Mar 11, 2019

Take ‘Yourself’ Fishing

Quick tips to improve your body’s health and posture for the coming open water season

By Mike Justman, DPT, CMTPT

The ground will start to thaw, ice will begin to melt, and it will be time once again to change all of our equipment for the year’s open water adventures. Whether it’s trolling Lake Michigan’s harbors, drifting the Wolf River, walking the inland tributaries, or kayaking across the lake Up North, it is okay to think about yourself.

Now when I say, “think about yourself,” I’m not suggesting you keep all the secret fishing spots to yourself or be the arrogant outdoorsman who thinks they own certain areas of open water throughout Wisconsin. Rather, I want you to think about your body’s position, your body’s movement, and equipment for your body’s health as we prepare for open water adventures in 2019.

Good posture important

First, let’s talk about your body’s position. As a physical therapist, I’m evaluating an individual’s postural position on a daily basis. Your mother’s nagging when you were young telling you to “stand up straight” actually had a lot of worth. Slouching and maintaining bent forward positions can create a lot of avoidable pain. Steering the boat, stationary bait casting, and various paddling methods are a few examples where sitting and standing up straight are completely applicable.

If possible, I like it when people change positions quite frequently. When fishing with multiple people you can frequently switch the day’s tasks that may require various prolonged positions. These may include who is in the driver’s seat versus watching the troll lines, who is in back of the canoe versus the front, or even changing the style or method of fishing such as anchored versus drifting. Thinking of your body’s position in these instances should help avoid unwanted pain.

Next, keep in mind your body’s mechanics during your required movements of activity. Proper lifting mechanics apply to a lot of water activities. We want a wide base of support. Bend with your legs and not your back, avoid twisting and rotational motions, and keep the lifted weight as close to your body as possible. Applicable tasks include netting the big fish, raising or lowering the anchor, lifting a fish-filled cooler, or portaging a canoe. With all of these lifting activities – as I always tell my father – don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Avoiding repetitive movement also can prevent unwanted pain during your open water outings. This can include changing your fishing style and bait presentation, jigging versus casting versus trolling, or switching your stroke on a paddle board. Changing your presentation may not only help you catch more fish or paddle more efficiently, but also save some undue repetitive stress on your arms with the pain that follows.

Top of mind fall prevention

Finally, I want to touch on various equipment and devices to keep you as pain free as possible.

Footwear is a huge industry that applies to many activities and functions. Water obviously creates slippery surfaces and having appropriate foot grip can prevent a lot of falls and injuries. Attention to algae covered rocks in the trout stream, weed infested boat launch ramps, or the glazed boat deck are all scenarios where proper footwear can save you from that broken bone or backache.

Correlating with fall prevention, organizing equipment in the boat or storage areas can also get rid of hazardous fall creators. No-slip grip strips can be used on boat decks or trailer running boards for fall prevention. Other equipment for reducing your body effort and stress include electric wenches for anchors or when loading your boat or dolly, or using wheeled transportation devices for moving kayaks and canoes rather than the manual carrying method.

With all of these ideas, it is okay to initially think of yourself. If you and your body are not healthy, none of these open water activities will be enjoyable or even possible with your friends and family.

A few preparatory thoughts for yourself can go a long way in preventing pain. Good luck and enjoy this coming year’s open water adventures. Remember, it’s okay to “think about yourself” sometimes!


Mike Justman is a physical therapist at Orthopedic & Spine Therapy, with 16 clinics across Wisconsin. Justman can be found at the Clintonville location. He enjoys restoring a patient back to an active and pain-free lifestyle, and looks forward to making long lasting friendships with his patients. If you have any questions for Mike on these topics, email him at MJustman@ostpt.comor visit the website at