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Protect your anglers from the sun’s harmful rays

While it is true that fishing will remain productive for another week or two here in the Youngstown-Warren area, the truth is most of us are turning our attention elsewhere as the nasty weather days outnumber the good ones.

With Black Friday just behind us and the Ohio State Buckeyes suiting up for today’s game against TTUN, the holidays and football are getting more of our attention than the crappies at Mosquito and the walleyes in Lake Erie.

So as our Christmas spirit grows with the season, families and friends are starting to think about the anglers on their shopping lists.

My advice is to forget about buying fishing stuff for your angling loved-ones. Chances are pretty good you will guess wrong anyway, considering most fishermen and women are pretty persnickety about their rods, reels and lures.

Instead, do them a favor and gift them with protection from the sun that beats down on them as they spend hours, days and weeks on the water.

The sun is essential for life on our planet, and it sure is nice when it’s warming our shoulders and firing up the fish, but it is our skin’s enemy. All of us can benefit by exercising caution in avoiding too much exposure to the sun’s rays.

In days gone by, I thought it was funny to look in the mirror after a day on the lake and see my raccoon eyes. The cherry red skin produced around the outline of my sunglasses seemed a small price to pay for fun on the water.

The sunburn faded after a few days and I thought nothing much about the future beyond when I might next go fishing. But the overhead sun and the equally as powerful reflected light off the water were doing a lot of damage.

First I started to notice an itchy rash of blisters on my arms and the backs of my hands a day or two after a sunburn. After a week of discomfort, the rash would disappear, so I dismissed it as anything too worrisome.

Then the dermatologist started freezing spots on my hands and face. Actinic keratosis, as they are called, are rough patches that develop on the face, neck and hands after years of sun exposure and which can morph into skin cancer. A stinging squirt of liquid nitrogen “burns” them into oblivion. Or in my case, more than a dozen squirts during each visit.

Finally, the doc found reason to carve a few of the spots that had managed to grow into basal cell carcinomas. Yes, they are manageable if caught early, but I’d rather not mess with them.

Minimizing exposure to infrared radiation from the sun can go a long way in keeping skin looking young and cancer free.

I wear a hat and quality polarized sunglasses when I’m out on the lake and any other time I’m spending more than a minute or two outdoors. But that’s hardly enough.

I also wear fingerless sun gloves to protect the backs of my hands while casting and cranking. I wear a long-sleeve shirt. The modern knit fabrics are great for wicking moisture to keep the skin cool in addition to providing SPF 30 protection.

Any skin that is going to be getting sun receives a good rub of zinc oxide-based sunscreen. I apply Blue Lizard SPF 30 and can vouch for its effectiveness.

Finally, even though Barb says I look like a burglar when I’m wearing it, I cover up my face and ears with a face buff. Like the long-sleeve shirt, the buff actually keeps the skin cooler than it would be if the sun were beating directly on it.

The good thing about all the shirts, buffs, gloves and sunscreens is they are perfect stocking stuffers — and they all will contribute to fewer doctor visits for the anglers on your Christmas list.

Jack Wollitz is a writer and angler whose skin has endured tens of thousands of hours of solar bombardment and today he wishes he’d been a bit more careful about sunburns. He also likes emails from readers. Send a note to Jack at .

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