Although it might be a little dated, the word “sportsmen” has long been a collective term used for hunters and fisherman. The word is so ingrained in our outdoor culture that it’s even part of the acronym for Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) – one of the largest groups in fishing.
A good sportsman respects other anglers, the resource, and the tradition of the anglers that came before by being courteous and respectful on the water. For many, fishing etiquette will come as second nature, but we thought it a good idea to put them into a list.
1. Leave No Trace
This mantra was originally developed by the US Forest Service as a motto for campers, but it’s equally applicable on the water. Try to minimize your presence while fishing by not littering, policing your used plastics and line, and preventing damage to the waters. As tempting as it may be to cut branches off a dead tree to access new water, doing so would remove habitat and set a precedent that others may follow. If it wasn’t there when you got on the water, it shouldn’t be there when you leave.
2. Be A Conscientious Launcher
Boat ramps are busy enough in the summer months – don’t compound that by being an inconsiderate launcher. Prepare your boat for launching prior to moving onto the ramp, and once loaded, quickly move away from the crowd to wipe it down and prepare it for the road. If you’re picking up a friend or co-angler, arrange to do it at a gas station or nearby lot so you’re not waiting around blocking traffic.
3. Pay Attention To Your Wake
Although no-wake laws are in place across many waters of this country, they aren’t the only places to mind your wake. If you are in close proximity to recreational anglers, kayakers, canoeists, or even people swimming – pay attention and reduce your speed to show respect for their pursuits. This can be justifiably frustrating in a tournament situation, but remember, how you act on the water affects how folks perceive fishermen as a whole.
4. Don’t Be A “Bent Rod” Angler
This is something that has become particularly common among anglers that haven’t experienced grinding out the hours it takes to find good fishing locations. Give other anglers a wide berth while on the water, and ask if it is ok to pass them or fish in areas close to where they are fishing – even if they are fishing for some other species. There is almost no scenario where the fish are only biting in one area, so pulling up on someone else’s spot will usually only cause an ugly confrontation.
5. Take Care Of Your Fish
Good fishing etiquette is also about taking care of the resource, and waste not, want not applies on the water as well. If you’re keeping fish, only take what you can eat, regardless of the limit. If you’re in a tournament setting, make sure to take care of your fish to minimize their time spent out of the water, and use a good quality landing net to prevent damage to their slime coat.
6. You’re Not The Only One On The Water
It’s easy to consider the water from only a fisherman’s perspective, but there are many other people that use the water for different reasons like recreational boating, skiing, swimming, or even just pristine viewing of the lake. Although different, their needs and goals are just as important to them as your need to catch fish. If an area is no wake, it’s probably that way for a reason. If a landowner asks you politely to try and avoid snagging your lure on their dock, be respectful. We are fortunate to have the resources we do, and understanding other folks needs will help you enjoy yourself more on the water.
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