The other morning I put my daughter on the bus and headed to one of the most popular albie jetties in New England. I was late to the party, so the highly-desirable tip was over-attended and, as far as my personal ethics were concerned, off limits. I took up a position “comfortably close” to the coveted tip and began the usual routine of the shore-bound albie hunter.
The 90-minute stay turned out to be an amazing, yet frustrating, experience. The albie schools were pushing in really close to the jetty, and a few of the schools were large and thick, probably made up of over 100 fish. But the hysteria of mob mentality was making it nearly impossible for anyone to hook up.
The first big blitz exploded right in front of me, frantic albies airing out all around me. My line was already in the water and charging toward to the fray when my line began to veer to the right – a caster three people over from me had hooked my line and now we were both out of the game. I was able to jostle the lines apart without anyone having to reel all the way in. One angler hooked up but the fish were gone; if everyone had worked together I’d bet that three or more guys would have gone tight. The next school came from the other direction. This time four guys from my right ran past me to the left and one of them – again – hooked my line, letting out a guttural “C’mon!” in protest. I held my tongue. Not a single person hooked a fish in that blitz.
This scene played out over and over, between the 20 anglers vying for the fish making end-runs around the jetty. Some were lucky enough to hook up in spite of the Armageddon of lines weaving new unnamed polygons across each frantic blitz. But many others reeled up impossible tangles of other people’s lines and lures, fouling their hopeful attempts at hooking up.
I was flabbergasted. I just don’t understand this practice. I can’t wrap my mind around the idea that it’s better to fire casts over a dozen lines and hope for a Hail Mary hookup than it is to stay in your lane and wait for the fish to come to you. I also really have a hard time with the idea that so many casters think this is okay! I get that everyone wants to catch fish but it’s counterproductive for everyone involved to ignore the fact that every lure in the water is being towed along by a piece of string and the laws of physics dictate that you can’t magically pass through them.
These situations used to be governed by a set of unwritten rules and if you didn’t follow them, you were likely to find yourself nose-to-nose with someone who was going to make sure you remembered your manners. The unwritten laws that concern albie-chasers would dictate, first and foremost, that you observe your closest neighbors and get a sense for where they are usually casting, and you don’t cast into that zone unless he’s changing lures or landing/releasing a fish. And conversely he doesn’t cast into your zone. Of course, there’s some gray area in between but if you’re going to fish on the fringe of your respective ‘territories’, then you have to be extra alert and making every attempt to work together with those on your immediate right and left.
The other big and important rule is that, if someone is hooked up and the fish runs across your slice of water, you do not, under any circumstances, cast over that line; the only exceptions are if someone is taking way too long thanks to their being outmatched due to outmatched gear or when the angler gives you the “you’re good” granting permission to cast.
I kind of feel like this editorial is akin to screaming into a black hole, because those that agree with me, already do these things and those that don’t probably never will. But there are big benefits to fishing with courtesy that reach over and above the better fishing results. Working together sets a greater example for the other anglers getting in on the bite and, on those rare occasions when everyone buys in, the fishing takes on the feeling of a team sport with high-fives flying, camera flashes bursting and everyone leaving with a feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction.
I hope that someday we’ll see the return of jettiquette, this selfish ‘me first’ mindset really takes something away from the experience of fishing in a crowd.