Fish on! Protective lenses help you keep your eyes on the prize this summer | Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

Fish on! Protective lenses help you keep your eyes on the prize this summer

July 1, 2021

Summer in Alaska, means making the most of time spent outdoors, especially fishing and soaking up as much of the midnight sun as we can. While enjoying the outdoors, wearing proper eyewear can help reduce the risk of suffering an eye injury.

The majority of freshwater and saltwater fishing-related eye injuries seen at ANMC are preventable with ballistic protective lenses, which are designed to protect your eyes from small projectiles and fragments. Our ophthalmologists recommend protective glasses be used at all times when fishing or even when near people who are fishing.

The peak of serious eye injuries occur midsummer, when subsistence and sports activities result in a variety of injuries – including the devastating injury of a fishhook in the eye. Many fishing-related eye injuries result in profound vision loss or even loss of the eye. Prevention of injuries, not repair, is key.

Most fishing-related eye injuries are caused by fishhooks, sinkers and rod tips. Severe freshwater hook and weight injuries often result from the same mechanism. When a hook or sinker from a fishing line is snagged on a rock or a fish and suddenly pulled free, a violent whiplash action is created, which can launch projectiles into your or a nearby fisherman’s eye. Even a bead or small hook on a light fly rod may cause an eye injury. This problem is exacerbated along popular fishing spots like the Kenai and Russian Rivers, where sport fishermen can stand shoulder-to-shoulder during fish runs.

Saltwater injuries frequently occur when hoisting a fish out of the water and into a boat with the hook attached to the fish. The hook may come out of the fish’s mouth and catapult back into the face or eye. Gaffs used to impale and land halibut or other large fish thrashing at the boat side may also pop loose from the fish and be propelled into the eye of a bystander.

“While taking part in fun summer activities, like fishing, it can be easy to skip things like proper protective lenses,” said Dr. David Chamberlain, ANMC Ophthalmologist. “But I urge you to take the time to don appropriate eyewear for yourself and any children participating, so everyone’s eyes are protected and you can keep fishing for many years to come.”

Protective lenses are easy to find – nonprescription wraparound protective polycarbonate lenses are available at supermarkets, hardware and sporting goods dealers around Alaska. For sportsmen who normally wear prescription lenses, polycarbonate prescription glasses are also available from optometrists. As an alternative, safety glasses may be worn over regular spectacles. Stiff-billed ball caps or other large brim hats can provide added protection.

We urge our fishermen and fisherwomen to always use protective lenses while fishing. Parents can also keep their families safe by reminding children to use the proper eye protection when fishing. This will help ensure that your memories of summer fishing will be about fishing, and not about a preventable accident.

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