On Angling Etiquette…

I’m often asked about angling etiquette. It’s an important topic, because how anglers interact with each other often dictates the quality of the overall fishing experience for everyone. 99 percent of the time, you’ll find other anglers to be kindred spirits, and you won’t have any issues. On those rare occasions when there is a problem, the root cause is usually that the person just didn’t realize they were doing the wrong thing. While there is no standard “rule book” (besides, of course, state fishing regulations) it’s important to understand and embrace these simple guidelines.

1. Respect the resource. And that means adhere to all tackle rules, catch limits, size limits, and so forth. Poaching fish is disrespectful, not only of the resource, but also of other anglers.

2. Fish safe. If you wade, or operate a boat irresponsibly, and put yourself in danger, you also put others who might help you in danger.

3. Watch what you say, and how loud you say it. Voices carry over water further than you think. It’s okay to be enthusiastic about your fishing, but realize that other anglers prefer to listen to the lapping waves or flowing river, rather than you.

4. Give other anglers space. If someone is in your favorite spot… too bad. Wake up earlier next time. Do not crowd into a spot where someone is fishing, and don’t cut off their path. For example if a boat is working a lakeshore, left to right, do not intersect it.

5. If you’re fishing a river, follow behind the angler who is already there, and do not jump in a run ahead of them. Ask if they are working upstream or downstream.

6. Make room for others. It’s bad form to “camp” on one spot or one run in a river all day long. Be reasonable about sharing water with others.

7. Do not do anything that will impede the other angler’s opportunity to catch fish. For example, don’t run your boat right through the spot where they are fishing. Don’t run a motor too close to another fishing boat, and don’t make a big wake by other fishing boats.

8. Communicate with each other. When in doubt, ask, “Do you mind if we fish here?” or “Which way are you heading?”

9. Do not cast at fish (or in the same zone) where another angler is fishing, unless you’re invited to do so. For example, casting into the same run from the opposite side of the river is not cool.

10. The golden rule of fishing etiquette is to treat other anglers exactly as you would hope to be treated yourself. The more you ask, “How would I feel if I were in his/her shoes?” the smarter your decisions will be. It’s all about common sense and respect.

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.