Ask anyone who participates in the fishing industry and this winter has been a rough one. Months upon months of talk about the polar vortex, a groundhog not seeing his shadow, cold springs, snow in Texas, ice in Alabama, and a still frozen north has us all ready to hit the water running this spring and summer. It seems like an opportune time to discuss sun since (hopefully) we will all get our share of exposure in the coming months. We all enjoy a nice tan, and our vitamin D levels really need some exposure, but the short and long term effects of on the water sun exposure can be damaging.
Sun exposure can be acutely damaging in the form of sunburn. Starting with the first outings of the year, our pale skin soaks up rays at a fairly alarming rate. A dawn to dusk sunny day feels great until you get off the water and into a shower, then the burn hits. If the sunburn happens while pre-fishing it can make for a miserable tournament. Even cloudy or cooler days on the water have high sun exposure from reflection off the water. Make sure to use a quality sunscreen in SPF 30 or higher to protect your skin and subsequent days on the water. Put on the sunscreen in the morning every day before fishing (even if the weather report predicts clouds). Apply it on all potential exposed areas, overlapping the shirt, shorts and sock areas in case of wardrobe malfunction. Most quality sunscreens will last several hours, but reapply every few hours to be safe. A wide brimmed hat protects the ears, neck and face which are 3 areas commonly affected. Also, the hands, wrists and forearms are in and out of the water (hopefully the live well from culling) so keep an eye on them. Many companies now offer “dry fit” style clothing which contains SPF as an added insurance policy. These generally wick moisture from your skin and dry quick for comfort in case you get wet. Keeping well hydrated will help keep blood flow to the skin, and will aid in healing if you get burned.
Long term sun exposure can cause a cumulative effect leading to skin cancer, wrinkles and sun spots. Some skin cancers are “not a big deal” and can be easily frozen or removed. Others, like malignant melanoma, can be life threatening and the scars will be the least of your worries. Cancer can be induced by a single sun damaging event or from years of build up. A poll of Professional Anglers on the BASSmaster Elite series or FLW series might shock you as to the percentage that have had “lesions” removed and are now taking extra precaution against the sun. It has been well publicized that Kelly Jordan underwent intensive treatment for an aggressive skin cancer at a very young age.
Please don’t forget the eyes. A quality pair of polarized sunglasses with 100% UV protection will prevent headaches now and later. Eye strain from squinting can lead to uncomfortable headaches, causing loss of concentration and poor performance. Long term sun exposure can increase the risk of glaucoma, cataracts, melanoma of the eye and blindness. Wearing a pair of “cheapies” can actually make things worse. By darkening the light, sunglasses cause the pupils to dilate, letting more damaging UV rays into the eye to wreak havoc in the long term. Good quality glasses also protect the eyes from projectiles while driving 70+ mph down the lake or from an errant hook set that can lead to the end of a day or career.
Since we all want to keep fishing as much and as long as possible please protect yourself on the water. Spring and summer should be here for all of us soon and hopefully many more seasons and lunkers are in our futures. Protect yourself, your skin and your eyes and Ill “see” you on the water and not in the office for a procedure.