Tips for taming those dog days

OUTDOORS

July 16, 1995|By PETER BAKER

Last Thursday morning, as the sun was rising and the moon well toward set, rockfish from 15 to 22 inches and a scattering of smallish bluefish were breaking along the deep edge of a point off the western shore below the Bay Bridge.

A handful of private boats had found the schools and fewer than a dozen anglers were casting beneath the gulls that swooped to feed on scraps of baitfish left by the feeding predators.

And for a while, the fishing was fast. But as it happened, the tide was close to flood and within an hour the feeding fish had broken off.

Soon afterward, the fishermen had dispersed, all before 8 a.m. -- and all before the heat came into the day.

Mornings and evenings, when the tide is running and the heat of the day is relatively low, are the best times of summer for fishing Chesapeake Bay.

Not only are the fish more likely to be more active when the day is dim, but fishermen can safely be more active, too.

We have entered the dog days of summer, when high temperatures and high humidity can produce heat indexes that make outdoor activities arduous for many and dangerous for those with respiratory and heart problems.

Beating the dog days is relatively simple if you work or recreate in an air-conditioned environment. But out of doors -- especially on the water, where shade is at a minimum -- the problem is more difficult.

The human body handles extreme heat by sweating and through dilation of the blood vessels in the skin. By sweating, the body discharges salt and water through the skin and heat is dissipated as the fluids evaporate.

When the blood vessels dilate, heat is dissipated through convection, radiation and conduction.

In most circumstances, when temperatures are below 90 degrees and humidity less than 60 percent, the body will deal adequately with the heat through its natural processes, so long as water and salts are replenished. Gatorade and other sports drinks are great for this.

But when the temperatures are over 90 degrees and humidity is over 60 percent, as the weather has been for several days and will be for at least a few more days, greater care should be taken.

Say you have hit a good run of bluefish on such a day and for an hour or so you have been up and down in the boat cockpit, reeling in fish and resetting lines -- exercising steadily.

It is possible for the body to have sweated out one to two quarts of fluid in that time, and those fluids will need to be replenished.

Various outdoors medical guides recommend building up the body's supply of fluids beforehand by drinking a pint or so of a sports drink and keeping the level up by drinking another cup (8 ounces) every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise.

One recipe for making your own electrolyte rehydration solution is as follows: 3 teaspoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt to one quart of water. Drink it cold for quicker absorption.

And if you must fish during the peak sun and heat hours, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., make sure you can get in the shade of a cabin top, a bimini or even a beach umbrella strapped to the gunwale.

Dress in loose-fitting, light-colored clothing that will reflect the sun's heat and allow air to move around the body and enhance evaporation of fluids that come to the skin's surface.

Take along an old T-shirt and submerge it in fresh or saltwater. Wring it out and put it on. First the water will cool you down and as the water evaporates and the wind passes through the fabric, an air-conditioning effect will be created. When the shirt is almost dry, start the process over.

Cloth hats can be treated the same way and will help keep you cool-headed, even when the fish are in a feeding frenzy at high noon.

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