We all have our bad habits. I know what mine are, and if you’re being honest with yourself, you probably have a pretty good handle on yours. Some bad habits affect only you. While you’d probably be better off without them, it’s not anyone else’s business if you decide to keep them.
But some bad habits affect other people. That’s a whole other thing. When your poor decisions start to have an impact on me, now we have a problem. So cut it out!
For example, being loud, obnoxious and rude on a fishing pier. Not cool. This is a public place, not your private fishing hole. What makes you think blocking up the whole end of the pier with 10 rods out is OK? And watch your language. There are usually kids around and you’re setting a bad example.
Then there are folks who want to fish in a high-traffic area and get upset about having to reel in their lines when a boat goes past. We see this in lots of places, but two that come immediately to mind are Alligator Creek and the Ponce de Leon Pier. You know that there’s going to be a line of boats going past. Why is your line out in the channel in the first place? And why are you grumpy about reeling it in? It’s not like the boaters going through have other options.
How about being trashy? I’m not talking about who you date – I’m talking about leaving fishing line, empty bottles and cups, and all sorts of wrappers lying around. That kind of junk can spoil a beautiful place quickly. And if you’re seeing it there and leaving it – even if it wasn’t yours in the first place – you share the blame here.
Do you poach fish? Most of you say no, but are you sure? There are a lot of rules to know. I’ve talked with a lot of anglers who have accidentally taken fish that are undersize or out of season because they guessed on the regulations and got it wrong. Worse, I’ve heard people telling other anglers what the rules are and getting them wrong. Don’t guess – it’s too easy to make mistakes.
I live on a canal, which is a minimum wake zone. But too many boaters don’t want to slow down, so they run faster than they should. Some get almost but not quite on plane, at which point they are throwing the largest possible wake. If you’re dragging a wake and it’s making waves against the seawall, you’re going too fast. That does lots of damage: It knocks moored boats around, it undermines the sediment under seawalls and docks. You’re legally responsible for your wake and any damage it does.
If you don’t care about the property damage, think about this: If you slow down, fishermen on shore with lines in the water might pull them in so they don’t end up wrapped on your prop, costing you money.
One of the most frustrating that we see too frequently is people hogging the boat ramp while loading or unloading the boat. Do that stuff while you’re in line, or pull up and out of the way first. Sometimes, the problem is a boat that won’t start. How about you check it before you leave the house? Your day is ruined either way, but at least you won’t have wasted time driving to the ramp – and you won’t have a bunch of other boaters steamed at you.
Really, all of this comes down to most basic law of civilization. The Golden Rule – treat people the way you would like them to treat you – was developed to allow people to live as a community. And that’s what boaters and fishermen are supposed to be: A community of people who share a love for the water. Do you want people to be mindful of your feeling and well-being? Then you had better be mindful of theirs.
One important way to build that kind of community spirit is to watch out for other people around you. If they’re struggling with their boat or fishing tackle, help them out. It pays off in the end. Better boaters cause fewer problems at the ramp and on the water. Better fishermen are less likely to cast across your line or hook you with their back cast.
Ditch your bad habits and help build up your fellow boaters and anglers. It will be good for you, and for me, and for all of us.
Robert Lugiewicz is the manager of Fishin’ Frank’s Bait & Tackle, located at 4425-D Tamiami Trail in Charlotte Harbor and at 14531 N. Cleveland Ave. in North Fort Myers. Call 941-625-3888 for more information about the shop or for local fishing info, or visit them online at FishinFranks.com.