Just yesterday, the Washington Post ran a little story about deaths from lightning strikes in the U.S. between 2006 and 2012. In that span of time, 127 people met their maker after being struck by a bolt. What’s interesting about this story is that the statistical data on the strikes is broken down by leisure activity, and guess which one has the most lightning fatalities? Hint: It ain’t golf.
Of the 127 people struck and killed by lightning in those 6 years, a whopping 26 of them were fishermen. That’s 11%. Next in line was camping with 15 deaths (6%) and boating with 14 (6%). At the very bottom of the list, surprisingly, is golf, which only had 8 fatalities in 6 years (3%).
So why are the guys in funny pants swinging metal clubs around in open fields getting zapped less often than we are? Because according to the story (and I happen to agree), golfers know when to quit and anglers don’t. From the story:
“NOAA has made a concerted effort to raise lightning awareness in the golf community since we began the campaign in 2001, and we believe our outreach has made a huge difference since lightning-related deaths on golf courses have decreased by 75 percent,” said John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist with the National Weather Service. Jensenius said the the relatively high number of fishing and boating lightning deaths has occurred due to the extra time required to seek shelter while on the water. “People often wait far too long to head to safety when a storm is approaching, and that puts them in a dangerous and potentially deadly situation,” Jensenius said.
Now, when I say anglers don’t know when to quit, I don’t mean we fish through a nasty storm. But you’re a liar if you say you haven’t been on a boat when you or a buddy said something to this effect: “That sky looks pretty ugly, we should probably split. Let’s keep an eye on it. We’ll give it ten more casts and see what it does.”