Fishing Etiquette 101
Rick Lawrence, September 02, 2019
In simplest terms, fishing etiquette could be easily defined as treating other anglers as you would want to be treated. Here's a list of fishing etiquette rules I've learned and lived by over the years of my fishing trips:
• Don't get on top of somebody that's obviously working a particular spot or cut in front of them if they are working their way down a bank. If you're fishing a sea wall or location that has limited space for your boat, approach other boats slowly and ask if they mind if you fish near them. If somebody does cut you off, be polite and tell them you are fishing that spot and 99 times out of 100 they will move and not cause any problems.
• Carefully catch and (with wet hands) release the fish you aren't going to eat; Limit your catch, don't catch your limit.
• Don't fight fish until they tire completely, use adequate gear to be able to land the fish in a timely manner and let the fish go with a great attention of care for them.
• Don't crowd other anglers. Leave ample room between you and fellow anglers either when wading or boating. Fishing cheek-to-cheek usually results in tangled lines and creates a lot of unnecessary stress. There isn't a rule of thumb because space depends on the water and the area. Some areas are known for their crowds, so ask yourself if that's the kind of fishing you enjoy. And when you decide where to fish, leave room for your fellow fishermen.
• Honor anglers who arrived before you. The early bird gets the worm and if someone set his alarm earlier than you and got to the honey hole first there is no reason to jump in front of him. Go someplace else until he's done, but respect the fact that he made a sacrifice that you did not.
• Don’t be the guy that thinks he owns the whole lake or river. If a boat is more than 2 long casts away from you and not cutting in front of you in the direction your going, they have just as much right to be there as you do.
• Don’t be a litterbug. Pack out what you packed in and the environment stays clean. Hunks of mono can tangle birds and fish that eat pieces of soft plastic baits get clogged digestive tracts. Pick up garbage you see on or near the water. Dispose of trash properly. Don't let oil or gasoline spill into the water – not even a little bit.
• Boaters should yield to wading fishermen, and fishermen on tubes or inflatable pontoon boats. Shore-bound anglers don't have the ability to access deep water or to move around quickly like boaters do. Sometimes it's their turn, and if the fish are blitzing off the beach then boaters should give way to shore fishermen and stay out beyond where they can cast to.
Basically fishing etiquette is similar to regular daily etiquette. If everyone is respectful while they're on the water it will make everyone's boating/fishing experience that much better. Fishing ethics and proper fishing etiquette are core responsibilities of all anglers. Fundamentally, these ethics and etiquette can be distilled down to the “golden rule”- that is, treat others the way you want to be treated. Be respectful of others and be responsible for the area you’re fishing.
If you’re new to the sport, some of these practices may not be as obvious as others. For example, leaving an area better than when you arrived is one of the most important fishing rules anglers should follow. Read on for more fishing etiquette 101
• Treating fish and our natural resources with respect is essential to the fishing community. Practice and be mindful of sensitive habitat and taking care not to disrupt the environment around you.
• All anglers should review their state’s relevant fishing rules and regulations before heading out for the day and always have their fishing license with them. Regulations are in place for a reason, so please respect and carefully follow the laws on the water you’re fishing.
• If you want to keep fish, keep only as many fish as legally allowed and that will be eaten in a timely manner. Also, when you do keep fish, dispatch of them humanely and care for them immediately by either cleaning them or putting them on ice so their eating quality is preserved and you don’t waste any fish.
• Avid anglers consider spawning fish to be the future of fishing. If you catch a spawning fish, handle it with extreme care and let it go immediately in the same area in which it was caught. Be mindful of the season and avoid sensitive areas that are known for spawning if possible.
• Be sure you have the permission of landowners if you plan to fish on private property. If you don’t, you’re trespassing.
• On a public waterway, there is no such thing as somebody’s personal “spot”. Fishing areas are enjoyed on a first-come, first-served basis. While it might be frustrating that you find someone fishing water you’ve been fishing for days, months or years, the fact is they have as much right to that spot as you do.
• Do your best to keep noise to a minimum. Most fish species spook easily. Quietly approaching an area where others are fishing is not only courteous but will assure fish are not spooked and can still be caught. An important part of any quality fishing experience is the tranquility found outdoors.
• Give anglers around you a wide berth and make every effort to avoid overcrowding to assure a positive fishing experience for all. In some cases, crowding can’t be avoided. Under those circumstances, taking care not to cast over others lines and to provide as much space as possible for those around you will be greatly appreciated.
• Don’t hold up others at the boat launch. Get your boat ready to launch and load any gear you need before you pull down the ramp. If you’re not skilled at backing up your boat or getting it on or off the trailer quickly, practice in a area that will not hold up others till your skilled enough to be able to back your boat down to the water and have it off and out of the way in 5 minutes or less. If you can’t maybe you should take up a different sport.
Following the above "Fishing Etiquette 101" rules and guidelines will make everyone's fishing experience better and help ensure our sport can be enjoyed by fellow anglers for generations to come.