Recreational boat sales are through the roof, and fishing is becoming increasingly popular among people of all ages. With boating and fishing seasons approaching their summer peaks, timing is ripe for some lessons in boat ramp manners and fishing etiquette.
It’s hard to imagine folks getting crossways over a launching lane at a boat ramp or a fishing spot on a public body of water. Sadly, it happens more often than you might think.
Most altercations begin with foul language and escalate from there. Not every tiff ends in childish behavior, but some of them do. I’ve heard of stories about grown men getting into fist fights, guns being brandished and personal property getting damaged over something as silly as a brush pile cloaked in 25 feet of water.
There is no formal guide for launching vessels at public boat ramps, or how anglers should conduct themselves on public waters. However, there are a passel of unwritten rules that apply. Most are built around common sense and everyday courtesy.
Boat ramp advice
Hang around a public boat ramp on a busy weekend and you are liable to witness a comedy of errors to illustrate just how uneducated some people are when it comes to launching and loading a boat.
I’ve seen tow vehicles sink and boats get dumped on concrete ramps bustling with people. Such shows might be amusing to a casual onlooker. Not so much for other boaters waiting in line and eager to get on the water.
Here are a few ways to avoid becoming the center of attention the boat ramp:
Learn to back a trailer. One of the most common mistakes occurs when a driver backs the trailer down the ramp and winds up taking up multiple lanes instead of one, blocking others from access. I’ve seen trailers jackknifed so badly that it damaged the tow vehicle and boat.
A crowded boat ramp is no place to learn how to back a trailer. Practice and learn how to properly back a boat trailer before you go to the lake. A roomy parking lot with visible stripes is perfect.
Practice backing the trailer into the slot from odd angles. It is easier for some to learn by looking over their shoulder instead of relying on the vehicle side view mirrors. Once you learn how to the back up looking over your shoulder, master the process using the mirrors. It’s easer to line up the lane markers and see the trailer fenders.
Pre-launch inspections. Just because the boat ran fine last time out is no guarantee it will next time. Be sure the boat’s battery is fully charged and other critical parts like the bilge pump and running lights are working properly before you head to the lake. Clear the ramp immediately if the engine won’t crank.
Be ready. Don’t wait until you back down the ramp to transfer gear from the tow vehicle to the boat. Do it in the parking lot. Check your boat for all necessary equipment like life jackets, fire extinguishers and kill switches. Make sure the boat’s drain plug is in place, and that all winch/transom tie-down straps are removed before backing the rig into the water.
Launching the boat. Launching can be performed alone, but it is much easier (and quicker) with two experienced people — one driving the tow vehicle and one handling the boat.
The tow vehicle driver should always make sure the boat is completely free of the trailer before pulling out.
Loading the boat. Loading a boat is essentially the same process as launching, except the steps are in reverse order. Always be sure the trailer is backed into the water just far enough that the nose of the boat reaches the winch roller with a goose of the throttle, and that the boat is straight while the bottom is at rest on the trailer bunks. Back the trailer in too far the boat may float off the trailer and possibly damage the fenders.
How anglers conduct themselves on the water is a reflection of the sport that can make an everlasting impression on others, especially the watchful eyes and attentive ears of a youngster.
Ethical fishing behavior goes far beyond abiding by state fishing regulations like buying a license and not exceeding daily limits on sport fish. It means respecting the rights of others, including private property owners, as well as other anglers who are sharing the water.
Sadly, there are a bunch of potlickers around who need to clean up their acts. Here are a few examples of good fishing ethics and how lines sometimes get crossed:
Don’t be a hole jumper. Nobody likes a hole jumper. He’s the guy who watches you catch one or two fish, then attempts to hedge in on the sweet spot while you are still sitting there. It’s OK to join in the fun if another angler invites you in. Otherwise, find your own fish.
Don’t cut off people. Getting cut off is a common complaint among bass anglers. It happens when one angler is fishing down a vacant shoreline. Another angler motors past then cuts in on the same shoreline, 50 yards to 75 yards ahead of the other fisherman. It’s similar to cutting in line at the grocery store check out counter.
It’s not your brush pile. It is hard work sinking brush piles to attract fish. It’s also pretty easy for other anglers to locate them using modern electronics. Frustration sometimes sets in when the angler who built the brush pile arrives and finds a stranger already locked down on the spot.
There is no such thing as a private fishing hole on public water. Once a brush pile leaves an angler’s boat it automatically becomes fair game for anyone to fish. It’s usually best to move on and find another spot rather risk getting into argument. Anglers who harass or interfere with others on the water are in violation of state law.
Don’t ditch plastics or line. Used soft plastics should be retained and disposed of properly once you get to shore. Do the same with old fishing line. Discarded fishing line can take years to deteriorate. It can cause serious outboard problems by causing prop shaft seals to wear prematurely should it get wrapped around the propeller.
Keep boat lanes clear. Boat lanes are meant for navigation, not fishing. Always be prepared to clear the way for approaching boat traffic.
Give ‘em some room. When motoring from one spot to another, avoid motoring close to other anglers who are actively fishing. The courteous thing to do is reduce your speed to idle rather than blowing past others at high speed.
Boating and fishing are supposed to be fun. Use some common sense and courtesy around ramps and on water will help keep it that way for everyone.
Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, email@example.com.
Original Source: https://www.dallasnews.com/sports/other-sports/2022/07/01/mind-your-manners-at-boat-ramps-and-on-the-water-this-summer/