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Hook and bullet club

As many of us head out onto the water to try our luck at bringing home a walleye dinner, many of us will be joined by young anglers. And as of May 6, if a child is under age 10, they must wear a life jacket while they are in a boat on Minnesota waters.This law was signed into law by our soon-to-be-fishing-on-Lake Vermilion governor, Tim Pawlenty. The law is known as the “Grant Allen Law” after a child who drowned after falling out of his father’s boat in 2003. This is one of those common sense laws that you look at and think of course kids should wear life jackets. So why do we need a law?Well, unless you have kids or have had kids in a boat, you might not realize that wearing a life jacket is not always high on the list of priorities.Plus, it can be difficult to find life jackets that properly fit kids. The Spongebob life jacket may be cute but it may be too small and therefore uncomfortable and likely to be removed.Investing in a good life jacket is kind of like buying a good helmet. This is your kid you’re talking about here, spend the extra couple of bucks and buy the proper equipment. For those who have had the experience, I think you would agree that kids, first and foremost, want to drive the boat, especially if there is a steering wheel. Since most lakes are large bodies of water with lots of space between the shoreline and various islands, driving is not usually too much of a problem with a youngster on your lap.However, the fun does not end there. Beyond driving there is the fascination with the water itself, from looking over the side of the boat to dropping things over the side. This, of course, can lead to trouble.The level of trouble is highly dependent on what kind of boat you have. My old trusty 14-foot Lund is tough to fall out of unless you are standing on the seat. I don’t have any flooring in my boat so getting your footing can be tricky at times but if you do fall you’re more likely to land on a seat or the bottom of the boat than in the lake. The bigger boats are usually more of a problem. Lund makes some great boats, but many of them have specific purposes. Take the Pro-V series as an example. Here the floor is built higher up and tripping in the boat can easily put you or your child in the drink. It’s a great boat to fish out of but maybe not the most kid-friendly craft on the water.Pontoon boats are a whole other story. This really can be a great family watercraft as long as you have good railings and lockable doors. Canoes are on the other end of the spectrum and for young people there’s quite a bit higher risk of tipping over until they get used to it. I’ve only seen one person fall out of boat and there were extenuating circumstances. First, there were too many people in the boat, a ski-boat with a high-powered inboard engine so the victim had decided to sit in the back to the side of the engine cover.Second, the driver of the boat was trying to pull somebody out of the water on one ski so a fast take-off was required. You can about guess what happened. The person sitting in the back was not paying attention and did not have anything to hang on to. The driver was looking at the person in the water and when he got the thumbs-up signal, the motor roared to life and the boat took off. The guy on the back tumbled backwards and into the water, without a life jacket. From there, luckily, everything went right. The water was the perfect depth. Not too shallow to catch a rock as he went headfirst in, but not too deep as to have to suddenly swim for his life. It was about shoulder deep there and he just stood up and shouted a few choice words back to the boat driver. But it all happened in the blink of an eye. Tipping over in a canoe is something most people in this area have experienced, whether by accident or on purpose. As kids get to be good swimmers, I would advise they pick a nice day and actually go out and flip a canoe so they know what to expect.Not something to be done in the current, but a learning experience if done with life jackets on in a safe environment. In our area it’s a somewhat regular occurrence to have somebody drown. Most often this happens in the current and the person shouldn’t have been there in the first place. The other times usually have to do with canoes, cold water and no life jackets. For all of these reasons and others, making sure your child is wearing a life jacket is a good idea. The law does have some exceptions. Children are not required to wear a life jacket if:• They are in a boat that is tied up to a dock or permanent mooring.• They are in a boat’s enclosed cabin or below decks;• They are on an anchored boat that is being used as a platform for swimming or diving. • They are on board commercial or charter vessels with a licensed captain.The DNR will issue a warning for the first offense during the first year this law is in effect. From then on, the penalty is a petty misdemeanor. Make sure any child under age 10 has a life jacket on and while you’re at it, lead by example and wear one yourself. If nothing else, use this excuse to go buy yourself a nice new one, maybe something in camo…

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