Editor’s Log: Lectured On Etiquette - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: Lectured On Etiquette

I started fishing the Canal in 1997 at the age of 17 and by the time I was 23, I rarely missed a breaking tide; this devotion to the amazing fishing in the Canal lasted until I was 37 years old (2017) when terrible crowding and a new lack of consideration for fellow anglers soured it for me. I’ve written a lot about angler etiquette and, don’t worry, this editorial isn’t going to be another one.

I have been making more regular trips to the Canal this summer, I’m not sure if I could pinpoint what changed in my mind, but it might have something to do with all the big fish that have been surging through the Ditch on seemingly every moon tide. It may also be something as simple as enough time passing to allow me to forget some of the reasons I took a break in the first place.

One early morning this week, I went to the Canal again; it was an off tide, and it took me a while to find the fish, but when I did, the bite quickly exploded into an all-out blitz of 15- to 30-pound stripers with one that went 34 pounds. At some point during this melee, another angler rode up and quickly descended the bank, setting up maybe 50 feet away. I decided not to let it bother me and continued casting. I was throwing a bright green NLBN 5-inch paddletail on a 1-ounce head and ripping it back in, the fish were all over it. When my new neighbor didn’t hook up on his first five casts, he called over, “What are you using” and I told him. He proceeded to start hooking up, got a little over-excited, high-sticked a fish and broke his rod. His backup rod was ill-suited for the strength of the tide and his subsequent hookups were shutting me down for two to three minutes at a time while he fought the fish on beach gear. It really didn’t bother me.

Fast-forward to yesterday; I went back and found the fish again but a tight crowd was on them, so I moved down-tide until I found a suitable opening and began fishing. The bass had the macs pinned in the tide and they stayed in one place for over an hour until boats broke them up. I hopped on my bike and rode until I found another opening, lo and behold, it was right next to the same guy! So I took a position that was closer than I would normally take but was no smaller than the one he took on the previous morning. “Seven miles of Canal” he quipped as I walked down with a pod of fish regrouping in front of us. I just laughed it off and kept my casts short so as not to upset the apple cart.

Everyone caught fish and when things calmed down, I walked over and said, “Hey, I’m sorry if you felt like I came in too close, but as you can see I know how to fish in a crowd.” He kept it civil but proceeded to lecture me on how to fish with etiquette in the Canal. I couldn’t take it, I looked at him and said, “You don’t remember me, do you?” He looked blankly into my sunglasses. “You did the exact same thing to me just the other day.”

“Not me,” he said.

So I went through the entire rundown of what happened, complete with the broken rod. I think he swallowed his tongue. I wrapped up by saying, “Listen, you seem like a nice guy, I’m a nice guy, let’s just let it be what it is. If you see me again, just say hello and if there’s space next to me, feel free to take it.” I rode away satisfied, but the satisfaction was short-lived. I had broken a personal rule, I typically will never take a position less than 100 feet from my neighbor unless invited. I had given in to the old saying ‘turnabout is fair play’ instead of holding myself to higher standard and keeping that standard above getting in on the blitz.

Back on the road, I met up with my friends Mario and Mike and we rode way past the tangle of arms, legs, lines and rods. The tide had slowed to the point that the fish were pushing the bait against the current. We descended the bank with no one fishing for 200 yards in either direction. And the fish exploded right there in front of us. I wouldn’t call this karma, but I would call it an affirmation and that was all I needed to put me back on the narrow path of fishing etiquette.

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