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Reel Time: Courtesy – An angler’s rules of the road

Fall fishing is with us and, once again, anglers will be chasing schooling fish along the Gulf beaches. This is a good time to remember the angling “rules of the road” to be sure everyone has a chance at success.

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 that 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, so move on.

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 in 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 with areas in mind where they’ve caught fish before and, more often these days, we either find someone there or nearby.

All too often this can mean that fishermen get crowded together, which has the potential to ruin everyone’s experience. There are lots of places to fish, so if you find someone else nearby, move on to another location. You may even find that you discover fish or a fishing spot you didn’t know about.

I generally hunt fish by poling in shallow water or in schools along the beaches. When I encounter another angler I either ask them if it’s okay to pass or just give them a wide berth. Most everyone appreciates this gesture and will tell you to proceed, but sometimes they want you to stay completely away, even if there’s little chance of disturbing the action. If this is the case, I don’t argue, I just move on. Even though I don’t fish offshore, I know that many anglers work hard to find a ledge or hard bottom where they target fish and they carefully guard it, never overfishing it. One of the worst things they experience is anglers who look for spots that others are fishing. Most often they don’t have the same respect as the original angler and mark the spot on their GPS, returning later to catch every fish they can. If care isn’t taken, it’s possible to ruin a good hole by overfishing it.

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, move on. Show them the courtesy they don’t show you.

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