By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show
With the pandemic putting more people than ever on the water and consequent rise in boating accidents and fatalities, there’s some better news in the newly released 2021 U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics.
The latest Coast Guard report shows double-digit declines year-over-year across the board in the main boating safety indicators. Boating accidents dropped 15.7%, injuries decreased 17.2%, and fatalities dropped 14.2%. The 2021 fatality rate decreased to 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, a 15.4% reduction from 6.5 deaths per 100,000 in 2020.
“The new report shows a dramatic decrease in injuries and fatalities, more than I can recall in recent memory,” said Chris Edmonston, BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water president. “However, even with COVID restrictions lifted and boating no longer one of the few ways to recreate with the family, operator inexperience remains one of the top risk factors contributing to accidents.”
Operator inattention, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed round out the list.
“The need to focus on these five boating safety basics and the continued need for boating safety education has not changed,” Edmonston said.
What’s influencing these latest boating safety numbers?
“We’re unsure if this latest data is an anomaly or a trend, but we believe the increasing number of states requiring mandatory boating safety education, as well as states requiring education for a greater portion of their boating citizens, is having a positive effect,” Edmonston said.
He also notes, however, that paddlecraft operators remain a concern, as they typically don’t have any requirements for education before hitting the water. Where the data was known, 2021 statistics show that 15% of deaths were attributed to kayaks — unchanged from the year prior.
OSFL Youth Outdoors Skills Day
The Ohio Sportsmen Farmers League is hosting its annual Youth Outdoors Skills Day on Sunday, Aug. 7, to introduce youth to the great outdoors. Events will include archery, air rifle range, trapshooting, zip line and trapping demonstrations. Lunch and water will be provided. Door prizes will be given out at the end of the day.
Participation is free, but limited to 60 youths, ages 8-16 years old. Required sign-in is 11-11:45 a.m. with the program running from noon-6 p.m. The event will be held at the OSFL club grounds located at 1755 Jacoby Road, Copley. To register, visit ohiosportsmenfarmersleague.com under programs, Youth Day, is a waiver form or email: email@example.com.
Portage Lakes youth fishing program underway
The youth fishing area in Portage Lakes is now open to budding anglers and continues every weekend through Labor Day, Sept. 5, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife (ODOW). The Portage Lakes youth fishing area creates an easy, accessible opportunity for youth 15 and younger to learn to fish.
Equipment, bait and Division of Wildlife staff assistance are provided at no charge thanks to the purchases of Ohio fishing licenses and federal contributions from the Sport Fish Restoration Fund. Each young angler may keep only one fish per day at the youth fishing ponds, although catching and releasing fish for the duration of the visit is welcome.
All young anglers are required to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, but adults do not need a fishing license. Anglers 15 and younger are not required to have a license to fish from the youth pond, or any other public waterway in Ohio. Adults are not permitted to fish in the youth area, but they may assist young anglers.
The Division of Wildlife youth fishing area is located at 912 Portage Lakes Drive in Akron. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, as well as Labor Day. Picnic tables and restroom facilities are available. Species that can be caught at the Portage Lakes include bluegill, catfish, bass, crappie, trout and carp, and many meet or exceed Fish Ohio minimum length requirements. Read more about where to fish, how to target certain species and the Fish Ohio program at wildohio.gov.
Organizations interested in visiting with a group may schedule visits during the open fishing hours by calling the Division of Wildlife’s northeast Ohio office in Akron at 330-245-3016.
Xenia kids fishing area open too
Young anglers in southwest Ohio can enjoy free fishing all summer courtesy of the ODOW office in Xenia. Former hatchery ponds have been converted into a youth fishing area to help budding anglers create memories and get hooked on fishing.
Youth 15 and younger can fish for free in the ponds. Equipment is available for use and Division of Wildlife staff are on-site to teach fishing skills to participants. The youth fishing area is open every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday this summer through Labor Day weekend, Sept. 3, 2022. It’s located at 1076 Old Springfield Pike in Xenia. Parking, restrooms, and seating are available for guests. Young anglers must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Adults are not permitted to fish in the youth area but may assist young anglers. Parents and guardians do not need a fishing license to assist youth.
Fishing is by reservation only; walk-ins will not be admitted. Anglers and accompanying parents or guardians can reserve one of three 2-hour sessions each day: 8-10 a.m., 10 a.m. to noon, or 3-5 p.m. There is a limit of 10 reservations per session. Reservations can be made by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE (945-3543) to reach the Division of Wildlife’s District Five Headquarters.
Anglers may keep only one fish per day at the youth fishing ponds, although catching and releasing fish for the duration of the visit is welcome. Equipment, bait, and Division of Wildlife staff assistance are provided at no charge thanks to the purchase of Ohio fishing licenses and federal contributions from the Sport Fish Restoration Fund. Visitors may bring their own tackle but should note that barbless hooks are required to support catch-and-release opportunities.