Mind Your Manners


Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - GE­ORGE POVEROMO

A lit­tle com­mon sense and cour­tesy make every­one’s day bet­ter

As more peo­ple take to the wa­ter, fish­ingspace in­fringe­ments rise ac­cord­ingly. Most eti­quette vi­o­la­tors are sim­ply un­aware of un­writ­ten cour­te­sies. Yet plenty of well-sea­soned pros still throw com­mon sense and sports­man­ship to the wind. Here is a sam­pling of com­mon sit­u­a­tions and the proper fishing eti­quette for deal­ing with them.

Soft Struc­tures, Hard Ad­vice

Weed lines, kelp pat­ties, float­ing de­bris and birds some­times bring out the worst in an­glers. Should a cou­ple of boats spot such a find, it’s usu­ally best to be the first one there. And if and when you un­cover fish, some boats aren’t too shy about mug­ging your find.

When trolling for dol­phin along a south­ern Flor­ida weed line, I’ll give any boat do­ing the same plenty of space. If they’re com­ing from the op­po­site di­rec­tion, I’ll an­gle off and troll out a half-mile be­fore an­gling back to that line. Plenty of big dol­phin are caught in clean wa­ter sev­eral hun­dred yards off such weed lines. If some­one is first on a piece of de­bris or work­ing birds, I won’t in­fringe. My phi­los­o­phy: If they worked for it, they should reap the re­wards. We’ll keep look­ing.

An­chor­ing Ad­vice

“There are those who an­chor in your chum slick, fairly close to you, hop­ing to pull away our fish,” says Capt. Joe Trainor of Avalon, New Jer­sey. “These peo­ple fail to do the math on how much dis­tance is re­quired to pull an­chor us­ing a poly ball. If a boat drops an­chor 80 to 100 yards be­hind one al­ready chunk­ing, that boat must run for­ward of their an­chor for at least 150 yards to free it. I never an­chor less than 150 yards in front of any boat, and every­one should show the same re­spect.”

Wreck Smarts

“Wreck eti­quette de­pends largely on the size of the struc­ture,” says vet­eran Key West guide Capt. Mark Sch­midt. “On the larger At­lantic wrecks, there’s gen­er­ally room for sev­eral boats. First rule: Stop shy of the ac­tiv­ity and as­sess. Study boats drift­ing over it, and those on the hook. If you’re drift­ing, ease slowly away from the wreck un­til you’re up-cur­rent of it. Get in sync with other drift­ing boats and wait your turn.

“If an­chor­ing, don’t run through or drop hook in any­one’s chum slick. I’ll po­si­tion my boat par­al­lel with an­other an­chored boat, but with enough dis­tance be­tween us to where it’s hard for me to dis­tin­guish their brand of fishing tackle. This way, we’ll each have our own lane to chum and fish, with­out in­ter­fer­ing with each other.

“When in doubt over an­chor­ing on a wreck oc­cu­pied by an­other boat, cut your mo­tor and drift by to ask them where you can an­chor and not get in their way. Back in the day, we all learned to work with each other, and we still can.”

Kelp Patty Blues

Greg Stotes­bury, a South­ern Cal­i­for­nia an­gler, har­bors dis­dain for struc­ture and fish “mug­gers.” “We spend con­sid­er­able time look­ing for kelp pat­ties,” he says. “Once we lo­cate one, we’ll chum and drift it. We’ve had other boats run right to that patty, once we’ve drifted a few hun­dred feet away from it. They have no clue that it’s all about chum­ming for fish along this en­tire zone.”

An­other hot topic in­volves boats en­croach­ing on chum lines. “There are lots of con­flicts with small boats get­ting into the chum lines of charter and party boats,” Stotes­bury says. “A small boat might only hold a cou­ple of scoops of bait, but the big­ger boats may hold 50 scoops. The en­croach­ers think it’s OK to poach the chum lines of other boats.”

Stotes­bury sug­gests never ap­proach­ing an an­chored boat closer than 150 yards of its stern, or within 100 yards of its bow. “If they hail us on VHF Chan­nel 72 and ask if we’d mind them com­ing up and fishing off to one side of us, we’d have no prob­lem.”

Jer­sey Joe’ Tid­ings

Capt. Joe Trainor is an ex­pe­ri­enced hand at fishing nearshore lumps and canyons along the mid-at­lantic and North­east. His pet peeve is boats roar­ing over the top of a small lump for an­other drift, of­ten be­hind boats an­chored and chunk­ing. “It drives us crazy,” Trainor says.

“I pre­fer to an­chor and chunk. So it’s frus­trat­ing when a boat drifts through your slick, then runs back up the same path for an­other set. This dis­rupts my chunk­ing and the fish. In­stead, they should nav­i­gate back far out­side of the struc­ture and other boats, then make a drift that won’t in­fringe on any­one.”

Shal­low Lessons

The most ba­sic cour­te­sies, not in­fring­ing on a boat fishing a bridge span, small flat, creek mouth or school­ing in­shore fish, are some­times ig­nored. Capt. Mike Frenette of Venice, Louisiana, says a re­cur­ring is­sue is an­glers mov­ing in on those who have hooked a fish. “When we bend the rod on a bull red, some peo­ple feel they’re en­ti­tled to mo­tor over, some­times to within 50 feet, and pitch to the school we worked so hard to find,” Frenette says. “Other than be­ing just plain rude, they have no idea which way the school is mov­ing. When some­one is on fish, cour­tesy dic­tates keep­ing a re­spect­ful dis­tance and look­ing for your own.”

Trolling Savvy

“We see a lot of the Ocean City boats, where trolling is fa­vored, mix­ing with the Jer­sey boats, where chunk­ing is widely prac­ticed,” Trainor says. “All this of­ten hap­pens si­mul­ta­ne­ously over rel­a­tively small fishing ar­eas, so you can imag­ine the po­ten­tial con­flicts.”

A lot of mid-at­lantic and North­east trollers com­monly tow a cen­ter rig­ger bait 150 yards back. When trolling over nearshore tuna lumps, a lot of thought goes into ma­neu­ver­ing to troll the baits over the struc­ture while not foul­ing the lines of other trollers and chun­kers. “I’ll make long sweeps to po­si­tion the boat to where I’ll be able to get a good trolling an­gle over the struc­ture and avoid other lines,” Trainor says. “Then I’ll troll a good ways off and grad­u­ally work my­self into po­si­tion for an­other pass.”

When trolling over small tar­gets, or­der is the rule. Ob­serve boats work­ing the struc­ture and pat­tern your ap­proach ac­cord­ingly. Don’t cut ahead or troll tight across the back of an­other boat. Give oth­ers breath­ing room and con­cen­trate on your own swath of wa­ter.

And when an­other boat hooks into a fish, never close in for a bet­ter look. You have no idea where that fish is. Run over their line and cut off their fish, and you’ll surely be the re­cip­i­ent of a few words of ad­vice mi­nus the cheery spin of a Christ­mas greet­ing.

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