Fishing Tips for Northern California and Southern Oregon angling
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How to Make Fishing and Boating Safer and More Fun

[Editor's Note: Please share with our readers what you know that will enhance the experience while boating or fishing in Northern California or Southern Oregon. What have you learned? Your expertise, no matter where or how you fish (fresh or saltwater) or enjoy water recreation could be invaluable to other anglers. What not to do is just as important as what to do. Please send your strategies, ideas, tips, techniques and personal experiences to Please include your name and hometown.]

Boat Accessories -- Always check to make sure your boat’s vital equipment is operational. Discovering that your boat’s live well aerator, bilge pump, lights (internal, running and navigation), radios, or direction finders (compass or GPS or radar) are not in proper order AFTER you have launched can ruin a day or more.

Boat Safety Equipment -- Always check to see you have proper life jackets for each person who will be in your boat. Wear them and ask your passengers to wear them. Make sure children under age 13 are wearing life jackets at all times. Have at least one life-saving device you can throw to someone who has fallen overboard. Have a rope handy you can throw to a person in the water. Have a spare motor and check it frequently to see that it is working properly. Make sure you have an anchor in case your motor(s) fail, or oars if your boat is equipped with oarlocks. Carry flares, air horns, extra water, a first-aid kit and, if you are on medications, put your vital pills in a small box and store them inside the boat or your tackle box. If your boat is equipped with an automatic shutoff lanyard switch, always clip it to your belt or wrist while underway. If you are thrown overboard your engine will stop and you may be able to swim back to it.

Coast Guard Advisories/Marine Safety – The following are not “Tips” but essential rules or recommendations, some of which will be strictly enforced by the Coast Guard to ensure safe boat at sea.

There should be a personal flotation device on the vessel for each person, sized accordingly. Children under the age of 13 are required by law to wear a lifejacket.

The Coast Guard strongly recommends that boaters equip their vessels with immersion suits or other full-body protection, as water temperatures will be cold, and hypothermia can quickly overtake the average person.

Boaters should have flares and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon with 406 MHz capabilities to enable a faster response by the Coast Guard in the event of an emergency.

Boaters should have an operational marine VHF radio on their boat in order to contact the Coast Guard on channel 16, in the event an emergency. Due to the high mountainous areas throughout the region, boaters should not rely on their cell phones as a means of communication. In order to expedite the Coast Guard's response in an emergency, mariners should have a GPS unit onboard or, at a minimum, maintain a knowledge of local waters and know your location at all times. The Coast Guard reminds radio operators that VHF channel 16 is an emergency channel, and that improper transmission on channel 16 not only hampers Coast Guard response, but may be punishable under federal law.

The Coast Guard strongly recommends that all boaters file a float plan with a friend or family member on land, with an approximate time of return and location to which you will be heading. It is also recommended that you regularly check in with those who are aware of your plan, especially if your plan should change.

Mariners should check current and forecasted weather conditions prior to getting underway, and remain aware of changing conditions once on the water. The National Weather Service broadcasts weather conditions throughout the day on VHF channel WX2. The Coast Guard broadcasts weather conditions on VHF channel 22A at 9:30 a.m., noon, and 4:30 p.m.

It is against the law for anyone to operate a vessel under the influence of alcohol. Consumption of alcohol by anyone else aboard is also strongly discouraged.

Prior to taking to the water, boaters are encouraged to go to for more complete information on safe boating. The Coast Guard also highly recommends boaters get a free vessel-safety inspection from the Coast Guard Auxiliary. More information on these inspections can be found at A few minutes now could save a life later.

Current weather information and advisories can be found on the National Weather Service website.

Obtain a copy of the “rules of the road” about how to handle your boat in harbors or at sea be sure you understand all navigation signs, signals and lights, especially fowl weather warnings or warnings about dangerous bar crossings.

Licenses and Regulations Booklets -- Always make sure you have your license and current regulations with you when you are going fishing. Seems simple but many forget one or both and have the dilemma of fishing without the license ( illegal) or not fishing at all and taking a chance of not knowing and guessing what, if any, size, method of take or limit restrictions a body of water may have. Keep a copy of regulations in your vehicle, boat, vest, tackle bags and boxes so you always have a copy handy. It will save you money in the long run plus the regulations are free at most dealers that sell bait and /or tackle.

Boat Drain Plugs -- Remember to check your boat’s drain plug before launching. Make sure it is in place and screwed in tightly. The proverbial “fire drill” at the ramp of someone who forgot to put it in is often funny but can ruin an outing or result in costly repairs if not caught soon enough.

Develop a pattern that forces you to check your drain plug; e.g. make it part of a checklist for launching such as removing transom savers, trailer tie downs, winch and safety hooks and checking depth finder sensors.

When you remove a drain plug always store in the same place or in the same manner so you won’t forget to put it back in or can find it quickly.

Some boats give the angler access to the drain plug from inside. In that case perhaps you can develop a way to hook your drain plug to your boat through the drain plug hole with a small but sturdy key chain, wire or cord. That way, if you forget to check the drain plug perhaps you will be able to pull it back into the hole from inside your boat or reach over the back of the transom and put it back in before your boat has taken on much water. Always carry a spare drain plug or two in your boat tool box or tackle box. Then, if you lose your plug, the day won’t be ruined.

Avoiding Monofilament Snarls -- Now for a fairly valuable tip for those of us who use spinning tackle and often suffer from loops becoming tangles in the reel.

When casting a spinning reel use your fingers to manually close the bail bar instead of using the reel to do it by engaging the reel by turning the handle. This will all but eliminate the loops. This can save snagged lures, missed fish and time spent dealing with line knots and tangles.

Carry portable radios and GPS units if at sea -- You may think you have a communications link when you don’t! A dead boat battery may leave you without a way to reach the Coast Guard on VHF Marine Channel 16, so try carrying a small battery-powered, hand-held Marine Radio and a GPS such as you might use while hiking. A hand-held radio may not reach out far enough to make contact with the Coast Guard but since many vessels are required to monitor Channel 16, a nearby ship may hear your distress call. Also, a portable GPS allows you to give your position – an absolutely vital piece of information if the Coast Guard, including helicopters, or any other rescue vessel is to know exactly where you are in the ocean. Needless to say, make sure you have spare batteries on hand for such portable devices.

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