Is it safe to fish during a thunderstorm?

It is not safe or sensible to be out on the water during a thunderstorm. Lightening heads towards the highest point in an area, and that might just be you and your rod. Every year fishermen die from lightning strikes and more are injured, It is simply not worth the risk.

It is not only the lightning that needs to be of concern, high winds, and heavy rain are also risks that need to be taken into consideration.

Fishing from a boat during a thunderstorm?

What to do if you are out fishing during a thunderstorm?

If you are out fishing on the lake or sea and a thunderstorm starts to appear on the horizon. Get off the water as quickly as possible and find shelter (1). You or your boat is likely to be the highest object on the lake, and that is where any nearby lighting will head towards to earth.

If you can not get off the lake before the storm hits. Then stow away any rods, and make yourself as low as possible in the boat. If the boat has a cabin take shelter inside. Try and avoid touching any metal or wired electronics until the storm has passed.

How close does a storm have to be?

Lightening can travel for many miles in front of a storm before grounding. There have been reports of lightning hitting objects as far as 10 miles away. To roughly estimate how far a storm is, try counting the time between a lightning flash and the thunder. If the storm is ‘closer’ than 30 seconds there is a very real risk of a strike.

Personally, I get off the water as soon as I hear any thunder. I also advise others to do so.

What happens if lightning strikes a boat?

While it is not common, boats can and have been struck by lightning. The end result largely depends on how well earth the boat is. If the boat is earthed, the lightning should in theory travel through the boat before discharging into the lake. The total damage is likely to be fried electronics such as fish finders, chart plotters, radios, and even starter motors. There is also a chance of electrical fires starting.

If the boat has no proper earth, then the lightning will find its own path of less resistance, which is likely straight through the lowest part of the hull. In some cases, lightening has even blown a hole in the hull and has caused boats to sink.

What boat is most likely to be struck by lightning?


According to boatUS the chance of a boat getting struck by lightning in any one year is about 1 /1000 with most lightning strikes occurring in Florida. Yachts and other sailing boats are the most likely to be hit due to their high masts.

While yachts and other tall boats are the most likely to be hit. The majority of deaths and injuries occur on small watercraft usually without a cabin. Such boats, are usually favored by fishermen out on lakes or ponds.

Is kayaking or canoeing safe during a thunderstorm?

Kayaking during a lightning storm is certainly not safe, and paddlers are injured and even killed every year while out on the water.

If you are kayak fishing and hear a storm approaching, get off the water. Kayaks are slow, and lightning moves fast. Lightening can even strike objects miles ahead of the storm so there is no time to waste.

I have been out on the river and heard a storm approaching, I find it to be a very unnerving experience. Luckily I got back to the car and the storm dispersed.

If you are too far from land, then the next best piece of advice is to stow away any rods as low to the deck as possible. If your kayak has a rod hatch, stow them away. Then try and lay, as flat and as low as possible. If the kayak is stable enough stowing away and not touching the paddle is also a good idea.

If paddling in a group, it is usually advised to spread out. Make sure there are about 100 feet between paddlers. That is because in the unlikely event someone is hit the other paddlers will be unharmed and will be able to assist.

Fishing from the shore during a thunderstorm?

Fishing on land is not much safer than out on the water. Lightening often strikes the shoreline, which is where most anglers stand to fish.

If fishing from the shore, try and find shelter in a car or nearby building while waiting for the storm to pass. Standing under a lone tree is not a good idea.

If you are too far from suitable accommodation, then try and find shelter in a grove of trees, Avoid the edges and the tallest trees in the grove. Shorter trees, surrounded by taller ones is usually quite a safe place to be.

Watch out for more than just the lightening

Lightening strikes might be the less of your concerns while fishing during a storm. This is because thunderstorms can dump huge amounts of rain into a catchment quickly causing river levels to raise.

A small stream can easily be transferred into a raging torrent within minutes. It could be clear sunny weather where you are fishing, but a storm many miles away can still cause a flash flood to occur (1).

Another potential danger that frequently occurs during storms is powerful winds, such winds can not only occur windfall to occur in forested areas, but they can quickly cause even sheltered lakes to chop up quickly and become rough. Every year, many small boats end up getting swamped when caught in a wind surge.

Do fish and trout feed during a storm

Yes, trout and other fish do continue to feed during a rainstorm.

  • Changes in barometric pressure, and temperature can cause insects to hatch.
  • Lower temperatures can improve oxygen levels in the water allowing the trout to feed during the warmer parts of the day.
  • Increased surface runoff washes a lot of food into rivers and streams.

If there is no lightning, and if there is no risk from high winds, or getting trapped by raising water levels. Then the fishing can be excellent during a storm.

Can lightning strike a fishing rod?

Yes, lightning can and has struck fishing rods (1,2,3,4).

It does not matter if you are fishing graphite, fiberglass, or even bamboo, all fishing rod materials can conduct the electricity from a lightning strike. Fishermen have died due to lightning strikes. It is simply not worth the risk.

Can lightning strike a fly fishing rod?

Yes, a long graphite fly rod makes an excellent conductor of electricity. It is not a good idea to fly fish during a thunderstorm. Seek shelter out of the storm in a building or car.

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