I’ve never been too rattled by lightning, in fact, on occasion, I welcome it for its ability to clear out otherwise crowded fishing areas.
This isn’t to say I haven’t been too cavalier (read: stupid) about lightning safety in the past. I recall one June night where I spent the better part of an hour crouched between rocks at the tip of the North Jetty at Island Beach State Park in New Jersey while lightning bolts struck between me and the beach. But I wouldn’t say I was being reckless last Thursday, when I had my most frightening lightning encounter to date .
There was the occasional flash in the distance, but the old faithful “one, one-thousand” count between lightning and thunder suggested that the storm was between 7 and 14 miles away. I casted away, all the while, keeping an eye on the storm through the dense fog. After releasing a small fish, I heard a low, but definite hum, almost a buzzing sound. I dismissed it at first thinking it was something in the distance. But as the humming continued, I began to wonder what the heck it was. It sounded distinctly electrical, like a transformer box on a telephone pole. I put my ear to my light, the only electrical thing on me. It wasn’t that. I tried the water, my keys, the rock. Nothing.
I kept on casting, and it wasn’t until I placed down my rod to unhook a small striper that I found the source of the noise. My surf rod. When I bent over to unhook the fish, the buzzing sound intensified, and I realized that the tip of my rod was making the noise and slightly vibrating. I also realized that I had absolutely no idea what to do in this situation. Taking, most likely, the absolute wrong approach, I reached out and touched the rod tip with my index finger. The low-frequency humming turned into a high-frequency whine, which freaked me out to no end. I plunged the tip of the rod into the water as if it was on fire (also probably against protocol) and upon taking it out, began sprinting back to my truck.
Since then I’ve done a little research on what had happened and what to do in such a situation, but I plan on doing more for a feature article in an upcoming issue of On The Water.
Has anyone else had any close encounters with lightning? How did you react?