With Tournament Season ramping back up and thunder storms in the forecast, arming yourself with some basic knowledge about the indications of lighting danger and what to do when you are in the path of a storm can save your life.
Anyone who spends much time outside has experienced thunder and lightning and wondered if they were at risk or how much danger there were in. Personally, I don’t think that there is another group of people who spend as much time outside during Maine's lighting season than Bass Anglers, nor is it possible to be MORE at risk of lightning strikes in Maine than by being on a large body of water during a passing storm waving a high-modulus graphite rod in the air for hours at a time.
If you do find yourself exposed on a lake during an approaching storm and you feel your hair stand on end and/or notice a sizzling sensation at the tip of your fishing rod (which could indicate that lightning is about to strike), put down equipment and immediately head for shelter away from the storm if possible. Don't fool yourself-there is NO best way to avoid lightning when you are out of doors. Well meaning sources that urge you to do things like crouch with hands-on-knees, lay flat on the ground, shelter beneath bushes or even get into the water are all badly misinformed and taking this advice may result in your death, bottom line.
Once a bolt of lightning flashes toward the Earth, it will strike the tallest object in an area approximately 50 yards in radius. In other words, it won't "look for" a tall tree that is 100 yards away from you. If a bolt is going to hit near you, don't be the tallest thing (or even near the tallest thing) within that 50-yard radius. The only completely safe approach is to avoid being exposed. Given a choice, get inside a building. Your second choice should be a car or truck with windows rolled up.
You can usually hear thunder 10 miles away, unless the noise of rain and wind interferes. When you see lightning, count the number of seconds until you hear thunder. Sounds travels one mile every five seconds. Many sources recommend 30 seconds (6 miles) as the signal for you to stop what you're doing and get to a safe location. Other sources indicate that even this may be too late. Even if you don't see lightning, thunder is a great indication that it is nearby, you should act accordingly.
A passing thunder shower need not end an entire day's fishing! The typical lightning threat in Maine lasts less than an hour. Try to wait at least 30 minutes after you see the last lightning bolt or hear the last thunder before going back on the lake and always be aware of other storms that may be moving in.
A great rule of thumb for lightning safety is: "If you hear it, fear it....if you see it, flee it!".