Brownsville Fire Dept. Says Sudden Weather Changes Dangerous for Boaters
NEAR PORT ISABEL – The Brownsville Fire Department is issuing out a warning to all fishermen heading to the waters.
Fire officials say the department responds to about one water rescue per year. They say this year, they've already had three in the Laguna Madre area, all as cold fronts moved in.
Rescuers told CHANNEL 5 NEWS not even the most experienced boater should test Mother Nature.
It's a warning Pedro Perez takes seriously.
He tells us this is the 17th year he travels from San Antonio to Port Isabel for a weekend of fishing.
He and his fishing buddies decided to call it a day early Thursday as the winds picked up.
"It was too rough, we didn't want to go out there," said Perez as they docked the boat.
Perez said he learned his lesson years ago, not to go boating on the Laguna Madre when a cold front rolls in.
"Years ago we did, and only the good Lord brought us back that day – it was that bad," Perez said. "The weather just boom – hit us – and we were too far out."
Perez said he made it back to shore safely.
Brownsville Fire Assistant Chief Cesar Pedraza said not all fishermen make a safe decision in these weather conditions; some are just caught off-guard.
As of January, the Brownsville Fire Department has made three water rescues, two kayakers stranded in San Martin Lake.
Pedraza says they recently rescued a man stuck hundreds of feet from shore in South Bay when his boat started taking on water.
"Typically, the cold fronts that approach will change the speed and direction of the wind," he said. "That sometimes catches the boaters off-guard, they may have paddled out further than expected and were traveling with the wind and now coming back, they're going against the wind making it that much harder to get to their starting point."
He says many dangers lurk in these waters if a fishermen gets stranded, like sharp oyster beds, sharks and submerged fishing lines. Even the darkness is a threat.
During one of the latest kayak rescues, the Brownsville Fire Department had to use its drone's infrared capabilities to find the stranded fisherman.
"A healthy respect for the water is always important," Pedraza said. “Be familiar with the weather, be familiar with your equipment and be familiar with your routes."
James King, an avid fisherman, checks the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast before he goes fishing.
He says he understands why some fisherman can get in trouble.
"When they are biting, you don't feel the weather. The only time you really feel the weather is when nothing is happening," King said.
However, as Perez learned, "it's just not worth it."
When these conditions hit, he said, it's better to fish on another day.
Pedraza adds having a boating plan, as well as emergency equipment with you like flares and a radio, can be the difference between life and death.
Even in the water, in case of an emergency people should call 9-1-1, he said.
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