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Trading courtesy for discourtesy afloat

This post is a Reel Time column I write for the Anna Maria Island Sun.

Some things bear repeating. I’m guessing that you, like me, have a passion for fishing and besides the excitement of catching, a lot of the experience centers around just “being there.” It’s an opportunity to decompress and get away from the everyday challenges we face.

Or it should be. These days, if you’re not careful, it’s easy to let inconsiderate anglers, boaters and Jet Skiers ruin your peace of mind. Over the years I’ve adopted a policy that I call, “Show them the courtesy they don’t show you.” My intention is to carry this in the back of my mind at all times. I found it necessary to do this because for so many years it was a knee jerk reaction to unload on anyone who got in my “space” while I was fishing. I’ve mellowed over the years after coming to the realization that I was the one who suffered the consequences of my actions. Most of the time after an outburst, I’d move on anyway, carrying with me a bit less serenity. At some point in time it dawned on me to keep my composure. After all, there’s a lot of water to fish.

When we’re fishing we have no idea what’s going on with the others we’re sharing the water with. They could be fishing to eat, indulging a passion, finding solace from a traumatic experience, enjoying a day with friends or family or just getting some relaxation. We all get caught up in our fishing at times and let our awareness drift as we stalk a school of fish or head to the next spot we’re going to target. Most anglers start out fishing areas where they’ve caught fish before, and these days it’s not uncommon to find someone there or nearby. There are lots of places to fish, so if you find someone else nearby, move on to another location. It could be a blessing in disguise.

Jet Skiers can be the bane of fishermen, especially those who stake out on the beach looking for tarpon. A successful angler knows the value of patience and can wait hours for fish to move down the beach. When fish finally show up, there’s nothing more frustrating than to have a Jet Skier running up and around the lane that fish are coming down. After years of yelling, I started calling them over and saying hello before explaining what I’m doing. In the vast majority of cases, they apologize and give me a wide berth.

Fishing schooling species like tarpon, Spanish mackerel, little tunny and kingfish is another time when anglers need to be considerate of each other. Savvy anglers make a stealthy approach, working the edges of a school where they know predators patrol for prey. They understand that a careful approach is their best chance of success.  Anglers who don’t know the ropes often troll right through schools of baitfish and breaking fish, causing them to sound and ruining the action for everyone. When anglers take the time to consider others on the water, everyone wins.

Fishing should be fun and with a little consideration, it can be. When you’re on the water, make it a habit to stay well away from other anglers and if you encounter someone who isn’t playing by those rules, say hello and educate them. If that doesn’t work, move on. Show them the courtesy they don’t show you.