Lake Fishing Etiquette 101

In an ideal world there would be a mandatory informational printout with every fishing license sold, explaining the do’s and don’ts when it comes to respecting other anglers on the water.  It does not matter how great of a fisherman you are (or aren’t), it doesn’t give you to right to pull unethical tricks to try and get in on the action.  Chances are if someone came and anchored right next to your boat you would question it, so don’t pull it on other people.

Launch Quickly

Don’t pull up to the launch and decide it’s time to organize your fly boxes, put your rods together or tie on new leaders.  If your boat is on a trailer then stop and get everything ready before backing up to put your boat in the water.  It’s obviously necessary to put anchors in the locks, hook up your battery or get your oars in, but don’t take a month of Sundays taking up the boat launch.

The Fly Line Rule

Nothing is worse than having a boat pull in and anchor at an unreasonably close distance.  This happens often when someone is doing well, a boat will magically sneak in and drop anchor while there’s a fish being played or released.  A good rule of thumb is not to anchor within 100 feet, or the length of a fly line (a full line, not how far you can cast) to another boat.  Big fish run a long ways sometimes, be courteous of other people’s space.

“What Are You Using?”

If I had a dime for every time I heard someone yell this at another boat from across the lake I would buy myself a new boat.  If someone is having a substantially better day than everyone else, they obviously took the time and effort to dial it in.  Rowing up to someone’s boat and asking what fly they’re using is incredibly off limits, as is asking from a distance across the lake while someone has a fish on.  Maybe if you get talking at the boat launch you can politely ask but on the water is not the place or time to do it.

Keep Fish in the Water

This is more of a general rule of thumb but nobody likes seeing a big fish go into the floor of the boat, even if it’s being released.  If you’re going to retain the fish then omit this but if you’re practicing catch and release especially on a trophy lake, lean over the side of the boat and keep the fish in the net the whole time.


Remember, if you’re having a great day then all the power to you but it does not mean you are better than everyone else.  Don’t go out of your way to flaunt that you’re having success.  There’s no need to be the guy that yells “FISH ON!” every 3 minutes, nobody cares but yourself and people around you will shortly be aware that you’re hooked up whether you make a point of it or not.  It never hurts to help someone that is clearly new or struggling either, good karma goes a long ways.
Thanks for reading and until next time happy fishing!

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2 Comments on “Lake Fishing Etiquette 101

  1. QUOTE “Rowing up to someone’s boat and asking what fly they’re using is incredibly off limits, as is asking from a distance across the lake while someone has a fish on”

    Incredibly off limits?

    I’ve made most of my fly fishing friends out on the water in situations just as this and have never felt offended in the slightest when someone asked me what I was using. Neither have I ever felt I was in the wrong to ask another what he is using, except for maybe swallowing my pride just a little bit. In fact, if I’m catching lots of fish and having a stellar day while someone else is not and that person asks me what I’m using I have even gone out of my way to give him one of the exact flys that I’m using. I have done this on numerous occasions. Your logic seems totally backwards to me and is a total shit attitude in my opinion. I could go much further but will bite my tongue.

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    • Sorry if it came off the wrong way, but there is definitely a courteous way and an inconsiderate way to go about it. I’ve given away a countless number of flies over the years, clipped the fly off my line at the launch to give to people, rowed over to others boats to give them a fly or setup their leader etc.

      I’m a huge believer in sharing knowledge especially to those that are new to the game as we’ve all been there. I’ve also had people motor up to my boat, grab the gunnel and straight up say “show me what fly you’re using”. In my opinion this is definitely crossing the line. If there are a lot of boats on the water, yelling from 100+ feet away asking for advice is also not a great way to make friends.

      I’ve heard stories of people going as far as grabbing someone else’s line, pulling up the leader and examining the fly without so much as asking (I’m sure this is a pretty unique situation and not one I’ve ever seen myself).

      There’s nothing wrong with chatting someone up at the launch without being overly demanding, or even asking from a short distance. There are a lot of people out there that are genuinely trying to learn, and that’s what we need in the fly fishing community, this article was only meant to let people know that there is a time, place and manner to go about asking people for advice.

      Two weeks ago I pulled my vice out of my truck and tied someone the same fly I was using because I had no more to give away, so I’m not saying in any way that it’s wrong to share flies or info but I believe it’s wrong to demand someone give you flies on the spot if they’re having a slow day and you’re not.

      Again this wasn’t meant to come off arrogant or conceded, just trying to differentiate the proper vs. improper way to ask someone for advice.

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