With the onset of autumn and resulting cold air and water temperatures, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is urging anglers, hunters and boaters to take caution and exercise safe practices while on the water this fall.
“The fall season can be a very enjoyable time of year to be on the water,” said Sgt. Keith Gallant, warden with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. “With migrating waterfowl and great fishing opportunities, Vermont’s waterways are at their peak in the fall.”
Fall also brings lower water temperatures, which can increase the risk for hypothermia in the case of an on-the-water accident.
“The use of a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is absolutely critical this time of year, given that it can significantly increase chances of survival in cold-water scenarios,” said Gallant.
Vermont boating laws require that all vessels carry one U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III or V PFD for each person on board. Vessels 16 feet in length or longer must also have one U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type IV PFD on board. Also, children under 12 years of age must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II or III PFD at all times while any vessel is underway.
Additionally, New York State boating laws, which apply to waters on the New York side of Lake Champlain, require all persons aboard motorboats, canoes, kayaks, rowboats and sailboats less than 21 feet in length to wear a PFD while on New York waters from November 1 to May 1.
Sudden immersion in cold water, can lead to loss of swimming ability and strength, gasping and the inhalation of water, hypothermia, and rapid unconsciousness.
“Cold water removes body heat much faster than cold air, so wearing a life jacket is critical any time cold water is present,” said Gallant. “A life jacket won’t keep you warm in cold water, but it will keep you afloat in the event that you go overboard, which could mean the difference between life and death.”
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department also advises sportsmen and women to properly plan for a fall outing on the water by ensuring that they have all required safety equipment such as visual and audible distress signaling devices, plenty of warm clothing, and an updated weather forecast. Strong winds are common in the fall and can sometimes make for dangerous situations on larger bodies of water such as Lake Champlain.
To learn more about boating safety and Vermont’s boating laws, visit https://www.boat-ed.com/vermont/handbook/.