Helpful Fishing and Boating Safety Information
Fishing and Boating are generally a safe and enjoyable way to experience the spectacular outdoor scenery that is ever-present in Western North Carolina. That said, there are several crucial threats to safety that deserve further discussion.
Animals to Avoid
Mosquitoes, Biting and Stinging Insects
The biting and stinging insects of Western North Carolina can be a total nuisance and in extreme cases can transmit diseases or cause serious life threatening allergic reactions. One way to minimize risk is to wear appropriate clothing including a hat, long pants and boots. Mosquitoes, horse flies and other biting flies can generally be deterred with a spray on bug repellant, which should be carried with you as they often wash or wear off. Bees, wasps and hornets are typically only aggressive around their nests or when provoked. Keep your eyes peeled because hornets and bees can nest in the ground, in low lying shrubs, in trees overhanging water, in the hollows and branches of trees and everywhere in between. It is always a good idea to carry a bee sting therapy kit, because you never know when someone may need one. Ticks are also a concern in WNC, as they are a generally irritating and certain species, such as the deer tick, are known to carry diseases such as Lyme disease. Proper clothing and regularly checking yourself, especially your legs and hair will help limit the chance of a tick bite.
Western North Carolina is home to two venomous snakes. The copperhead, a pit viper, can be found throughout North Carolina and in all surrounding states. The copperhead prefers rocky outcroppings and can often be found in the rocks lining the banks of rivers and streams. Copperheads have a similar appearance to several non-venomous water snake species. Therefore it is advised to watch your step carefully and stay clear of snakes, especially those with diamond-like patterns. The timber rattlesnake is the most dangerous snake found in Western NC, although it is not as venomous as its cousins the Eastern and Western diamondback rattlesnakes found in Florida and the South Western states. Timber rattlesnakes are threatened or endangered in several North Eastern states. The best way to avoid being bitten by these venomous snakes is to stay alert and avoid them when you so see them as most snake bits occur when trying to catch or kill the snake. Note: Contrary to popular belief the mountains of Western NC do not contain any native cottonmouths or water moccasins.
American black bears are fairly common in Western North Carolina. Large males can be over 7 feet long and weigh 700 pounds or more. Black bears are far less aggressive than the larger grizzly bear found in Northern states and Canada, however black bears have been implicated in over 30 human fatalities in the last hundred years. Black bears should never be fed or provoked and should generally be avoided in insure a safe outdoor experience.
Plants to Avoid
Poison Ivy is extremely common in Western North Carolina and should be avoided by anyone who is allergic or suspects that they may be allergic. Poison Ivy causes a bubbly or blistery skin rash that often lasts a week or more. The rash is caused by an oily toxin that flows through the roots and stems and covers the leaves of this annoying plant. The toxin can be removed with soap before it is absorbed by the skin, which typically happens within a few hours of contact. The best defense is wearing long pants and avoiding contacting the plant with your hands or other exposed areas of skin. Drug stores sell creams that relieve the symptoms and accelerate the healing process. Prescription medications and treatments are available for extreme cases.
Stinging nettle is an herbaceous flowering plant that grows in wet shaded forests usually near a stream or river. The stock, stems and underside of its leaves are covered in small hollow spines. When these spines come in contact with human skin they release a combination of three toxins that produce a painful sting and a mild allergic reaction. The bumps that occur may appear similar to a poison ivy rash but typically only last a day are two. There are various purported natural remedies for a nettle sting. Visit the wikipedia stinging nettle article for more information.
Weather Safety Advice
Weather conditions can change rapidly in the mountains and certain precautions are necessary to insure a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience. Always check the weather forecast for the area. Inform someone outside of your expedition of your plans and when you intend to return. Stormy weather can arise very quickly and rapid temperature drops, diminished visibility, and flash flooding or all common during thunderstorms. Many mountain streams are very cold which increases the risk of developing hypothermia. Common early symptoms include shivering, cold or numb extremities and difficulty using hands. Hot weather can be just as dangerous as cold weather. Be sure to bring plenty of water, and cover exposed skin with sunscreen or additional clothing.
Note: Flash flooding is not the only cause of rising water in WNC as many rivers are located below flow regulated hydroelectric power plants. Be sure to check the flow schedule before fishing any of these rivers and always avoid tight spots near the river to prevent being trapped by rising waters.
Boating can offer a wide range of outdoor opportunities including the chance to catch some of the largest and most elusive fish species in Western North Carolina. Weather you are drifting on a river in search of a trophy rainbow trout or motoring across a lake to your favorite crappie hole it is crucial to understand and follow boating safety principles. One crucial law in NC requires all children under 13 to wear a personal floatation device (PFD) at all times. For more information on boating safety visit, the Wildlife Resource Commission boating and waterways page or US Coast Guard boating safety website.