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Fishing Etiquette
By Rich Johnson

It never ceases to amaze me when out on the water, just how careless anglers are when working in certain situations and trying to catch fish. Whether you’re on a boat or on the beach, there is a certain “protocol” one should follow to ensure everyone catches fish and enjoys themselves. I’ve seen things on the water and in the suds and have stood in total awe of the ignorance and carelessness I’ve witnessed each fall when the run of bass and blues come pouring down the shores of Long Island and Connecticut. Obviously this is not only time this year these kind of shenanigans take place, but it seems to be more pronounced because of the excitement and fast pace of the action and people just seem to lose their heads in situations like these. Let me point out a few examples of what I’ve seen and how the situation should have been handled.

Example 1: The wind is northwest at 15 knots and a I find a flock of birds in 30-foot of water with lots of bass under them, mixed with some pretty outsized bluefish. I’m dropping diamond jigs to these fish and scoring with impressive numbers and size of both of them. In the fall these schools of fish tend to move pretty quickly and these were no different as they moved in a northerly direction towards shore. Once clear of the previous school and the boats working them and my wake would no longer effect both, I sped away to work this other school. I am now alone and on a course to intercept the moving school. I shut down the engine and start my drift with jig in hand ready to go. Everything is perfect and I'm now starting to jig bass like crazy and the birds are just about 15 yards from me as the main school is approaching. My anticipation climaxing as the mother lode of bass and birds is just about to engulf me when...

PROBLEM. Some jerk in his 28-foot cabin cruiser powers in and cuts between me and the birds with only 10 yards between me and the birds. He and his crew now launch a barrage of jigs in all directions and within only 2 minutes his boat is now drifting aimlessly with no one on the controls and his boat about to collide with my boat. Obviously I gave this crew a piece of my mind and a lesson on what they were supposed to do! Other boats now join me in fishing this school, however they race into the middle of the school, engines still running, all slinging all sorts of artificials at them. Even worse, now a boat trolling wire line appears and proceeds to troll right through the middle of the school and all the boats working here, now the entire mass of fish sound deep an no one catches anything.

SOLUTION. When approaching a school of fish with other boats on them, you have to take into consideration wind speed and direction, the current direction and the direction of the fish and the path they are traveling. In this particular scenario, the wind is northwest and the fish seem to be heading northerly, mostly into the wind. Here’s what I did and what the other boats should have done. First, you do not race or approach the school full speed ahead. Even if a boat is bailing fish, you have to get around the school and take a northerly direction to end up on the north side of the school. Adjust your direction and drift and now cut your engines. You are now allowing yourself to drift into the school as they head towards you. When I finish my drift and exit the school, I “leap frog’ the school and the fleet working my way back to drift on a course to intercept the school and start all over again.

I still haven’t figured out why some insist on trolling in the middle of birds, 100's of boats and acres of fish? I was fishing in among 50 tightly packed boats off Jones and Tobay one time, when a couple of real "rocket scientists" proceeded to troll umbrella rigs through the middle, causing many boaters to have to pick up and move because these thoughtless captains had to troll. Everyone in the area was hammering fish on jigs and they have to troll. In one instance, I had a similar scenario as in the above example where I calculated the movement of birds and fish and again had the mother lode ready to engulf me. Would you believe another boat troll wire line right in-between my boat and the birds with only 20 feet to spare between us?

In both these instances, these boats should be trolling the far outside edges of these schools. Remember, trolling is a good way to catch fish, but it is mainly used in my opinion to find fish. If you have dozens of boats working a school on diamond jigs, we have already found the fish and therefore trolling is unnecessary and jigging fish is more fun and a lot less work.

All it takes is common sense, but we all know that common sense is severely lacking in today's world.

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