By Mark Fike
I live on the east coast and enjoy fishing quite a bit. I have two older boats and a canoe that I use depending on the water I plan to fish. Given the amount of time I spend on a watercraft, I have seen an awful lot of things that make me shake my head. Perhaps it is time for a refresher for some “veteran” boaters and those that are new to this that may simply not understand how things are supposed to work.
It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how wide a lake or river, the jet ski enthusiasts always seem to want to come buzzing right up to where you are fishing and spoil the peace and tranquility that you sought by hitting the water in the first place.
Unless these folks are being unsafe or breaking “No Wake” rules, there is not much you can do about it but grit your teeth. I make a point to take a video of them buzzing close by me and sending up a large wake just in case I see a game warden or Coast Guard boat in the next few hours. One time when I did see one, I reported what happened and showed them the video. I was told they knew exactly which group of people it was and they would take care of it. This paid off for me at the end of the day.
This brings me to the “No Wake Zone” reminder. No Wake Zones are exactly that. We are not supposed to be sending up waves to the shoreline eroding the banks, rocking docked boats, or revving our boats so loud as to wake up homeowners on the waterfront. You can and will get a ticket for violating this rule.
If you are in a hurry to get out fishing, plan accordingly. Being in a hurry is not an excuse to violate the No Wake Zone rule.
Boat ramp piers are for launching and loading boats. There was a time when I did not have a boat. I remember very well what it was like to be shore-bound, watching fish jumping just out of casting range. It can be frustrating. However, those that are fishing from shore need to remember to abide by basic courtesy when fishing from the pier that anglers launch their boats from. Some piers are even designated no-fishing areas for this reason.
Approaching a pier from the water can be frustrating for both the boater who does not want to run over a fishing line and ruin someone’s fishing, or worse, get the line in the prop and cut the seal necessitating an expensive repair, and the angler that feels they cannot get any fishing in with boats coming and going.
The solution is simple. The boater has the right of way. Anglers fishing from piers that allow fishing do need to keep this in mind. This means that they should plan trips at low boating times such as weekdays or be ready to do a lot of winding of reels to get their lines out of the way. Still, boaters don’t need to be snobs and purposely run over lines.
A little courtesy from the boater to idle and give the angler time to reel in and some courtesy from the angler to try to get their lines out of the way make the disruption take far less time. Often when both parties are courteous, some banter back and forth can result in fishing intel about what the fish are biting on. I cannot recall how many times I have offered my unused bait or even some fish to the pier-bound angler that was courteous to me.
Boat ramps are places to launch or load but not tie down gear, load the boat with gear, etc. Loading the boat with gear, removing gear or tying down things is to be done in the parking lot out of the way of those launching boats. Everyone wants to get on the water and use every available minute to enjoy themselves. Doing your prep for the water or the road in the ramp area is very selfish.
Just this month, I was trying to get my boat in the river to do a little shad fishing. A kayaker backed his car down to the water on the ramp (which he did not need to do, given how easily he carried the kayak) and proceeded to load his kayak on his car. He looked up and saw me and then noticeably began taking his time adjusting straps, readjusting, etc. He took nearly 15 minutes blocking the ramp to put a 10-foot kayak on his car when merely pulling forward 30 feet would have gotten him out of the way.
Three days later, my father and I were back at the same ramp and I was telling him about my kayaker experience when two men in a boat pulled the same stunt despite seeing me backing up as they rapidly approached the ramp to dock and load their boat. We waited for nearly ten minutes AFTER they had their boat on the trailer securely for them to move. Instead of moving, they stowed gear, tied down things, moved their cooler and chatted all with no sense of urgency or courtesy of us waiting our turn to get on the water. Common ramp courtesy includes pre-launching chores (putting fishing gear, coolers, food, equipment in the boat, untying or unstrapping the boat) being done before blocking the ramp. The same goes for putting the boat on the trailer. Boaters should physically be in the ramp area no more time than it takes to secure their boat to the trailer or push it off the trailer.
As the weather warms up and we hit the water to fish or boat, let’s use some common courtesy and boat manners while enjoying the great outdoors!