Published in the June, 1995 GOFC Newsletter
Now that spring is here and the wind is supposed to abate, it is time to do some serious fishing. Fishing is a more serious pastime for some people than it is for others. Tempers flare and heated words are exchanged when anglers find someone else at their favorite spot. In the smallest creek, fifty miles from the closest landing makes no difference. When a special or secret spot is occupied by the enemy (anyone else with a fishing rod), courtesy flies over the gunnels.
Courtesy, according to Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, circa 1948 (well, my father used it in his writing and his book The Reconstruction of a Nation was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1967) is defined as "an expression of respect." Since 1948 the definition must have changed to include rudeness and a lack of respect. A few examples of how courteous boaters should behave follow.
We should start this journey as most boaters do, at the ramp as we prepare to launch the boat. While you are waiting in line to put your boat in the water, get the boat ready. Take the straps off, install drain plugs, and put everything in the boat before you back down the ramp. This is good practice even if you are the only one in line. It is probably a good idea to leave the winch cable attached so your boat will not launch itself prematurely. If the boat ramp is wide enough for three boats to be launched at the same time, don't take up two spots. Make sure whoever is backing your rig into the water knows how to back a trailer. Finally, don't pull your boat back onto the ramp to wait for your partner to return. Most ramps are very slippery, and it is sometimes hard to see a boat, especially a small one, when you are backing a boat and trailer down a steep ramp. Most ramps have docks to tie the boat to load passengers.
Now that you are in the water and your blood pressure is up, you have to watch for anchored boats in the middle of the waterway. Though it is not illegal to anchor anywhere in the river, some people think the best spot to fish is in the middle, especially around a blind curve in the river. As you are responsible for your wake and the damage it causes, you must take care. The best method to pass a small boat anchored is to slow down to a fast idle and proceed. If the boat is larger and there is plenty of room around it, proceed by it with your boat on full plane. The worst choice is to slow down to half throttle and motor past with your bow high in the air. Watch your wake!
There are hundreds of spots in the river to fish, so go to your second best spot if someone is already fishing your best. You know they aren't as good a fisherman as you and won't catch any of the fish anyway. This is hard to do in the Steinhatchee River since all boats converge on the first boat that catches a fish. It is really fun to watch a 40-foot stone crab boat at full speed weave in and out around fifty boats from Georgia in the winter. It is illegal to anchor in a marked channel, and you can be ticketed for it.
As you leave the land behind, the choice of fishing spots increases greatly, and there is little reason to get close to anyone. So why do people do it? I don't know. Misery loves company, I guess. Some fishermen have "last marker visible fishing spot syndrome" (LMVFSS). They go just far enough past the last channel marker so they can still see the marker and the way home. The second boat to arrive has "anchor close to someone who knows where the fish are syndrome" (ACTSWKWTHFAS). This goes on and on until there is a flotilla of boats within sight of each other and the last marker. Pity the poor boat in this group that actually catches a fish, as the occupants dodge hooks, sinkers and lures thrown in their direction by action-starved fishermen. Interspersed in this group are other boaters that have "anchor close to someone who can pull you home syndrome" (JERK). They are the boats that have the cover of the engine off on the way out to fish.
There is really no reason to get close enough to read the FL numbers on any boat unless you are good friends sharing fishing spots, or unless you are the Coast Guard and there are bikinis in the other boat.
When you are drift fishing an area with other boats, time your drift so you are far enough away not to interfere with the others. When you drift out of the productive area, idle back to start again, being careful not to disturb the fish and the other boaters. Remember that all boats don't drift the same speed and direction, and that a boat will drift a straighter course with the lower unit out of the water
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This page last updated 3 November, 1996
Charles H. Courtney (email@example.com)