Lightning, Danger From Above

Don't take chances, take cover.

BY Jerry Drazer



Let’s face it, as tournament fishermen we have to endure tough weather situations: wind, snow, sleet, hail, rain, and combinations of all of these. Some of the most dangerous conditions in which some of fish are thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are dangerous, some contain strong straight-line winds and can spawn tornadoes. One of the most dangerous aspects of any thunderstorm is the lightning that accompanies it. Anyone is at risk to get struck by lightning, whenever a storm is around.

I used to be one of those anglers that would fish through the thunderstorm, in the lightning, and never gave it a second thought. Let me put an emphasis on "used to".



A few years ago while fishing a tournament in a thunderstorm, a bolt of lightning came down pretty close to me and struck the ground. All I saw was red and orange balls for a few seconds. Needless to say this really rattled my cage. Then, from a nearby boathouse I heard someone’s voice say: "Drazer, are you crazy, get in here!" When I looked up I saw fellow competitor Steve Davis standing in his boat inside the boathouse. I took Steve up on his offer/advice and parked my boat inside that old boathouse and we waited out the storm together. "You were just lucky" said Steve shaking his head in disbelief. In the next 30 minutes I had a real "attitude adjustment".

As if being rattled from that bolt of lightning wasn’t enough, Steve started telling me horror stories of lightning incidents that he’d seen personally as well as ones he’d heard about. What really stirred me was when he told about an incident where two fishermen’s rods were literally melted to the boat, both inside and outside the rod locker and neither angler survived.

Another thing that upset me was the fact that if I’d been struck, it was my own fault. I wasn’t seeking shelter, I didn’t care, and I wasn’t afraid. Let me tell you folks, that near miss "scared me straight". I realized just how "lucky" I was, and I’ve never taken Mother Nature for granted again.

Now I cease fishing and take shelter or at least try to look for shelter immediately. On some lakes you can, but others you can’t, you need to least cease fishing and stay out of high percentage areas until the storm passes. But remember lightning can strike anywhere. After this experience, I researched lightning and found even more evidence to "scare me straight". The research I conducted gave me some very insightful and useful facts about lightning.

The National Lightning Safety Institute teaches very practical advice concerning lightning, and it’s easy to remember.

If you can see it – flee it- If you can hear it –clear it-

You’re in real danger of being struck by lightning when:


Scientists today believe that lightning can strike within a 15-mile radius or more, from the center of the storm. This would explain why some people have been struck by lightning in bright sunshine when a storm has been approaching.

The most common type of lightning we are all familiar with is cloud to ground lightning. If you're outdoors there are high percentage areas in which you should try avoid: High banks, open areas, wire fences, single tall trees, and wet beaches just to name a few. The most obvious would be fishing in the middle of the lake with a fishing rod.

Don't ever try to out run a storm when it's almost on top of you. Your boat may go 70 MPH, but a bolt of lightning travels at 60,000 miles per second.

If you’re going to be on the water, monitor the weather conditions the night before, and again when you wake up. A small weather radio can give you an idea of what you may be facing. If you have access to television radar, check it out too. While on the water, always evaluate the weather conditions as the day progresses. This sounds very elementary, but you'd be surprised at how many "good fishermen" don’t stay alert to severe weather once they're on the water fishing.



If you’re outdoors and a storm is approaching can estimate how far away a bolt of lightning struck by counting the number of seconds between seeing the flash and hearing the thunder. Every five ( 5 ) seconds equals one ( 1 ) mile in distance. So lets say you see a flash of lightning and the count is fifteen seconds, the lightning was approximately three miles away. A common dial watch will figure the miles for you easily up to 12 miles, then all you have to do is add the additional seconds. Basically if you count up to 1 minute and 30 seconds you are a reasonable distance from where the lightning just struck, and should have enough time to head for cover. This sounds like a lot of math, but once you do it a couple times it'll become as common as looking at your depthfinder.

When’s it safe to start back fishing? Research has shown that 30 minutes after you see the last flash of lightning or hear the last rumble of thunder should be sufficient.

The next time you go out, and storm is approaching, "play it safe" put down your fishing rod and look for cover. The bass will be around after the storm has passed, and so will you.

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