The Tragedy of Inexperience

rescue0By Ed Snyder/Outdoors
Every year we read about, or know of someone who drowned either by accident or by simply enjoying a favorite aquatic sport. Although alcohol plays into the cause of many of these incidents, inexperience or misjudgments can be blamed for most. Drownings along the Texas Gulf Coast mainly involve anglers who’ve entered the surf for fishing, or visitors who’ve waded into the surf to cool off or play in it. In one horrible incident at San Luis Pass five members of one family drowned. Several such incidents have occurred in or around our coastal passes or bays.

I, myself, have had several near misses when wading the surf or passes. Some with sharks involved and others with porpoise or stingray. You have to remember that when you’re entering the surf you are wading into danger with every step you take. But my most frightening incident occurred in my teens. An inexperienced 15 year old back then was setting out decoys for a duck hunt when I slipped under the surface. My old pair of canvas chest waders filled up with water in a hurry weighing me down and keeping me from reaching the surface. Suddenly, several hands reached in and pulled me out. My hunting buddies had seen what happened and came to my rescue. If it hadn’t been for my hunting friends I wouldn’t be here writing this today. That’s a good lesson to you all, never wade into the water alone!

Top:  Rescuer on the right manged to get the victum in reach of helping hands. Bottom: Rescuer was totaly exhausted and had to be rescued himself. A true HERO, folks.

Top: Rescuer on the right manged to get the victum in reach of helping hands. Bottom: Rescuer was totaly exhausted and had to be rescued himself. A true HERO, folks.

The following remarks are from those who are experienced wade fishermen:

Gary Fruge’: Safety points on fishing the surf out in front of Rollover Pass. When west winds prevail look out for westerly tidal rips, when Easterly winds prevail, look out for easterly tidal rips, and when North winds prevail, watch out for quick tide changes. If it is chest deep, the tide can sweep your feet out from under you taking you with it. If this happens ALWAYS swim at a 45 degree angle towards shore. If you are caught in this situation and being swept out to sea, DROP YOUR FISHING ROD and other gear and start swimming. Most importantly be courteous to other anglers in case you need their help.

O'Neal moving in to help rescue stranded wade fisherman

O’Neal moving in to help rescue stranded wade fisherman

Charles O’Neal, a well known wade angler, stated, “We had to make a rescue one early morning, and if wasn’t for another angler this man would have drowned. He got swept off his feet and traveled 220 yards in mere seconds. Just glad I was able to help with my dingy! Just lucky today, as it was the first time I launched my dingy in the surf. The good Lord was watching over this man. WARNING!! We understand wanting that trophy trout and Rollover is the best fishing on the gulf coast!! But wading the surf in front of Rollover is also the most dangerous place to do so. IT IS NOT FOR THE BEGINNER!! When the surf looks like you can wade it and none of us are out there, there is a reason!! This is not the place to learn to wade fish, always ask around Rollover about the conditions of the current. NO FISH IS WORTH DYING FOR!!!

Scott Ray, another experienced wade angler of Rollover, stated, “ The veteran anglers know when it’s not safe, if some well-known speck fishermen are watching, instead of wading, there’s a good reason. Here’s a good rule for rookies, never wade the surf on an incoming tide.”

“As a “former” wade angler (salt-legger), I’ve spent 68 years in the surf, bays, and lakes fishing for “whatever” swimming in those waters, taking chances and feeling bullet proof. As I recall those many years I feel the cold chill of what would’ve happened in any one of those incidents when I was alone, struggling to stay afloat to survive the tides that were pulling me away from safety. I’ve enjoyed many exciting moments from wade-fishing, but just as many close calls and near misses. I learned the hard way to keep it safe when wading. But, there are some who didn’t heed those warnings and experienced death by drowning instead.”

Wade fishing is completely safe and relaxing when done right

Wade fishing is completely safe and relaxing when done right

Ed Snyder: “Always have a wade buddy who can either swim for help, or give direct assistance you. Items I took with me on my wade fishing adventures were a Do-Net type fish basket, or a life saver cushion. Either one of these items will help to save your life. I also kept a single prong flounder gig attached to me at all times. WHY? Well, not to alarm you amateurs, but when confronting sharks in the water use the gig to send them along their way. Shark DO NOT like being nudged or jabbed with something sharp.” (Learned from Personal experiences here Folks)

Re-read the above causes of drowning and heed the warnings by experienced pro-waders Gary Fruge’, Scott Ray and Charles O’Neal, because it just might save your life one day!

DON'T END UP LIKE THIS!! Be carefull and heed the warnings

DON’T END UP LIKE THIS!! Be carefull and heed the warnings

What’s it like to drown? Well maybe the following will answer that question. There are typically five stages to a drowning:

In this stage, the victim recognizes danger and becomes afraid. The victim assumes a near-vertical position in the water, with little or no leg movement. The arms will be at or near the water’s surface, making random grasping or flipping motions. The head will be tilted back with the face turned up. Victims rarely make any sounds; they are struggling just to breath.

Involuntary Breath Holding
The victim has now dropped below the static water line and the body, in an attempt to protect itself, initiates involuntary breath holding. This occurs because water has entered the mouth and causes the epiglottis to close over the airway. Though a victim may continue to struggle, he/she will not usually make any sounds as he/she cannot breathe. Without oxygen, the victim will lose consciousness.

Because the victim has been without oxygen, the body shuts itself down as unconsciousness results. In this stage, the victim will be motionless. Because breathing has stopped, he/she is in respiratory arrest. There is no chest movement or breathing sounds. At this point, the victim sinks to the bottom of the water, either slowly or rapidly, depending on factors such as the amount of air trapped in the lungs, body weight, and muscle mass. The victim will remain unconscious (and die) unless breathing is reestablished. 

Hypoxic Convulsions
Due to the lack of oxygen in the brain, the victim may look as if he/she is having a convulsion, which is why this stage is called the hypoxic convulsion stage. The victim’s skin turns blue, especially in the lips and fingernail beds, and the body may appear rigid. There may be violent jerking of the body and frothing at the mouth. 

Clinical Death
The final stage in the drowning process is death. Clinical death occurs when both breathing and circulation stop. The victim is in cardiac arrest. The heart stops pumping blood. The vital organs are no longer receiving oxygen rich blood. The lack of oxygen causes the skin to turn blue.

This Ed Snyder/Outdoors Article Sponsored by; Miss Nancy’s Bait Camp, Crystal Beach Local News.Com, The Beach Triton, and Fishing World.Com

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One Response to “The Tragedy of Inexperience”

  1. Mike Traill says:

    A lot of what you have hopefully just read has happened to me also after wading for 50 plus years. I used to be on the swimming team in school and was a great swimmer from very early on. I won’t repeat all the things that happened to me over the years but let me just say this. You should read the above stories over and over again until they sink into your head. All of them are true and they happen almost every day some where along some body of water in Texas.Please Believe it before its too late to save your own life.

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