Fishing and boating immediately below any dam may be dangerous and should be avoided due to the many hazards that are present. Large volumes of water can be discharged within a matter of seconds through hydroelectric dams due to the demand for electricity or for flood control. Many upstream and downstream areas around dams are designated as restricted areas, and boaters should refrain from entering those areas. In specifically marked areas around dams, personal flotation devices (PFDs) must be worn and should be buckled properly. Hydroelectric dams may sound a siren and/or strobe lights warning people in the area that the water conditions are about to change drastically, and boaters should leave the area.
Cold water released through tributary dams also may be a hazard, even during the summer. Cold-water temperatures (below 77°F) can cause cold shock and short-term swim failure, or what is commonly called cold water immersion.
- Take special precautions when fishing below a dam by boat. Water can boil up suddenly, trapping or capsizing unprepared boaters. Always wear and buckle a PFD and leave the motor running, even if drift fishing.
- Never anchor your boat in the area below a dam. Never anchor your boat from the stern. A sudden surge of water can pull a boat under and sink it before you have a chance to pull up the anchor and move to safety.
- If a siren sounds or strobe lights flash, immediately move to a safer area.