The rods were attracting and conducting electricity from the volcanic cloud.
Itís not always easy to get to good shelter when an electrical storm comes along. Now and then you find yourself in a situation where you donít have a prayer of getting back to the launching area before the storm hits. Iíve had that happen a couple of times while fishing on large lakes in Mexico.
The best thing to do when you hear that first far off rumble of thunder is to head back in and fish closer to the launch area. If the storm doesnít move in close, you can head back out again once it passes over. If the storm does come right at you, head on in and take shelter until things quiet down.
Hundreds will get hit by lightning again this year. Some of them will be fishermen. Using common sense along with a mixture of caution will go far to keep you from having your name on the casualty list.
Thereís more to be said on this subject. Iíll detail what that is in my July column.
To Be Continued