FlatsFisher.com banner flats fishing information
Search r_gearshop
Article Archive

Back to current article

June 2002
Silver Spoons
August 2002
Starting Flats Fishing
September 2002
Beginning Gear - pt. 1
October 2002
Beginning Gear - pt. 2
November 2002
The Courteous Angler
Dec 2002/Jan 2003
Reflections at the
Tide Change
February 2003
Jerkbaits, another look
March 2003
How important is presentation?
April 2003
When to fish...?
May 2003
New ideas
September 2003
Flats Fishing 101 (recap)
December 2003
Another flats fishing year ends
Jan - Feb 2004
New year, new opportunities
March 2004
Flats fishing on any budget
August 2004
Special Request - Hurricane Report
The Courteous Angler
November 2002

If you are new to angling or just new to flats fishing you may have questions about how to share the water with other anglers (I hope this is something you will consider). Let me state from the start that I am not the standards authority on the topic of angling ethics. It is unlikely that you will find a single source on angling ethics that is considered the standard. Many would suggest we are governed more than required and certainly more than desired. However a common code of conduct that all anglers could follow would be welcome. If it would be followed. Which code do we use?

There are internet sources...
For example here is a link titled "personal code of ethics" posted on the Alaska State Sport Fish site. Here you fill find another full page on the topic, the Code of Angling Ethics Adopted by The National Marine Fisheries Service from the Florida Musem of Natural History.

I listed only two of the over five hundred hits on the search for "angling ethics" and there are bound to be more if you open up the search with the various phrases that pertain to the topic. That indicates that people, ''fisherpeople'', recognize that there is a need. Many have an opinion on what the 'code of ethics' should include. I have my ideas and certainly, you do as well.

A code includes...
I have a code of ethics for several different fishing environments. As a teenager, there were certain specific courtesies when you were fishing the catwalk at Gandy Bridge. I do not recall any need to rely on those in my weekly trips to fish. Moving a little north, to the mountains of Georgia and beginning my freshwater trout adventures I encountered new angling ethics. These were a little more involved than bridge fishing. If fishing on a trophy trout stream, you were very likely to get a lecture on what was acceptable if you goofed up.

Now I am fishing the shallow and many times confined waters of coastal habitat. The 'rules' are not very different from others I have encountered. They are common sense it seems. My code also is not very different from either of the two web links cited previously. Here are the important rules on my list:
  • Respect the space occupied by other anglers, including moving to and from your destination. With your boat, where you wade, or where you cast.

  • Treat the fish you catch, whether you are harvesting or catch and release, with respect.

  • Care for the natural environment that you are visiting. For other visitors and your return visits in the future.

  • Provide help to other anglers to promote the sport and encourage them to be ethical anglers.
Nothing ground breaking. These rules are the same for anywhere you may fish fresh or salt water. However, you know as well as I do that rules and rights are subject to interpretation. This is where conflicts can arise. Is 100 yards enough right of way? Maybe 400 yards is required. Sometimes 'our' idea of what is right is different from another anglers' idea.

So what should you do?
First, I suggest that you understand some key concepts about how your actions affect fishing for yourself and others on the flats. It is shallow water. The fish are keenly aware of this and usually are on 'high alert' when they are vulnerable. It is easy to turn off an entire flat for all fishing by traveling through carelessly. Depending on how you fish you may have less impact but you need to keep this in mind.

If other anglers are present, you should observe their actions before you make your course to avoid disturbing their fishing as much as possible. Likewise, if you are fishing a channel you cannot expect other vessels to stop and wait for you to fish. If you have a reason to approach, another angler or group you should observe as mentioned and determine if there is an opportunity. Best to call out before heading over. Other anglers are your best bet for tips. Turning off the fishing by your approach will not get you any favors.

There seem to be more people using the waterways each year. It can be crowded and there are many different ways to use the water. You cannot mix swimming, jet skis, pleasure boating and fishing in the same body of water.

What should you avoid?
I have been there when a boat pulls up into the middle of the hole and anchors. There is always a possibility that some boater will speed through the flat you are fishing. Many discussions on fishing boards concerning the topic result in angry comments. My reaction is anger at times as well. There is an inclination to teach someone a lesson with a purposeful cast or maybe our own invasion of space.

The first inclination is not always to let things go. That should be avoided by all as much as possible. Keep in mind that you are fishing for the pleasure of the activity. Letting other's thoughtless action take that from you only adds to the frustration. In most cases, your best course of action is to move on to another spot and enjoy your day.

At times, you may decide to confront someone who is willfully breaking the laws, poaching for instance. I want to encourage you to exercise caution in this situation. If you are in a remote area, you don't know who this person is or what they may do. Get the information you can safely to describe the violator and report it to authorities (see your state natural resource web site). If possible, use your cell phone and call in immediately to report the violation. Stopping a poacher is the right thing to do. Do not jeopardize your safety in doing so.

Go fish. Have a good time. Learn. Get along with others sharing the water. Be an example.

Let me know what you think.

Good Fishing,

Search | Home | Articles | Reports | Reviews | Photos | Resources | Species | Contacts | Gear Shop
Privacy Policy - [Copyright 2004 Webb Information Exchange]