Cabarrus

Number of safety-trained boaters jumps in 2009 - but still not enough

According to a report by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, 154 boating accidents took place statewide in 2009. Most (133) were classified nonfatal, but sadly, 21 of them accounted for 22 fatalities.

In the 154 accidents, 203 vessels were involved, causing 104 people to require medical treatment. The year ended with 368,004 boats registered throughout North Carolina, an increase of 42,513 over 2008.

Closer to home, the total number of boats registered in the four counties that touch Lake Norman was 43,339. A breakdown by county shows Mecklenburg with 16,741, Iredell 12,724, Catawba 8,129 and 5,745 in Lincoln County.

Lake Norman had 12 boating accidents, ranking second in the state behind the Intracoastal Waterway, which had 20 accidents. The good news is the 2009 report listed no fatal boating accidents for Lake Norman.

Statewide, the leading type of boating fatality was jumping or falling overboard. The two main types of nonfatal accidents (together accounting for 54 cases) were colliding with another vessel or a fixed object. Operator inattention, operator inexperience and careless and reckless operation together were the leading causes (123) of nonfatal accidents.

The number of students who completed boater education courses jumped dramatically in 2009: A total of 17,328 students received boater education certificates, compared with 4,363 the previous year. One has to surmise that a major factor in the increase was anticipation of the new 2010 regulation that requires boat operators younger than 26 to have completed an approved boating safety course.

That regulation was long overdue: Only 25 percent (50 of 200) of boat operators involved in fatal and nonfatal accidents had completed a boating safety course.

The 2009 report should be a red flag to everyone, particularly the statistics on operator inattention, careless and reckless driving, and the indication that 75 percent of boaters on our waterways have not completed an approved boat safety course.

As the saying goes, "Safe boating is no accident." Help make our waterways safer place to navigate and enjoy.

Tips

For more information about approved boating safety courses, visit the following websites:

N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, at www.ncwildlife.org.

U.S. Power Squadron, www.usps.org.

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, www.uscgaux.org.

Lighthouse Marine Service, www.Lmservice.org.

Coming events

I'll offer a free fishing seminar, "Winter Striped Bass Fishing - How to Catch Lake Norman Striped Bass All Winter," will meet 6:30-8 p.m. Nov. 18 at Gander Mountain in Mooresville, off I-77's Exit 36. For more information call 704-658-0822.

Hot spots

Stripers are actively feeding in the cooler water above the N.C. 150 bridge. Bass fishing (particularly spotted bass) has been excellent all fall. Best bets are coves with brush and the middles of creek channels, where large schools are hitting live and artificial baits. Anglers also are catching white perch incidentally while fishing for spots. Blue and flathead catfish are hitting prepared and cut baits in coves and around boat docks.

The water level is about 4.2 feet below full pond. The water surface temperature is in the mid to high 60s.

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