SMITH COUNTY, Texas — Now that summer is here, more people are cooling off by the rivers and lakes.
"The lakes are especially packed right now," Todd Long, Texas game warden serving the Gregg County area, said. "Not only is it summer time, the kids are out of school, but we have the added crowds from the COVID-19 pandemic."
Game Warden Long recommends boaters and swimmers conduct a checklist before hitting the water.
"First and foremost wear a life jacket, slow down, use common sense, common courtesy," Long said.
Here are a few other safety tips provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Texas Department of State Health Services:
- Supervision - Avoid distractions while watching the water.
- Buddy System - Swim with a buddy.
- Avoid Alcohol
- Learn to Swim
- Wear A Life Jacket
If you're boating on the lakes use caution for what may hidden underwater.
"It could be a trotline that's not visible from the boat but down under the water, under piers, under boat houses, things like that," Long said. "There's all sorts of things that could become a danger to swimmers, to boaters, to skiers, etc."
Game Warden Long also recommends boaters take a boat education course.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1993 who operates certain vessels on public waterways (lakes or rivers) must take a course.
Boating courses are taught by US Coast Guard Auxiliary, US Power Squadron and trained volunteer instructors, as well as teachers and game wardens.
Boater education courses are taught online or in-person.
The next boater education course in East Texas is taking place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 11 at Dean Outdoor Education in Rusk.
For online class or for more information, you may visit the TPW's website.