Fishing Etiquette: 6 Unspoken Rules

By Tom Keer

Nov 04, 2015

Hitting the water should be fun and relaxing, and fishing etiquette keeps stress levels down and enjoyment up at your favorite local fishing spots.

Hitting the water should be fun and relaxing, and fishing etiquette keeps stress levels down and enjoyment up at your favorite local fishing spots. Here are 6 unspoken rules that will help to remove the heartburn that comes from arguments.

  • 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. Small streams require lots of room whereas the ocean not so much. More is better, though.

  • 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, sit on the bank until he's done, but respect the fact that he made a sacrifice that you did not. And for tomorrow, set your clock a bit earlier...

  • Rest the water. Boats running around put down fish as do lures constantly hitting the surface. If you're not catching much then rest the water. After a quiet spell the fish will come out of their safety zones and resume feeding.

  • Be clean. Pack out what you packed in and the environment stays clean. Hanks of mono tangles birds and fish that eat pieces of soft plastic bait get clogged digestive tracts. Also be careful not to spill oil or gas when boating at local fishing spots, particularly at the gas dock.

  • Boaters should yield to wade fishermen. 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.

  • A careful approach. Be careful how you approach the water. In a river, silt or mud kicked up by clumsy wading spooks fish downstream. Walking behind anglers prohibits their casting, and shadows can spook fish. Walk around so you don't louse up an angler working a fish.


A little thoughtfulness goes a long way, and it makes fishing at local fishing spots a lot more fun than it already is! Check to learn more how fishing and boating help to conserve our waterways!

Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at