Is Carrying A Gun On The Water Ever The Right Thing To Do?

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I honestly had no idea what a hot button issue this was.

Until I posted a link on Facebook the other day to the new Fishpond sling pack and commented that it was designed to carry a pistol. Man, did that post ever light up. The discussion got pretty heated with anglers on both sides of the issue having very strong opinions. It made me think a little harder about my own views and I thought it was worth opening the topic here.

I’m not looking to start a gun control debate. Let’s save that conversation for another forum. I just want to address the idea of carrying a gun while fishing. In the interest of disclosure, I will say that I own a fair number of guns. Handguns, shotguns and rifles. I strongly believe in the right to own them and I believe that the vast majority of gun owners are quite responsible. I also do not carry a weapon, other than to and from shooting it.

The reason I don’t carry a gun is simple. I don’t want to shoot anyone. I don’t want it on my conscience and I don’t want to deal with the ramifications. I generally don’t believe in the unnecessary taking of life. By leaving my guns at home I greatly reduce the chances of having to make hard decisions under pressure. Come in my house uninvited while my wife and I are in bed and we’ll have a very different discussion.

I should also say that these are my personal decisions and I do not judge others who make different choices. I just ask, very politely, that they not shoot me or my loved ones and I try not to give them reason.

These choices are in no way academic or untested. I’ll not go into the stories here but I have found myself looking down the barrel of a gun on almost a half dozen occasions, knowing that the person on the other end had no problem, or every intention of pulling the trigger. So far I have a pretty good track record with crisis management.

I have, on two occasions however, carried a gun when fishing.

Once was for protection from animals. I am an animal attack magnet. I’ve been attacked by just about everything with fur and one day while fishing a favorite stream I was attacked by an otter. It’s not a story you can tell with a sense of macho pride. Otters are the cutest animals in the forest. It’s like being mauled by a Care Bear. Still, they are about forty pounds and vicious as hell. It chewed through my gravel guards and ripped my boot open before I could stomp it off of me.

I was on a trail when the otter incident occurred. On the drive home I spent a lot of time thinking about how that would have played out if I’d been balls deep in the otter’s favorite pool. Next time I went up there I carried a pistol. A .380 Beretta automatic which fit nicely in the front of my waders. I never saw the otter again.

Several folks commented on that Facebook post saying they carried a gun for bears. I do feel compelled to say this. The odds of killing a bear with a sidearm are damned slim. Much slimmer than I like and I’m good with a gum. Bear spray is very effective and the best protection against bears. So effective I carry it in my car in Atlanta to use on meth heads. They are worse than bears. Be safe. Carry bear spray.

You can read some statistics that the US Fish and Wildlife Service put together HERE.

The other occasion when I decided to arm myself was a little more unsettling.

The south is an interesting place and many of the best trout streams are tucked well away in dark and ancient hemlock forests where city-dwelling fly fisherman are not always understood or welcome. I was fishing one of these streams one day. Well back in the woods where it’s not common to see anyone else. I’d fished until almost dark and made my way back to the truck in twilight. When I got to the truck I reached down into my waders to my pants pocket, where my key was, but the key slipped out of my fingers and fell all the way to my boot, inside my waders.

As I set down my rod, took off my vest and started to shuck off my waders I noticed headlights coming up the forest service road. An old green pickup pulled up beside me. The fellow in the truck asked me something, I don’t remember what, but I stopped what I was doing to answer. He didn’t seem threatening at first but it was clear he wasn’t right. Just some sideways old hillbilly who hadn’t bathed in a while and slurred his words.

I could see inside the truck. It was a disaster. Food wrappers, uneaten bits of god knows what all over the seat and floorboard. I couldn’t even see the seat but I could see the gun sitting next to him on top of an old fast food bag.

“Where you from?” He asked me.

His tone was agitated. I’m sure he had already seen my license plate and knew the answer. Even if he hadn’t, the fly rod and waders were enough to say I was nowhere near home.

“Atlanta,” I answered.

“Well let me ask you something son,” he continued without acknowledging my response. The pitch and volume of his voice raising with every word.

“You ever suck a dick? ‘Cause you look to me like the kind of guy who’d suck a dick!”

It was almost dark and I was way out in the middle of nowhere, on a forest service road that sees very little traffic. I was five feet from the hillbilly’s pickup and thirty feet from my own. My truck key was at my ankle, inside my waders.

I’ll ask you again. Is Carrying A Gun On The Water Ever The Right Thing To Do?

I immediately moved to the window of the pickup where I could get my hands on the crazy son of a bitch. We had a very load and heated discussion over, among other things, all the horrible shit I was going to do if he reached for that gun. In the end, he backed down and drove away. I drove away too, with my waders still around my ankles.

For several years I always carried a gun when I fished that creek. I’ve been in a lot of tight spots. I’ve worked in war zones and I live in a pretty tough part of town. I have plenty of good reasons to carry a gun and don’t, but something about that encounter unnerved me. I had no intention of going out like Ned Beatty in Deliverance.

That’s my story. Hit up the comment section and tell yours. No judgment, whichever side of the issue you fall on. All I ask is that you keep it civil and respect one another.

Have at it!

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81 thoughts on “Is Carrying A Gun On The Water Ever The Right Thing To Do?

  1. Agree with you on all counts, Louis. As a judge, I often carried when I sat on the criminal bench and family bench. I had a terrific bailiff, but she was female and sometimes we had Γ  courtroom or hearing room full of family or friends. To me family was more dangerous than criminal. A fellow judge had a criminal defendant go directly for him and his bailiff tackled the guy as he climbed up the bench. We had panic buttons to get reinforcements. They westled the guy into submission. Even though I was military trained with a sidearm and stayed current, I was always concerned about using a
    pistol in a courtroom where it was likely the target would be between me and the folks, so I stopped carrying in court after my first month on the bench. Many judges did carry, however. It is a personal choice and a big responsibility to be very smart, well trained, and uber careful as well as legal and permitted.

    Jimmy Carter had his famous encounter with a viscious rabbit here in North Georgia. πŸ˜‰ I have faced beavers, otters, and snakes on my Tailwater without an attack on me so far. I will give otters wide berth after your post. I do not intend to carry here. In AK and Montana I have been close enough to bears that bear spray and at times a shotgun in the hands of our guide made me feel better.

      • Don’t get all bent out of shape. Most females tend to lighter build, and that would make it pretty hard to stop a large determined opponent.

      • Personally I carry out on the water. Part is to deal with animals, as things like bear spray have been found to be decent at best. Especially if you have to shoot into the wind, often results in the person putting themselves out of the fight. The bears we have in most of the south are more then small enough to kill with a pistol. Especially considering the advances in bullet design in recent years, which in turn has made lighter rounds like the .380 and 9mm more efficient.

        The other reason would be the number of odd unusual characters that I have run across. There are a number of streams that I greatly enjoy fishing. Historically some of these areas have held large numbers of stills and similar operations which there are still some to be found. As such I prefer to carry and never need it then to need it but not have it.

  2. I carry sometimes when I’m going to be alone and on unfamiliar waters. We a lot of water in somewhat remote sections that can leave you glad you brought a flashlight, gps and a handgun.

    I haven’t had an old man in a pickup threaten me, but being on the shorter side and usually having what I’d consider expensive gear, am happy to have my gun.

    My dad always said, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. For me that includes money, an extra fly rod, and yes a gun.

  3. Just to add my dos pesos, I typically do not carry when I go fishing. I usually just have a neck knife tucked in a pocket on my chest pack in the event I need to cut through something on the fly. I’ve honestly never encountered a situation on the river where I’ve looked back and thought, “man I wish I was carrying”. That’s fortunate for me though I suppose. I’ve run into a few bears while out, but they’ve always hauled ass away from me like I had the plague, which is fine by me. I’ve had worse run-ins with turkeys. If I ever felt that I wouldn’t be safe on the water, and needed to carry for my own protection, then you can bet your ass I would.

  4. As a guide in an area with only black bear, I never carry while fishing. Just seems like more trouble and liability than it is really worth. However, After watching me find a loaded 9mm berretta in a ziploc baggie on the bottom of the Toccoa Tailrace a few months ago my 10yr old son said it best: “Why would anyone need a gun on the river? You don’t bring a gun and you go with strangers every day.”

  5. To carry , or not to carry , that is the question ? Thank God we live in a country where we are free to do as we choose !

  6. I would be very happy to go to my grave cussing myself for wasting the time and money to get a concealed carry license. I would be very unhappy cussing myself because I left it at home. The time that I grew up in, born 1962, was different than today. There have been things stolen off our trucks while hunting and fishing, unheard of not to long ago. The bad element is a lot more mobile than they were before. The internet is sometimes not such a wonderful thing, With a couple of clicks people can find out where the popular hunting and fishing areas are. To the “bad element” hunters = guns and disposable cash. Fisherman = $$ Fly fisherman = lots of money. It was in the 1980’s that there was two guys going out in Florida and killing people in remote areas that were shooting targets. Those two were later shot and killed in what became known as the FBI Miami shootout.

  7. All great points and food for thought for anyone considering taking a firearm with them when fishing. I do not carry a firearm when I fish saltwater, pretty useless unless it can be fired underwater. There are no threats if you stay in the boat, and not many pirates around anymore down here in S. Florida. I do however sometimes carry a firearm when I fish the Everglades. In that ecosystem there are some very dangerous animals that could cause serious injury or death. It all depends upon where specifically I fish in the Glades. Experience has taught me to maintain situational awareness and know when to back away from a situation. Most critters will stay away from a human, but there are always those who my not. I have had close encounters with very aggressive gators and snakes but never had to discharge my weapon. But I do have a level of felling secure knowing I do have a weapon in the event I need it. The Boa”s are getting pretty darn big and aggressive (fast on water or land) and I want to be able to walk away from an encounter with one of them. Great topic.

  8. I totally get your point. That hick would have freaked me out, too. But I generally think that having to carry a gun to feel save sort of disqualifies that fishing spot. For me it’s all about getting out of civilization where no cars, houses or gay hillbillies are. I often hike in for several days to get to the really secluded spots I like to fish and I usually never see anybody else there.

    Hiking in on foot usually means that you have to travel light and the average gun is just too heavy to bring along.

    A few years ago I started carrying a signal gun (one of those 12 gauge plastic ones). I think that could also buy one a few seconds if fired into the window of a trash filled pickup truck πŸ˜‰

  9. I fish in Grizz country almost everyday from April to November, and often carry two items of defense when in areas wildlife frequent; bear spray, for close encounters and oh shit moments, and a 40 cal side arm, for a longer range deterrent, or noise maker. I’m not sure if either will work and am not eager to find out. While it is the Bears and big cats that produce the fear it’s the moose that will kill you around here. Either way the best chance at staying alive and actually catching fish is to stay aware and keep your head on a swivel, even if it’s cold don’t sinch down those three hoods so tight that most of your senses and natural abilities are squandered. All my friends call me a pussy for even being worried about animals out here… But they’re f’n idiots

  10. Sadly the closet salt water fishing available for us in the Houston area is Galveston and I don’t know many that fish the area with out a pistol available. And don’t leave your vehicle unattended or you stand a very good chance of having it broken into. There are those that do nothing but cruise the beach or access points looking for vehicles to break into and if you are in the way, that can be a problem to.

    I don’t want to make it sound like it is only the Galveston area though. Up and down the Texas coast you take the risk of your property being stolen or damaged.

  11. I live in Kansas. Everyone around here has “a friend of a friend” or a “neighbor’s cousin” who dealt the Deliverance situation. Most involve running from meth heads in the woods or in a dark alley.
    Personally, the closest I have come to harm was at the “hands” of a skunk. Fishing was done for the day, and it was an afternoon perfect for nature photos. Immediately after scraping under a barb-wire fence, the little guy appears. I jumped up to run for it, but the monster was on me like Jason Bourne. He maneuvered through grass and brush like he was dust in the wind. Toughest run I’ve ever had in such heavy boots in thick grass. Would I ever carry?
    For the skunk… no. It’s his land. I trespassed.
    For the neighbors… yes. My behind is my property. Don’t trespass.

  12. I believe that if anyone feels the need to carry they have that right to. The recent trend of some folks ‘gun shaming’ those that do chose to carry is rather concerning to me.

    Up until recently my fishing adventures have been in very remote locations. Usually I brought along an old model 15 in 38spl. More than once it brought dinner to the pot. Never had to use it in anger. I have run into situations like Louis mentioned. The predators decided to find an easier mark. It is a tool, just like a leatherman, drift boat or spey rod. No more, no less.

      • Wow will cool heads prevail here… I carry most of the time even at home….I carry a tool box most of the time too…. even have one on the tractor and one in each vehicle..when I fish I have a tackle box or vest… why not have a protection tool box… never fired at anyone except a few rabbits and squirrels to eat…my job is not offensive… it’s defensive… in the military we were trained to be offensive… as a civilian… I needed training in defensive tactics…to break contact with the aggressor not necessarily to kill or incapacitate ..bottom line … it’s a tool….. you carry a jack and spare…when have you used it… again it’s a tool…as would be a stick, club or knife… ah knife… you carry one… I do… get asked constantly… why I carry a belt knife…..the obvious answer is to cut things…

  13. Louis, Jeff in Oregon here:

    I don’t often carry a gun fishing here in OR. However, if I am going way back in the boonies I normally do carry just to be prepared for the “unexpected.” I have a 6 shot Ruger 22 magnum that I normally load with bird shot to take care of the occasional snake that invades my space or some pesky varmint that won’t shoo away. It wouldn’t be lethal in dealing with your deliverance type fellow, but I bet it would give him proper encouragement to hit the road. Hope I never have to find out. πŸ™‚

  14. The only time I have ever had a gun pointed at me was when I was fishing. Long story short I ended up at a pond and some old boy didnt like that I was fishing in “his” pond. My wife and one of my closest friends were with me. If something had happened to them I would have never forgiven myself. From that point on I carried a handgun whenever I was out in the bush. And in the last few years have gotten a concealed permit and now I have a gun on me every single day. Chances are I will never have to use it and I hope I dont. The fact is you just cant trust people like you used to. A lot of people like to say “what are you afraid of?” When trying to bash ccw carriers. Well, thats what im afraid of, that guy, on that day. Just a normal simple day of fishing that could have changed my life forever or possibly ended it. I see carrying a gun as practical and prudent and it harms no one if done with proper safety practices and good intentions.

  15. I had a similar run in with a guy calling out from the woods for me to “come over here” while I was way back in the sticks. Turned out to be a bow hunter worried I was poaching deer from his property. If I was carrying I would talked it over with him, but I wasn’t, it was dark, so I split, you can read the whole story over here…

    Carrying on the water can give you some peace of mind, there’s a lot of crazies out there.

    Ralph A, we had a judge in our county get spooked and install a half inch thick steel plate under his bench for protection in the event things went south quickly. That way he could duck under the bench and be safe.

    • I completely understand and respect people’s reason for carrying on the river, but your story about the “come over here” guy is a prime reason I won’t. Reading the first part of your story put me on edge and I can’t imagine how anxious I would have been in that situation. Add in a weapon (especially on both sides) and a simple misunderstanding about property lines could have escalated into something really terrible.

      Congratulations on the “sunshine slam”.

      • Thanks Palmer. Yours is a good point and probably the main reason I’ve not made the leap myself even though I’ve thought about it a lot, and Ohio is an open carry state, so I don’t even need a CCW. I also have a soft spot in my heart for the 1911.

  16. I live and fish in the west. I have a C.C.W. permit and I carry almost all of the time. Fishing or grocery shopping. I totally agree that a gun is not the right answer for a bear. It was the right answer for my run in with a short tempered badger however. That was the one and only time that I really felt like I NEEDED my pistol. All of the other times, and there have been quite a few, it turned out to be nothing more than a security blanket for an unnerving situation. Usually with other people, rarely with wildlife.

  17. I cary with me almost everywhere I go. I have a nice little CCW that fits nicely in my front pocket of my fishpond Wasatch vest. There are just too many bad people in the woods these days. It seems most of those I worry about, especially here in Northern California, are somehow involved in drug growing and/or manufacturing. Having my CCW with me is a nice little piece of insurance.

  18. Living here in Mt you need (should) be prepared for almost anything especially driving in remote areas in regards to weather, accidents, or some crazy group running a meth camp. I agree carrying my 45 wouldn’t do very much to a charging grizzly such as where I fish sometimes near the Bob but a can of bear spray may help. However, with carrying a side arm with using good common sense and training and the ability to evade (if needed) I would feel better having my 45 on my side in meeting up with undesirable people wherever you find them especially when your alone or with your family.

  19. Down here in FL we don’t carry for bears. It i sharks and gators. I was wade fishing on St. George Island and casting for trout in this oyster slough and having good success. Standing in waste deep murky water, I look down and a 7′ bull shark is swimming by me close enough to pet. I didn’t. I guess all the splashing the trouts were making attracted him. I wouldn’t have shot him, I was just glad he wasn’t interested in me.

  20. I completely agree with Mr. Cahill. There is great fishing here in Florida but there are definitely places to be avoided unless armed. Snakes and various other forms of wildlife (humans included) are cause for vigilance at all times.

  21. I live in interior Alaksa. Bears can be a real threat some times. Bear spray is good and all however it will never take the place of 13 rounds in my 45. There are plenty of instances where people have stopped a bear with a side arm. Luckily for me I have never been put in a situation that I have ever had to use mine on a bear. But we have had an increased griz population in the Fairbanks area and someday I may have to although I hope not, I’m not going out with out it. The other thing is moose a cow with calfs can be way more of a problem than a bear. In Alaska its a pretty common practice to pack a gun while on the river

  22. Louis,

    Great post. I don’t own a fire arm, but I’m military trained to use one. When I lived in AK, I think the majority of anglers who carried one were more to scare off bears than to actually kill them. I always carried spray, but many of the grizzlies on the Russian River aren’t afraid of humans, no matter how much you yell at them. One time a bear moved to the board walk and was about to run down some anglers who were trying to keep their salmon. A gunshot is the only thing that stopped that bear in his tracks and made him run off into the forest. A few minutes earlier that bear was 25 feet from me and my finger was on the trigger about to pepper him…

    The problem with bear spray is this: what happens when you’ve shot your one shot?? Then you’d wish you had a pistol…or another can or two…

    If I had stayed up there, I would have likely bought a pistol. For that area, I think a pistol AND bear spray is the way to go. Cheers.

  23. Good post Louis. That ‘almost’ Deliverance story of yours is CREEPY!

    I live in a city with lots of gang activity and I have my 2-year-old with me most of the time I’m out and about, and I usually fish alone in town and in the mountains. I’d much rather have my gun and not need it than need it and not have it with me…

  24. You raise a fundamental question that I think few folks who carry firearms really consider: Are you prepared to kill someone?

    And let’s be clear, it goes down something like this: After making that decision to fire, you’ve put two bullets, center of mass, into the guy, he’s lying at your feet bleeding out, begging you to help him and you’re feeling like you’ve made the right call all things considered. It’s that shit that haunts you.

    Some people carry because they can but I don’t think they fully appreciate that question. For example, while most folks have thought about “The other guy has a gun/knife and is threatening me so I have to shoot him.” How about the “I’m in a fistfight with an unarmed guy and he could take my weapon.” Do you shoot him? Or the “In the dim light it looks like the guy across the river is threatening me with a shotgun.” Do you shoot him? Having a firearm opens up situations and reactions to situations that have some pretty serious implications.

    That said, I’ve been known to carry from time-to-time while on the water when I’m in places that sound a lot like your backwoods stream. As a former cop, I’ve wrestled with these questions and the implications and it’s one of the criteria I use when I chose to carry or not. And even after all that, you’re going to find yourself in situations where you don’t have a weapon and you wish you did. And more often than not, as you discovered, there’s another way out. Nobody had to die. And nobody had to live with it.

    • I think the first move should always be to warn if you start getting into a sticky situation. I have thought long and hard about whether I want to start carrying on unfamiliar or remote waters, and I think the answer will probably be a yes in the next few years for a couple of reasons. First, I typically don’t just have myself to look after. I generally fish with my fiancee and the last thing I want to do is end up being accosted by some crazy with nothing but my fisticuffs and a pair of hemostats to protect her.

      Second, I’ve heard some pretty rough stuff about what happens out in the wild. Granted, it’s rare, but as Louis’ story confirms, it can happy to the best of us when we least expect it. I haven’t had a run-in with anyone, but I’ve certainly been creeped out a time or two. I think the worst was one night up in TN, where the campsite was way back along a narrow dark road with a meth head looking house right across the street. Right when I pulled up — after dark — there was a somewhat sketchy looking individual rummaging around in the ditch on the side of the road a little ways away from the campsite. Not nefarious per se, but it was enough to give me the heebie jeebies right before bed.

      But I also mentioned warning. I read this story a year or two ago and this has been the primary driving force behind why I would want to carry a gun. I don’t ever, EVER plan on using one, but if I were to end up in a tight spot like this fellow did, I would like to be able to say I had a gun with me and be telling the derned truth. I just randomly ran across this post one day on the web, and although I am not 100% sure if it is true or not, it’s thoroughly creeped me out since. Here’s the story:

      This thread had a few comments that may be useful in this discussion as well:

      To me, the bottom line is that weird stuff happens in remote locations and I don’t want to be on the wrong end of an altercation without a little bit of firepower on my side.

      • Yup, I got it. It’s just that most folks don’t really think through what it means to carry a firearm for “personal protection”. It’s not to scare people, though it could, it’s not for comfort, though it certainly can comfort you, you have to be prepared to use the thing to kill another human being. It’s something our culture wires us not to do and you’ve got to be prepared to go against the wiring. I’ve done that math. You’ve done that math. Others who read this article and haven’t, should.

        I gotta tell you, you really want to scare someone carry a big ass knife. A big knife and a crazed look in your eye are gonna drive off all but the nastiest of vermin.

  25. While on a weekday outing I arrived at a favorite public river for a day of relaxing and fly fishing for smallmouth. As I walked in to the first fishing spot, I heard a pickup. It made a pass through the lot, paused for a minute or more near my truck, and slowly drove out over the highway bridge where he paused again…something I do myself when I want to see if anyone is fishing the near holes on the river. He slowly drove on out of sight. Didn’t think much of it after that. Later, I hopped in my truck and drove to another nearby spot and hit the water. Leaving the river a couple hours later, I arrived at the parking lot and noticed the guy had parked near my truck and was leaning against his. It was late, we were alone and we were well off the road and out of sight from anyone. As I got near my truck I had my keys ready and I spoke first asking “how you doin”. I don’t remember his reply, but his speech and mannerisms immediately made me wary. He eventually asked me if I had any water and started walking toward me. Not necessarily an odd question, but he knew I did…there was a case in the bed of my truck. I told him I did and offered him a bottle. I said there is plenty I n the back of the truck. Get what you need. Dressed in full wading gear all I really had to defend myself was a set of keys, which I had positioned purposely, and a fly rod. I kept as much space between us as possible and was prepared to key the guy and/or break that $400 rod and choke or stab the looney acting bastard…whichever opportunity best presented itself. I carefully selected things to take off and place in my truck and continued to talk to the guy…small talk…about the river, did he fish, etc. Still dressed in waders, I said my goodbyes and managed to get myself in a position leave without turning my back. He reluctantly started for his truck and I happily got in mine and drove away. He may have been some harmless, simpleminded guy or a true lunatic, fortunately I’ll never know, but I believe that projecting confidence and engaging him first and dictating the sequence of things helped me in ways I’ll never know.

  26. As a resident of Alaska I carry a hand gun every time i go to a stream/River to fish. While a hand gun may not “kill” a bear it will definitely scare them off under most circumstances. I have encountered numerous bears while fishing. It all about being smart and cautious. I also carry Bear spray.

  27. as a gal fisherman, I have been in a situation of having a car full of ? between me and my car and no one around to help. I always carry a 32 kel tec which fits perfectly in my waist pack. as they approached, I quickly retreated back into the stream and pulled out my phone and my gun. I don’t know what did the trick, phone or gun, but they turned around and left. as a female, I will always carry both. Now I think I’ll get some bear spray as well ! Thank you for the post.

  28. I’ve fished all over the country, Mex and Germany and Canada. Sadly the last few years have made me decide to either go with a friend or go armed. It’s not the weapon or the water but the ass holes that bring their racist , bullying and bigotry to the shore. Many MINORITIES live this way:(

  29. Excellent post, and might I add that I’m thoroughly glad this post has kept up with what its intention was; “to carry on the water or not.” Not a gun rights debate. That said, I do not usually carry on the water. I have been known to trek a few miles through dense forest to find a remote beaver pond or stream with the hopes of finding some untapped brook trout heaven. in these situations a sidearm is a tool. A signaling device, can be used to take small game for food, hell you can start a fire with the powder from the round! I’m stumbled upon my fair share of curious black bears. Most have turned the other way but a handgun would be comforting in these situations. Or just a round fired into the group to drive the bear off. I have been attacked by a beaver while fishing, When you have a 40lb beaver coming at you waist deep in water you usually end up with chocolate pudding in your waders. I’ve also had packs of coyotes stalk me on my way out of the woods in the dark. They never came closer than 15 yards but when a pack of 8-10 60lb coyotes are slinking around behind you for a good half mile…talk about unnerving. My point is, in the back woods a firearm is a tool and a very useful one when used properly. I would never consider a firearm an option in an altercation with another human unless it was life or death.

  30. With more than I’d like to admit, close calls with brown bears (they are NOT grizzlies in AK) I carry every-time we go fishing on the Kenai Peninsula. Both brown & black bears will go after any fish you have, and those spawned out on the banks. I personally had a brown bear sow and 2 cubs walk through the brush to the river, not 10 feet from me as I sat on the bank. She swung her head at me, and looked me in the eye. Luckily she was more interested in the fish an eagle was eating across the river, and charged that instead. Same bears, same trip: After eating that salmon the bears traveled up the river, mom in the river and cubs on the boardwalk. My husband was further up river, we had no form of contact and he walked down the boardwalk to meet me, with eyes across the river, looking for bears. He abruptly met the same cubs, with the end of his fly-rod, 6 feet in front of him were both cubs. The one he poked spooked the bear enough to have it rear up to just it’s hind feet. Luckily mom was in the river, making her way upstream and didn’t see the encounter. That was the trip that made us decide to be armed with more than pepper spray. I will never fish AK without a gun within easy reach.

  31. I can see both sides on this one. One one hand I think your feelings about not wanting to shoot anyone are correct. we all know that accidents can happen. I also can see the need to make sure you are protected from other “predators”. Definitely a tough topic to discuss.

  32. my wife and I both carry on trout streams. Folks there are a lot of characters out there that would never mess or say something to a man that they would say or attempt to say or do to a woman. I have had people attempt breakins in my truck, say the vilest things to my wife, but when you adjust the best so they see the gun they leave.

  33. Louis, thanks for putting this issue out front. Lots of thoughtful points and questions…says something about your audience. I like my Sig P238 w a laser pointer. That laser dot on the chest communicates a choice between life and death…for both parties.

  34. Sean from Colorado here. I carry a .45 pistol with me on occasion into some remote fishing spots where I know there is a lot of predatory activity. This spot is a through way for elk and mule deer and I know there is a lot of bear and mtn lion activity. I’ve gone into this fishing hole once without my gun and sure enough, fresh tracks in the snow that were from a mtn lion. After some deliberation, I decided to keep trecking down the path to this spot, and found a pretty fresh mule deer carcass on the trail. At that point I decided it wasn’t worth the effort and booked it back to my truck. I don’t necessarily worry about deliverance episodes in Colorado but there are definitely times in which I’m in the sticks and it warrants carrying a firearm.

    • I also live in Colorado, rarely do I go anywhere without my pistol, and fishing is no exception. I firmly believe that anyone who plans on carrying at all, should do so as much as possible, mainly because you never know what will happen, but also so you can become accustomed to the practice…Anyways, I started carrying while fishing when I would go out to fish around Denver for carp. There is a large population of homeless (typical drug/alcohol addicts) in the Denver area, and they have a tendency to shack up next the the river under the bridges and what not. Thankfully, I have never had to use my pistol while down there, but I have definitely gotten some looks from the homeless while I’m out. While very near downtown Denver, the river is also near high traffic roads. If anything happened, I doubt I could call for help. I carry open over my waders on my hip. Nobody looks twice. If anyone tried to wade out and mess with me, I would draw them down before they got halfway out.

  35. I never really carried much on waters around here until one trip I hiked in to a small local creek, saw the prints of a buddy from the day before at the trail head… after a few hours of fishing, hiking back out I looked again for his tracks finding them, as well as some very large cougar tracks on top of MINE from just hours before. I had no idea I was sharing that particular stretch with a large cat. I always carry now when going back. Most of my carry time is not on the water itself, but camp, or the trip to.

  36. Great Post!
    I live in the midwest. My state as very liberal gun regulations that being said if they are liberal for the “good” guys they are liberal for the rest of the population too. I have had run ins with beaver, coyotes, and otter but each time was able to keep enough distance between us to make it to my truck. Times have changed here as well as everywhere else, there are meth labs scattered all over the areas I fish and being that I live in the midwest the term “remote” does not carry the same meaning. Anywhere that is even a few 100 yards of the beaten path seems to be a “perfect” place for the local meth lab to set up. I have started to carry or fish with someone that does if I am in an area that is known for labs. I agree with most of what has been said and too don’t want to even find out if I can shoot another human being. Part of the reason I love to be on the river or in the woods is to escape the pressures of society for a few hours but given the environment today I want to make sure I get home to my wife and kids safe and sound. At the end of the day this discussion very important and I also think it is about how our society has lost it’s way and less about whether we carry or not.

  37. I fish the Deleware River at the City of Easton on the Pennsylvania side of the river. A firearm is a must. It seems that all the great spots to fish in this area have a great deal of homeless and drug addicts. Lots of drug paraphernalia can be seen along the bank. I refuse to let these problems keep me from the fish but safety first… I always wear my pistol in a shoulder holster under my waders. It hangs the pistol right at the top of the waders where I can get to it but it is still concealed.

  38. Been threatened with a gun twice (while wading in Arkansas) and actually shot at once (night fishing on Lake Lanier). Still don’t carry. Handguns escalate. As a lawyer I defend people who sometimes do incredibly stupid things over provocations as minimal as getting cut off in traffic. They can ruin their lives in a moment because they let the power to go to their heads.

  39. Don’t EVER get caught with your waders down. I do carry on occasion. I have a slow fuse but have a weak right and a weaker left, and if something happens, I want to be the one answering questions and being defended.

  40. I ran into an older gentleman on the river who packed 2 sidearms “Yosemite Sam” style every time he went out fishing. He was a bank fisherman and he told me that every once in a while, the drift boats fish through his water or try to low hole him. He said that the guides seemed to be pretty good about letting bank anglers have the water they were at, but rarely ever did the recreational drifters understand river etiquette. He told me that he has put more than a few holes through the side of a recreational aluminum drifter.

    Maybe a bit extreme, but understandable.

  41. I once got caught in the line of fire of a couple of kids floating down the Mckenzie river in Oregon in their daddy’s drift boat. I had heard them off in the distance and took their gun shots to be what I thought was fireworks as the fourth of July was approaching. I’ll never forget the sight of their boat rounding a corner on the opposite channel and the rising of that 12 gauge from the belly of their boat. Apparently they were out shooting shit cause just as quickly as they turned that corner they took aim on a pair of geese that was between me and them. Without any forethought they fired, quite comically missed the geese and fortunately missed me. The shot spray had splashed the water all around me and by the time I had realized what exactly had happened I was livid.

    Before then I had considered carrying a piece down to the water and I am glad that that day I didn’t. I can only imagine what would’ve transpired as a couple of apologetic teenagers had a barrage of bullets sent through the side of their boat. Yes, I’m happy to say that what could’ve been still remains a mystery and my hopes is that everyone involved learned something about gun play that day.

  42. As an ex Police Officer and now Guide in Florida, there are certainly pros/cons to carrying a weapon. Florida is filled with lots of older folk and many have conceal/carry permits. The stand your ground law here in Fl. is one of the ways to protect the elderly here, and there are other laws on the books here to do just that. I would say if you’re in a remote area, certainly think about carrying. By the same token also be able to use the gun you carry. You should only be willing to carry if you will be able mentally to take a life. Some people will never be able to make that decision and they should not carry. Also if you are the type of person who becomes enraged at the first sign of trouble I would not recommend to carry. Probably more females should carry then males, they’ll be more apt to be in a situation where they will need to use a gun. I have been in the remote areas of Central America and the Caribbean fly fishing and would felt much more at ease with a gun at my side. Certainly I always ask the guide if he’s carrying in these areas. I would always advise to talk to the guides in these areas if they have a plan if trouble comes. In conclusion, carry in remote areas esp. if you are capable, calm, and by all means think about an escape plan if trouble arises. It’s kinda in the nature of police, past and present to do that. The cemeteries are filled with people who made bad decisions, don’t be one of them.

  43. Jeff, I think it is OK if you are fishing in an area where wild life could be a danger. If warning shots do not scare it off you are defending yourself plain and simple. Nuf said. By the way Coke will not work. denny.

  44. I carry no matter where I go. Yes I am in Afghanistan now, so reason’s for carrying are obvious. But when I am home in Colorado, I sling the fly solo 95% of the time and that can mean encountering mountain lions or some other questionable “wildlife”. Bears I’m not too concerned about as they are more of a nuisance in CO. I do hike quite a ways into the backcountry to fish at times and you never know who or what you may encounter. For cats, I always wear a backpack that I can ditch quickly and carry my .45 in my waist pack or on my hip while hiking in. Yes, I have gotten some looks from hippies while on the trail, but such is the life of a meat eater. The river I normally fish is close enough to town to draw undesirables who might think to get into my business.
    Anyway, I carry what I am most comfortable with as I am a former cop, firearms instructor and Marine and know that things can go bad anytime anywhere, and as another poster stated, “better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”
    Can’t wait to get back and hit the water again!

    • Thank you for your service at home as a cop and abroad as a Marine. I would feel safer with you as a wingman astream and abroad. Hope you get back here and on the water soon.

  45. I’ve been carrying for 45 years-snakes. My fishing buddies are glad I do. I say this “If you have it, make DAMN sure you know how to use it”. TTFN Pete.

  46. Stupid me, thought I purchased my dream 110 acres. Bella Coola, B.C. Canada on the Bella Coola River. Purchased from my home in south central Louisiana without ever seeing it first. It’s 3,000 miles, of driving, to get there. It’s on a west coast inlet ferry service. Been there only three times, and last time there over three years ago. I have no idea if cabin is still there. Had it built, took three years, by two Nuxalk Indian friends I made, as long as they were being paid for something. Foolish me, I assumed I could get across the Glacier Fed river when ever I wanted. Other problem is the land, in the Great Bear Forest, is on the North Side of the river. All others, small businesses, and homes, on south side including Hwy 20 which dead ends there. Check out Heckman Pass also called Freedom Hwy. Much of it is dirt even over the mountians. I did make it while leaving cabin in my Old Town 17′ canoe. Then the 2nd year, another mistake, I had hauled a 14′ V-boat I purchased in Idaho so I didn’t have to haul it the whole 3,000 miles. Well some Nuxalk Indians, not my guys who got it back for me, had untied it to let it float down the river. All I ever saw was Nuxalks and they float down river and fish with nets. There is someone there who takes sight lookers down the river on float trips. Then next year, 3rd, I took my 14′ jon boat and 5 hp motor that had the gas tank on top of the motor. It’s hell just getting boat to river edge. There, alone again, 28 or more days. One day it started raining, can only guess 3″ or so inches, and for three days and nights, there was the biggest trees, and smaller, trees even with whole roots attached at the trees bottom going down the Bella Coola River. Trees certainly larger around the 18 wheeler wheels. Then the river was rising as I was there. Not long after the trees stopped running down the river, I got out in my 14′ boat. Not much later than that, the river was too high and fast to deal with it. It’s not against the law there, but you never see any power boats on the river. That’s why the Indians were mad at me. And again all I saw, except I think I did see one tourist boat floating down river.

    You can not take a pistol into Canada. I did take a H&H .375 Mag, and shotgun Mossberg pump that holds ten 3″ slugs. Also had bear spray with is better. It was too dangerous for me to be there alone, and I wised up to that.

  47. I am not one to push my beliefs on anyone. If one doesn’t want to carry one simply doesn’t carry. But for me there is no other option. It is a crazy and sometimes dangerous world out there. Many times I fish alone and have run into characters who have caused me concern. I was threatened with a shotgun on one occasion by a guy who thought he held the deed to a particular creek. It was an opening day of stock trout season and he hadn’t poached his personal limit yet.
    As for making peace with the decision that I may, God forbid, have to take a life, I have a wife and 3 beautiful girls that I want to come home to. And they want me to come home safe and sound. While I would prefer to use what wits I have to get out of a threatening situation, I will take whatever steps are necessary to get out alive. I feel that if someone else makes the decision to cheapen the value of human life he has made the choice to devalue his own life first. Therefore he is the one who is responsible for the taking of his own life. You can agree or not, your choice. But for me the choice is clear.

    • With you brother….I was being harrassed one day fishing outta my canoe..Comments like “well that man has half a boat” and others I ignored…..As they cruised by…I ignore idiocy…..Came back to the launch several hours later, and the same yahoos were loading up…They started running their mouths again..This time they were too close…..I pulled my pistol out and laid it on the prow of the canoe as I approached the ramp…They suddenly became really intent on getting their stuff loaded and getting the hell off the ramp. Lotta bullies, wackos and very sick people out there. To paraphrase my old DI…If the bad guys get close enough for you to see the whites of their eyes and they want to harm you….They are too close. Do not let them get that close. Take care of yourself. Someone else depends on you.

  48. I hunt, I fish, I own firearms. I’ve never carried while fishing or traveling (unless I’m going to hunt while there).

    I think the primary reason I don’t is that when you carry, every out of the ordinary event has the potential to escalate to a gun fight — quickly.

    I think any industrious individual would use the best tool at hand to resolve a situation. If you carry and run into a scary beast (be it snake, bear or bold chattering squirrel), your instinct is to grab the tool that resolve the situation quickly — and you, in that moment, would be less likely to reach for other tools.

    I think in the case of the dick sucking hillbilly you have to ask yourself, “how would the situation have changed if you had been carrying at that moment?”

    Mexican standoff? Dangerous shootout?

    With the angry otter, obviously you weren’t going to shoot it while it was gnawing on your foot? Would shooting it after the fact done anything to change the outcome?

    In the past 25-years of hunting and fishing I’ve run the gamut of unnerving events in the outdoors. From fishing in urban areas to hunting the back woods, I’ve been chased of water by angry beavers and dealt with multiple drunks. In all of those situations, avoidance, quick thinking and my cell phone have resolved those situations.

    I just have no desire to be in a gun fight. Carrying escalates that potential exponentially. To each their own though.

    ~ Z

  49. Thanks for starting this conversation. I’ve wondered recently how many fishers are carrying and what solution they’ve found to keep their handgun dry as well as available for the time when you really need it. I’m glad to find out that at least one vendor is considering this need with a sling pack but I would also like to see this feature in the smaller chest packs as they are smaller and more easily available to your hands when needed. They are also more likely to be higher out of the water while wading.

    Does anyone know of any other possible good packs that make a space available for a handgun and possibly even keep it as dry as possible?

  50. Just to enlighten you a bit Louis concerning side arms and bears. Sidearms are perfectly capable of dispatching a bear provided one is prepared. Prepared in this case refers to having a sidearm that’s up to the task, which translates to a 44mag or (preferably) larger caliber loaded with hardcast lead bullets for maximum penetration. This combined with enough practice to be comfortable with handling your weapon. Of course this is all relative to “where” you’ll be fishing.
    Bear spray ? Yes, also a good alternative.
    I personally carry all the time. I live in a populated area where some of the 2 leggeds are worse than some of the 4 leggeds and as you found out personally, the bad guys are where you find them, and no, I don’t “want” to shoot anyone either.

  51. Another Alaskan here. I fish the Kenai River a lot and see lots of bears; mostly browns along with a few blacks. From the reports I’ve seen on bear spray, it seems to work well on brown/grizzly bears and less so on blacks. Personally, I have little faith in spray – which way is the wind blowing, how strong is it, will I need more than 1 shot ( a real concern with a sow with a couple of 2 1/2 year old cubs in tow)? My 44 doesn’t care about the wind and I have 5 shots. However the real reason I carry is that it makes me FEEL more secure. We all know that if you act like a bad ass (and can carry it off) you’re less apt to attract attention when in the “bad part of town”. I believe the same is true when dealing with wild animals. They can sense that you aren’t afraid and be less apt to screw with you. By the way, the gun isn’t hidden in a pocket or pack – what good would that do if you need it?

  52. Before walking from the truck to the water with the fly rod, I put my “bad ass bear” belt under my overshirt atop my trouser belt. On the “bad ass bear” belt is a 10 oz can of bear pepper spray and a .40 caliber, 14 shot semi-automatic with an extra magazine. If I see a bear, I will give a courtesy yell or two of “Hey Bear, Go Away” but if the bear does not leave, I will give it a courtesy shot of pepper spray with my left hand while drawing my weapon with my right hand . If the bear doesn’t backoff after a dose of pepper spray, then, I extend no more courtesy. I will flash sight 14 rounds of .40 caliber, 180 grain, full metal jackets into the bear’s vital areas rather than risk becomng an ursine meal for a “bad ass bear.” I love bears but not enough to donate my body to them.

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