Sun Protection on the Water: Head to Toe

I was recently at a business luncheon and my friend mentioned to me that for 60 years old my skin looks great and no sun damage. She knows I spend a lot of time on the water and wanted to know how I do it. Hence this blog:

SPF cream

There is so much info and misinformation about sun screen, go with at least a 50 SPF and apply liberally and often and make sure it’s sport and water rated.

Pro tip: get back of ears, neck, nose and under your chin. Sun reflects off the water and will get these under the hat areas!


A wide brim hat offers the best protection and I always bring one as well as a ball cap. I do have my favorite fishing hats and rotate them when out often (blog post). But always have a hat that provides cover for head, neck and face

complete package: hat, fishing gloves, sunglasses and buff (around neck)


Invest in polarized sunglasses to not only protect your eyes from UV rays, but also to help see through the water to target fish, or sight fishing. Wrap arounds are better, but polarized is a must. I have several prescription polarized sunglasses in different lens color for different water and sky conditions (a future post for sure)


A buff provides great sun protection for the head, ears, neck and face and depending how you wear it even your nose. You will see all professional guides with a buff for a reason. They keep the sun off your face.

Pants vs. shorts (or both)

Living and fishing mostly in the subtropics I use zippy pants or convertible pants. They are regular cargo pants but the legs zip-off and turn into shorts. These are great as they offer sun protection but also the convenience of shorts when it gets too hot (don’t forget to put sun screen on those legs).


Long sleeve open air caster fishing shirts with roll up sleeves with button tabs to convert to short sleeve and a back vent for air are my go-to shirt.

There are many brands from Orvis to PFG to Colombia. Most also are SPF rated. These are quick drying light weight tech fabric designed for fishing in the salt and the sun. I use them for two seasons then replace because they do lose efficacy over time and wash cycles.

Fishing gloves

Yup, I wear fishing gloves even in the summer and in the tropics, especially during the summer. These gloves are fingerless (cut off about mid way) so you can tie knots, cast, etc., and have special grips to safely handle fish. The gloves are rated at or above 40 SPF and protect your hands and wrist from sun damage.

Proper footwear

If you prefer to fish in flip flops or barefoot (not recommended with sharp hooks and toothy fish), at least use sunscreen on the tops of your feet.

For everyone else, good footwear is a best practice for fishing and provides you with comfort, movability as well as sun and water protection. Depending on the time of the year and the type of fishing I will wear anything from deck shoes / boots to water shoes designed for boating and fishing. they can take the saltwater abuse.

Finally, I typically won’t shave for a couple of days prior to fishing so the stubble provides extra protection to my skin, but I do it more for the “salty look”.

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