Fishing is ripe with its own set of unwritten rules. There is a code of conduct that is well entrenched in the minds of veteran surf and boat anglers who frown on those who display callous disregard for lessons taught and shared by a generation of anglers who came before us. Somewhere along the line, this “code of conduct” seems to have lost its way. At least part of the blame rests with the ease with which newcomers can enter the fishing game. There was a time, unless you were totally committed and dedicated to learning the intricacies that surround catching fish like striped bass for example, that you had to be taken under the wing of an experienced angler.
Sharing information with other fishermen can be a good thing, but it also has its darker side. For those whose who appreciate the solitude and the challenge that comes with locating fish by piecing together a maze of clues generated by tide, wind and moon conditions, bait movement and well established patterns, the mere presence of other casters or boats can be disturbing. Locating a hot bite on your own is often the result of more than a few fishless tides and hours of patiently probing shorelines and waterways until you have mastered the right set of conditions that spell success. As such, you and only you have the right to share that info with whoever you want. Those who get to benefit from this intel are among the most trusted of your fellow anglers, those with a deep respect for the effort that went into locating that hot bite, and who recognize that this is not their information to share without the blessing of the person who put them onto the fish. They are also likely to reciprocate at some point in the future.
When it comes to probing back bay areas and bridges, there is a very good reason for not wanting a lot of company when pursuing species like stripers and weakfish. I am firmly convinced that the activity generated by wading, boat noise, lures hitting the water, vehicle traffic, misdirected lights, or anything that disturbs the natural environment will affect the feeding habits of these gamefish, especially in quiet, sheltered waterways. Resident fish are especially susceptible to this type of activity, as I’ve witnessed many times from atop bridges while viewing the reaction of stripers to a misplaced cast or shadow, or the approach of a distant boat. I’ve seen back bay spots that produced fish like clockwork for years under the right conditions dry up due to increased boat and shore activity.
So there is a lot to be said for respecting the request of a hardworking angler to “keep the information to yourself.” And there is nothing more insulting than to surrender such a spot to some couch potato that has been sitting home watching TV all week while someone else spends many hours tracking down the bite. Then there are the internet heroes who associate some kind of valor with turning total strangers onto action that has usually been found by someone else. At the other end of the spectrum are the guys on the docks or beaches who whisper about the hot bite where scores of casters or a small fleet of boats can be found working the area, and then act pissed off when reports of the action show up in print or on the internet. These are usually the same guys who can’t wait to show off their catch by dragging it to the scale of a local tackle shop and then get upset because there are other anglers in “their spot” the next day.
Probably the worst sin is sending other fishermen on wild goose chases. If you’ve caught fish and there is a need to keep the location “secret,” don’t lie about where you caught the fish. Sending someone on a 30 mile boat ride or long drive from where you caught fish will not earn you the respect of anyone, and things like that have a way of coming back and biting you. A simple “I can’t say” is a far more noble answer than lying about the location. If you’re feeling generous, you can always put someone in the ballpark and let them make the effort to pin down the action. As many veteran anglers have learned over the years, if protecting a special location is foremost in your mind, there is only one way to do it effectively. Tell no one, show no one, and learn to appreciate the success of your own accomplishment.