Wild Things: Set Your Sights on a Safe Weekend

Properly fitting life jackets are boating essentials

by KEVIN NAZE, [email protected]

Door County’s fish-filled waters have already been packed with boats this spring, but things are about to get a whole lot busier. 

Many consider Memorial Day weekend to be the unofficial start to summer and the recreational boating season, and as more boaters take to the water, there’s an increased likelihood of accidents, mechanical failures and search-and-rescue missions.

That’s why the U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are all urging mariners to be safe, both on and off the water this season. In fact, we’re in the final stretch of National Safe Boating Week, an annual observance intended to shine a light on boating safety. With on-water deaths and accidents on the rise since 2020, it’s a message that needs to be lived out. 

New for 2022 is a focus on educating boaters about the new labeling of personal flotation devices, which will no longer be labeled type one through five. Instead, they will be labeled with performance level, turn ability and warnings.

The use of a Coast Guard–approved and properly fitting life jacket while under power is critical because about 80% of boating deaths are due to drowning, and 86% of those individuals were not wearing a life jacket. People don’t typically have time to locate and don a life jacket during an actual emergency.

Aside from wearing a life jacket, refraining from drinking alcohol while boating is one of the easiest ways to prevent accidental deaths on the water. People operating vessels under the influence of alcohol, drugs or impairing medication pose a serious threat to themselves, everyone else aboard and people in nearby vessels.

Weather is another critical factor. Always check the forecast before you go out, and monitor it closely while you’re on the water.

DNR safety specialists say it’s human nature to think drowning can’t happen to you. Most people who drown in boating accidents know how to swim, but they become incapacitated in the water when they’re injured, unconscious, exhausted or weighed down by clothing.

Operator inexperience, inattention, recklessness and speeding are the four leading causes of tragic watercraft crashes, and the leading cause of death is drowning. Twenty-five people drowned while boating, kayaking or canoeing in Wisconsin last year.

Find more safety tips, boating regulations and details about boater-safety courses at Also download the Coast Guard’s boating-safety app, through which you can file a float plan, request assistance, request a vessel safety check, and report pollution and navigation hazards.

Take Someone Fishing

Wisconsin’s annual Free Fishing Weekend, June 4-5, is a perfect time to share your passion for the water with beginners. Most people learn to fish from a friend or family member, which really shortens the learning curve and lowers the intimidation factor. 

Taking kids fishing in particular is not just about showing them how to tie a hook, bait it, cast, reel in and release (or fillet) the catch – there are also lessons to teach about patience, perseverance and environmental stewardship. You can point out interesting trees, plants and wildlife; pick up litter that others have thoughtlessly left behind and share why it’s important to do so; and preach safety and ethics. 

During Free Fishing Weekend, all Wisconsin waters are open to residents and nonresidents to fish without a license or trout or salmon stamp. However, all other fishing regulations, including size and bag limits and species restrictions, will be enforced.

Want to get into it but don’t know where to start? Head to a local bait-and-tackle shop. There are also many resources available online. Check out the American Sportfishing Association’s website at, or take a peek at this YouTube video:

The first-place winners in the inaugural Wisco Bass Anglers Adrians Memorial Open bass fishing tournament May 21-22 out of Wave Pointe Marina & Resort on Little Sturgeon Bay were (from left) Sturgeon Bay’s Adam Neu and Jimmy Doering. They earned $10,000 for averaging 5.1 pounds per bass on the allowed 10 fish over two days. Photo courtesy of Wisco Bass Anglers.

Neu and Doering Score $10,000

What a month May has been for Sturgeon Bay pro anglers Adam Neu and Jimmy Doering.

The duo earned $10,000 for placing first among 60 teams in the Wisco Bass Anglers Adrians Memorial Open tournament headquartered out of Wave Pointe Marina & Resort in Little Sturgeon Bay last weekend.

They brought in 26.63 and 24.38 pounds during the two-day event for a total of 51.01 pounds – a hefty, 5.1-pound-per-bass average – to win by 15-hundredths of a pound. 

There were 545 bass weighed and released during the Adrians Memorial event, with an average size of 4.33 pounds per smallmouth. Check out all the results at

A week earlier, Neu was on the winning team in the 142-boat North American Bass Challenge Sturgeon Bay Open, and a few days prior, Doering and his fishing partner won the 57-team Sturgeon Bay Bass Tournament. 

Weekly Water Levels

As of May 20, Lake Michigan water levels were up three inches in the past month, but still down seven inches from a year ago and 25 inches below the monthly record set two years ago. Lake levels were 40 inches above the all-time May low, set in 1964.