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Shore versus boat anglers, does shore always trump boat?

Blog by: David Coulson , CO 1/11/2014

I was reading Ryan Wood’s blog “Fishing Etiquette” and the subsequent comments on fishing ethics.  Most everyone one agrees that following the law/regulations tops the list of ethical behaviors.  I say most, because with every law it can be argued that there are exceptions and Shiverfix did a good job listing some of the more common “conflicts.”   In those cases where our personal beliefs guide us to knowingly violate the law, I think one has to be willing to accept without complaint the consequences when caught. 

One of the areas that it seems we’re all in agreement on is that we should give our fellow anglers their space. Yet, there’s a lot of disagreement as to what that space should be.  In some cases the space we’re required to give one another is codified.  For examples, boats are to stay 100 feet from a diver’s flag or, straight from the 2013 Colorado Boating Regulations, “no person shall operate or anchor a vessel within one hundred fifty feet of any person on shore engaged in fishing, except where narrow passages or coves make such operation restrictions impractical.”

Tournaments often have “distance” rules for contestants.  I know my club’s rule is 50 feet, which I personally feel is too damn close.  My personal space requirement, be it from the shore or the water, is my maximum casting distance with a fly rod, approximately 100 feet or so.  Having said that, there are situations where I have fished comfortably closer to my fellow anglers. One case was a salmon run in Alaska where I was invited to step in between two anglers who were less than two fly rod lengths apart.  Then there have been cases on lightly fished streams where another angler stepping into my long run (over a hundred yards) felt uncomfortable. How much space we give our fellow anglers is seems is therefore situational.

The real topic I want to address it that of shore and boat angler conflicts.  In almost every case it seems that the shore angler has “absolute” rights to the shore when a boat is involved.  If the shore angler was there first, I fully agree, the person on the water, be it a tube, kayak, canoe, or boat, needs to give wide berth.  I’ll readily admit that I’ve failed on this occasionally due to the lack of attention and boat control on my part.  Generally, I give a quick apology, pull in my rods, and move on. Mea culpa!

However, I can’t begin to count the times when I’ve been working the shoreline from a float tube or other watercraft and had one or more people walk right up to the area I’m fishing (within my casting range) and start fishing.  It irritates the hell out of me.  If they’d give it a few minutes, in most cases I’d have moved on down the shore. Why, especially when there is often ample open shoreline is it necessary to come in on top of me?  And it’s not limited to public waters or any type of angler.  I had a fly fisher do that to me on private water this last summer and we were the only anglers on that side of the lake at the time. Totally uncalled for in my book. And yes, I did move on.

A second area that I’ve had conflicts with shore anglers is around boat ramps, especially those without docks.  Occasionally, someone will be fishing off the docks or ramp and in those cases I just let them know they need to move on as I’m launching or coming in to trailer.  The biggest issue occurs at ramps without a courtesy dock and I’m fishing alone. Occasionally folks will be fishing right next to the ramp on both sides, prohibiting me from nosing my boat into shore close to the ramp while I go for my trailer.  Personally, I’d like to see a 150 feet rule, where folks aren’t allowed to fish any closer than that to a boat ramp without a courtesy dock.

So while I fully concur that boaters have a responsibility to respect the shore angler and give them their space, I also feel that shore anglers need to respect a boater’s right to fish a spot if they were there first.  Plus, shore anglers need to respect that boaters have first priority to the use of boat ramps, docks, and the nearby areas.  I’m OK with folks fishing them, provided they pull in their lines and wait, or move on, when a boat is present.

Blog content © David Coulson
Blog Comments
Catman1979, 1/11/2014 6:42:24 AM
With the exception of fisherman crowdin' the dock, I have a hard time comparing the two "evils". I have had boats run over my gear, line, or spot. I have had boats completely ignore the 150' rule, over and over again. I have had jet ski morons purposely do figure eights in front of us, and skiers use my run of the shore as their runway. And all of this, multiple times in one day at Pueblo.
TigerHunter, 1/11/2014 8:12:40 AM
If everyone would just treat people how they want to be treated non of this would ever be an issue. Which is one of the reasons my main goal for finding new fishing spots is getting as far away from people as possible! When I'm fishing from shore in a river or a lake I always make sure to never crowd another fisherman. Doesn't matter if they're in a boat or in shore. If they were there first it's there area. Same thing when passing someone on a river to me it's common courtesy to make sure you won't disturb the hole they're working when you pass by. If it takes stepping 50 feet away from the river to avoid casting a shadow over the spot they're working... You do it. Again the golden rule... I've had the same things happen catman! Nothing is irritating.... When I was younger I wasn't as laid back as I am now. I'm not proud of it but in a few occasions I've waited at the boat rank after things like that have happened. Sorry for blabbing on and on. All that was just to say if anglers all followed the golden rule we'd be fine.
JOHN_COSprings, 1/11/2014 8:20:31 AM
Jet Skier's ---- - ARRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH !!!!! Enough Said. Sorry, had to get that one off my chest... if you've watched any of my Carp Quest videos for Pueblo, you will know why ! Generally I have found boat anglers to be courteous when I am fishing with my rods out form the shoreline. There will always be individual boater exceptions. What really irks me though is for waters with no-wake zones, some boaters blatantly ignoring them. I have actually had more ire with other fishermen "encroaching" or casting at an almost 90 degree angle across where I am fishing - then dragging my lines back. In Europe we have the concept of a "swim", an area infront of the fishermen, with certain distance either side - that others should respect and simply not cast into. The flip side being most waters now in Europe are either Syndicate club lakes, or day-ticket use lakes with swims marked out and posted. We are very fortunate here to have so many great waters that are open for our angling use for the cost of a but fishing license each year. John
Ibastres9117, 1/11/2014 10:38:22 AM
Dave you are absolutely right, who ever is at a fishing spot first should be able to fish there with out anybody encroaching on their fishing space. As a shore angler i always give boats plenty of space and figure that if i really want to fish that spot the boat will eventually move, and the same thing goes for boat fisherman. The key is respecting each others space.
Bassnfly, 1/11/2014 11:24:11 AM
We've all seen the few bad apples, on all sides, who have little respect for others. In my experience those jerks are the exception and not the norm. Most are courteous but it only takes one to piss you off. I always go around shore lines. I stop fishing and turn the trolling motor up and move past shore anglers. But, it has happened, that sometimes I did not see the line! Usually when the angler(s) has several lines out and they are not standing nearby or one is many yards away from them down the shoreline. Fortunately I've finally seen the line before actually snagging someone, so far. But someday it might happen and it would not be intentional. The one exception so far was at a tournament in KS. Several shore anglers were at a choke point at the mouth of a cove with nearly a mile of water behind them. Their bobbers were about halfway across the narrow channel. I hugged the far shore as shallow as my trolling motor would allow, but they still complained that I had no ethics by coming near them. I explained that they could not block access to so much water and that I would be away from them in a few seconds, but that did not seem to be good enough for them.
Bassnfly, 1/11/2014 11:27:53 AM
That said, I've had more trouble with discourteous boaters than shore anglers. Of course some jet skiers (lake lice) have been part of that problem, but several times I have been at Chatfield, fishing at the dam and casting to the shoreline, when an idiot troller would come trolling between me and the bank, (in 5 ft. of water or less!) and not seem to have any problem with that. That's the only time I've ever cast out and tried to snag another's line!
cookster, 1/11/2014 12:16:59 PM
It's just a part of urban fishing war fair. This is why I drive 150 miles and have a whole lake to myself. I still hit the local lakes in June for eyes and crappie but it just reminds me why I don't live in the city.
esoxrocks, 1/11/2014 6:51:12 PM
I agree with you. Case in point, I was anchored about 50' off shore last fall and doing quite well. Some folks saw this and moved down the shoreline and started fishing right in front on me. If that wasn't frustrating enough they then proceeded to tell me that I had to move and give them space.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), 1/11/2014 8:20:50 PM
I would agree that boaters encroach on the shore anger more than the other way around. I also admit to screwing up and ending up too close to a shore angler. Often when in a tube and not pay close attention and in a boat on occasion I don't maintain the control I should have. I try to pull my lines, apologize and beat a path out of there. So my intent here was not to make shore anglers out as bad guys. Just to point out that we all need to think about the situation and try our best not to infringe on others. And when we do, man up, apologize and move on. Thank for your comments.
esoxrocks, 1/11/2014 8:45:45 PM
To clarify...the intent of my story was not to say " boaters good... shore guys bad" as I agree that boaters are guilty of encroachment more often than shore guys. Rather it was to point out that either side can be at fault.
the fishing dj, 1/13/2014 10:12:38 AM
I had a situation up on horsetooth where I was a good 65ft off the shore, and I had found a good deep water spawning area loaded with feisty smallies. I was making a killing, and all of the sudden, two guys walked right up to where I was fishing, and proceeded to throw their lines out right in front of the path I was on, and one bait came with in a foot of hitting my boat. I was then told that I was "crowding their water" and that I had better get the hell out of their way.
lewdog, 1/13/2014 12:05:51 PM
I say if the person can not throw a rock or line by your boat you are far enough away. Also from shore you should be the same. If you can hit em with a rock from shore don't fish there. On a side note if you go fish the big mac dam at night from shore during the eye spawn, you could hit people on there boats with your pole and its a line of boats nonstop trolling so close together that you dont got time to cast..crazy.
esoxrocks, 1/13/2014 1:57:14 PM
I did the overnight Big Mac Dam fiasco once...and I’ll never do that again! IMO that zoo is a perfect example of what fishing isn't supposed to be...but it definitely points out the different “situational levels” of etiquette between shore and boat. Now let’s talk about snagging…
Bassackwards, 1/13/2014 2:47:42 PM
Good post. I must admit that if I get up at 4am to get to the lake by 5am, and I get top my spot and anchor up, only to have a shore fisherman who shows up at 9am to tell me I gotta move, I'm going to tell him to pound salt. He can call the Ranger, but I'm not moving. I was there first I have the right to fish there. Distance is a two way street, I have told people that they need to move and not to impede on me and my spot. I also think it's funny when I am out in my plastic boats, be it canoe or plastic jon boat and guys with expensive boats think that I don't have the right to fish a spot that I got to first. Funny how a heavy bait changes their mind. I usually shoot one over the bow, before I chip gel coat. If I can reach you with a bait "you ARE too close".
Goosehunter82, 1/13/2014 9:19:20 PM
I couldn't agree more. Good post and good points. To add I am new to ice fishing and feel the same about this type of fishing. With that said I don't know if ice fishing has the same rules or ideas but I've been out 4 times this year and each time I am one of the first people on the ice and by 9am I have people fishing 10 feet from me. It's hard to cut other people lines when your fishing through an 8 inch hole! Happy fishing
opencage, 1/14/2014 11:19:31 AM
Good write up Dave. When I was a boater newbie I made a number of the usual mistakes. This site certainly helped me figure out what the etiquette was and improved my boating skills. I'm at least glad I've never snagged share angler's lines while trolling, though I've seen it a number of times on the no wake lakes I frequent.
panfishin, 1/14/2014 3:53:13 PM
for me, the distance that i prefer depends on what type of fishing that i'm doing and the next person is doing. if we are both fishing under a bobber for gills in shallow water or bait off the bottom for trout the distance doesn't need to be as far between for me to feel comforable (just dont cast right to where i just pulled in a fish!) If we are both fishing lures, never get close enough for our lines to cross then we are to close. if one of us is lure fishing and the other i bait then the same rule applies. I usually fire off a "warning cast" towards the other party who is moving in on my spot just to show that i'm fishing that area, but i never have had any real problems with anyone.
1blueflamer, 1/19/2014 10:54:44 AM
Now let's talk about the people in the marina area that think all the fish under the docks are their pets, whether you are in a boat or trying to catch some bluegills off the dock.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), 1/19/2014 11:17:53 AM
Fishing marina structures, off or on them, is an issue and depends in large part on who owns what. If the faculties are private, then fishing off the docks if totally at the owners discretion in my opinion. As to fishing them from a boat, there's a lot of factors also. I think, first and foremost, we have to realize that those private marinas are a business, and not there for the anglers pleasure. Anything we do as anglers that in anyway impedes with business functions should be avoided. I have mixed feelings on this one, but tend to error in favor of the business side. Although given the opportunity I never pass up fishing around docks.