Fly Life Magazine

PFDs could comfortably save your life

This angler does not appear to be hampered by his PFD. These newer PFD’s are shirt-weight light. A commons image.

In all instances, not a single fisherman was wearing a personal flotation device 

Editorial Staff Report

A fly angler in 14-foot Gruman canoe on a lake in Oklahoma, two octogenarians on a 27-foot cruiser out of Plaquemines Parish, Louisana, and a seasoned commercial fisher on an 80-foot trawler out of Prince William Sound, Alaska all suffered from the same defect of stupidity. They are all dead because they failed to wear Personal Floatation Devices (PFD).

On May 5, an Anchorage newspaper, the Magnolia, Texas newspaper, and Baton Rouge newspaper reported those four deaths. Each account making it clear that they had drowned, that none of the mishaps were witnessed, that all were found the same day without wearing PFDs, and that All of their deaths were unnecessary… for obvious reasons.

Getting a lesson from a commercial fishing study: Of 204 U.S. fishermen who died falling overboard, none wore a flotation device

Commercial fishing remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation, with a fatality rate that is 23 times higher than for all other workers.

Vessel sinkings account for half of all fishing fatalities; second is falling overboard — deaths that are largely preventable.

From 2000 through 2016, 204 U.S. fishermen died after falling overboard, according to a just released study called Fatal Falls Overboard in Commercial Fishing by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH. Nearly 60 percent of the falls were not witnessed, and almost 90 percent of the victims were not found.

“I think there is a social stigma against it. It’s a sort of macho thing. I also think there is a lack of awareness that there are really comfortable PFDs,” said Jerry Dzugan, director of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association for over three decades.

Today’s life jackets are not the bulky, cumbersome clunkers that most people are familiar with from childhood or have stashed in the cubbies of recreational boats. Newer models are lightweight and built right into rain bibs, or fit comfortably over or into deck gear.

“I’ve got a couple of PDFs that are so comfortable that when I leave my boat, I forget I have them on,” Dzugan said 

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