I’m not sure if it’s the contentious political climate that leaves no room for compromise and seems to have spread to many aspects of our daily lives, or is the lack of courtesy by some anglers simply human nature compounded by the effects of the pandemic? In fairness, I have heard the same complaints and received requests from readers to address the subject most of my years at the helm of the Fisherman, but this season the complaints seem louder and more frequent. This could also be the result of many more people fishing, and many of them being new to the fishing game. This is a direct result of the impacts Covid-19 has had on our daily lives. This influx of new anglers has been a boon to the recreational fishing industry, with many tackle shop owners reporting their best year in a long time, but many of these newbies are not well versed in angling ethics.
There is also a segment of experienced anglers out there that could use a brushing up of some of the do’s and don’ts associated with fishing, whether it be in the surf or in a boat. Mostly it comes down to common courtesy and being respectful of other anglers. It is very easy for some folks to get overly excited when the fishing heats up, especially if they are not accustomed to the sight of fish boiling on the surface or people hooking up all around them.
You would think it is common sense not to run your boat through a school of stripers feeding on the surface under a cloud of screaming birds, but I’ve already witnessed boats racing into the middle of a feeding school of bass several times this fall. Not only will you drive the fish down, but you are depriving other more cautious boatmen of further action. I’ve also seen boats when making a move, go racing through a cluster of boats in tight quarters. Instead, ease out of the fleet before leaning on the throttle. Also, when making repeated drifts over a productive area, give that area a wide berth when going back for another drift instead of running over the fish. You will catch more fish, and you will earn the respect of those in other boats working over the same school of fish.
Some surf fishermen, novice and veteran alike, seem to lose all sense of what they are doing when stripers are blitzing in the wash. Sometimes it takes far less than a blitz to solicit bad behavior. Hooking just one fish when things are slow is sometimes enough motivation for another angler to jump into your waders, disregarding any notion of personal space. Always try to give other other casters a reasonable amount of space whenever possible, and if one angler is outfishing everyone else on the beach, there’s a good chance the reason is not where he is standing, but that he is doing something right. If space is at a premium, good manners can go a long way towards keeping everyone smiling. Simply asking if they mind if you step in is all it takes to keep the peace. If you get a grouchy response, you probably don’t want to fish next to that person anyway.
Something else I’ve witnessed a number of times this fall is someone stepping out of a lineup to unhook a fish, change a lure or take a photo, and an overly eager angler jumps into their spot before their boot prints have been washed away. Make sure that person is done fishing before taking their spot.
Many of us seem to be wound a little tighter this fall due to the effects of the pandemic. Let’s take a deep breath and remember to practice a little common courtesy toward each other as the fall fishing continues to heat up.