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Keeping the Bugs at Bay

Suit up right and enjoy bug-free fishing.

Beat it, skeeter! Treated clothing such as Insect Shield and various sprays and emitters, below, should get the message across.

Working a shoreline in the early hours or pushing deep into the backcountry? Instead of practicing your karate skills on bugs, prep yourself and save that energy for the dojo.

Bugs can be obnoxious, but the main reasons to protect yourself are the insect-borne illnesses that mosquitoes, ticks and others can carry. In Florida, mosquitoes have been known to carry malaria, West Nile virus, yellow fever virus, Zika virus and more, according to the Florida Department of Health. Ticks can carry a handful of illnesses also, such as Lyme disease and African tick bite fever from the six species found in Florida.

I’m one to avoid topical applications when I can. I don’t care for the oily feeling. I find that even the “non-greasy” applications leave some type of residue. There are options.

Permethrin is an odorless and invisible repellent originally developed for the Army. It repels over 50 different species of insects, including mosquitoes and nosee-ums. It’s a synthetic version of pyrethrin, which comes from the chrysanthemum. It is does not work on the skin, instead on your clothing. A couple of companies offer permethrin to the public.

Insect Shield ( is a company that binds a permethrin blend to the fibers of your clothing. You just wear it and go. Permethrin stays bonded to the item for 70 washes. Some companies have incorporated Insect Shield into their product lines. Simms offers “Bugstopper” garments and ExOfficio offers the “BugsAway” line. But if you have that favorite fishing shirt that you’d like to have Insect Shield applied to, you can send it to them for a nominal fee.

insect repellent spray

Other companies, such as Sawyer, offer an over-the-counter, spray-on permethrin. You apply repellent to the item—following instructions—let it air dry, and it is ready for use. This can application can last for six wash cycles.

Although not harmful to humans, permethrin, in its liquid form, can be harmful to fish. So, do not apply directly in the washing machine, or dump excess down the sink or in the water.

I tested both of these on a camping trip in Little Big Econ State Forest. I had an Insect Shield shirt on, and light fishing pants with Sawyer’s applied to them. Dusk closed in and I kept a close eye on three buddies who joined me as they began their “karate lesson.” As we welcomed the night, we prepped dinner and got the campfire going. I had only felt two mosquitoes land on my hand; that was it! Not even a no seeum! I thought it may have been a fluke but then a buddy blurted, “Dude, I just got swarmed by bugs when I walked down to the boat!”

The other thing that I have found great is a Thermacell. This small device runs on butane and has small disposable mats that last four hours and once heated, disperse a repellent giving a 15-foot radius of bug protection. I often use this when hanging around a campsite or somewhere I know I will be stationary for a while. FS

Published Florida Sportsman Magazine May 2019

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