Outdoor Corner: Did COVID lockdowns impact boating safety?

Lyle Johnson

Last year I penned an article about the increase in boating numbers in our area. It seemed pretty reasonable to attribute the increase to the COVID lockdowns as the major cause as there were not any areas where folks could get together and enjoy the fresh air for a change.

Which one of the five categories could have cause this accident?

It also affected the turkey hunting in the spring of 2020. License sales set a record for turkey tags. This also added to the number of days hunters were in the woods in record amounts, killing more gobblers than usual as well.

In Louisiana, our waterways are part of our special heritage, but we have challenges when it comes to boating accidents. With those accidents comes a measure of fatalities, which are in double digits so far this year.

We have some national statistics just released by the U.S. Coast Guard. According to BoatUS News, the recently released the 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics, reports of accidents, fatalities and injuries were significantly up over the prior year.

While all this is still under review, the Coast Guard has reason to believe that the primary driving factor for the significant increase in accidents, injuries and deaths was the significant increase in boating activity.

In 2020, the top five reported contributing factors in accidents were: 1. operator inattention, 2. operator inexperience, 3. improper lookout, 4. excessive speed and 5. machinery failure. “Machinery failure,” at number five on the list, is new for 2020.

Sixteen-year-old Lily Hudson caught this monster black drum using a live crab fishing off her mom Robin’s dock in Leeville.

While it is only a single data point, it likely indicates that a well-maintained boat is also a safer vessel. “One could reasonably assume that first-time boat owners are understandably inexperienced in boat maintenance, and some boat owners likely had difficulty getting service during the pandemic,” said BoatUS Foundation President Chris Edmonston.

He also noted that, “With the limited manufacturer supply of new boats available, some older, less seaworthy boats were probably on the water that otherwise would not have been.”

Some may attribute the No. 1 and No. 3 reasons for accidents in 2020 solely to first-time boat owners, perhaps giving more experienced boaters a “pass.” However, to do so would be a mistake. These two factors have remained consistent across many years of Coast Guard reporting, indicating perhaps, for experienced boaters, there is always room to improve boating safety.

In 2020, the USCG report noted there were 5,265 accidents, 767 deaths and 3,191 injuries. That represents a one-year increase of 26 percent in accidents and 25 percent in deaths and injuries respectively.

While not directly acknowledged in the report, Edmonston notes that when boats did head out in 2020, they did so not only with more frequency but also with more passengers aboard. “In 2020, boating provided the respite that many families needed, and no one was left at home alone on Saturday. With more aboard, however, there is likely an increase in the potential for injuries in any single accident.”

Another effect of the pandemic was the temporary loss of waterway access, as some states and localities were driven by public health concerns to reduce park or launch ramp staff. That means more folks out boating with less water to do it on. Louisiana didn’t have that problem as all our waterways stayed open. Something to think about.

2021 Annual JaBoom High School Master Classic

Put the JaBoom on Em! On Aug. 14, the inauguaral JaBoom High School Master Classic will be at Doiron’s Landing (either side). The entry fee is $50 a boat. The competition will feature high school anglers only. Each team requires an adult/guardian as boat captain.

Tournament hours will be a safe, daylight take off with a 3 p.m. weigh-in. Fishing south of Hwy 90 is off limits. Boat numbers will be assigned as you register and will be posted before the tournament. There will be a tournament premeeting at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 12 on Facebook Live.

These belts will be awarded to the best High School angler teams in the JaBoom High School Master Classic.

First place will be awarded a year sponsorship with JaBoom Bait Co, a championship belt, and a boat wrap. If first place forgoes the boat wrap, it will go to second place. Both second and third places, as well as Big Bass, will be awarded a title belt. Food and drinks will be provided along with raffles and door prizes.

In this tournament JaBoom Baits are the only baits allowed. No other manufactured baits can be used. That's why we call it the JaBoom Master Classic. Each team will be provided with the same color and style Jaboom lures. However, you are more than welcome to bring your own JaBoom baits to use.

What started as two friends, Colby Thompson and Jeremy Norris, creating baits for their own personal use has turned into a business that is reaching fisherman across the United States. Their goal is to produce high quality baits at affordable prices.

They only make two baits. The Beaver Ballz is designed for punching mats, lilies and heavy cover with much less weight than conventional style baits. At 4.25 inches long the patented vertical rib design not only goes through the mat easier, It produces violent strikes. Also, the vertical ribs protect the hook point much better than most punching/flipping baits on the market. 

The Boom Bug is a little guy that is one of the most deadly baits you'll ever use. At 3.5  inches long the has a great action and a slow fall rate. It shines as a flipping bait, Carolina rig, jig trailer or Texas rigged.

They are grateful for your interest in their products, and are excited for the future of JaBoom bait company. You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news. You can get all the info and the tournament rules on www.jaboombaits.com.

Outdoor Calendar

  • Tuesday Evening Bass Tournament: St James Boat Club, Fishers of men tournament trail will be hosting through August, with a Classic. 5 p.m. until dark. All info on Facebook Tuesday evening Blind River bass.
  • CCA Statewide Anglers’ Rodeo: Through Sept. 6. CCA Louisiana saltwater rodeo with divisions and numerous categories. Must be CCA member. Website: www.ccalouisiana.com. 
  • Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo: July 22-24 at the Pavilion at the end of Tarpon Rodeo Drive. All info at tarponrodeo.org, email to info@tarponrodeo.org or call Heather Martin at 985-306-0535.
  • LFACC annual Garfish Rodeo: July 24-25 hosted at Manny’s Bar on Hwy 22 in Head of Island. Entry fee: $75 per boat; $1,000 for big Garfish. Ten fish limit that must be fresh and edible. For all info contact David Stevens at 225 324-5695
  • East Ascension Sportsman’s League Kid’s Fishing Rodeo: Oct 31 at Twin Lakes Park in Dutchtown. Registration 6 to 7 a.m., fishing from 7 until 9 a.m. Awards, prizes and food after fishing. For more information, contact Bettye Lambert (225) 571-4588.
  • JaBoom High School Master Classic: Aug 14 at Doiron’s Landing in Stephensville. High School angler teams must be accompanied by adult boat captain $50 entry. For info go to www.jaboombaits.com.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net