Common Courtesies in the Woods and On the Water
article by Dan Chason
Some of my favorite bonehead moves are, of course, the guy who is hunting near me who decides that he must ride his ATV to his stand just as shooting hours are approaching. Then there is the guy who sees my decoys set and decides he needs to set up less than 100 yards away, just so he can shoot my “swings” or ducks responding to my calling. Then, there is the nimrod who decides that he will shoot a cripple just as my lab has left the dog box for the retrieve. Let’s not forget the bonehead who shoots down the blind ringing my ears and exposing me to the muzzle of his gun. But boneheads don’t just abound in the woods. I think more folks get cussed out on the water than anywhere else. With the Ronald McDonald Big Bass Tournament this month, I figured that maybe just one marginal or potential bonehead would read this and understand that, even though it is hard to consider yourself one…well if the shoe fits.
I was sitting at my brother in law’s camp on Caney the other evening and sure enough, the boneheads were out in force even on a windy day. I opted to stay at the camp. While I dearly love to fish, I despise fishing in high winds when I don’t have to do so. Let me preface this all with a little friendly instruction: Operating a bass/ski boat is not like operating a tiller handle outboard with no trim on a john boat. To get up on “pad” you must first trim DOWN. Once the motor develops enough force the boat will rise, then come back down. This is the time to trim up for a smoother ride. This particular bonehead was in a 19 to 20 foot rig in a shallow cove. He went the entire length of the creek with the bow of his boat up and the rear kicking up mud. A simple trim down would have fixed the issue. What bonehead didn’t understand was that his wake was tremendous. Boats in slips rocked, water bounced over sea walls, and had anyone been fishing that cove, they would have most likely given him the old Louisiana “what for.” Trim down to idle or to prepare to run. If you are on pad, DON’T slow down or trim down when passing another boat unless there isn’t enough space for courtesy or safety. Staying up on pad makes less wake and you won’t bother other fisherman nearly as bad. If you must idle by another angler, then IDLE. Don’t plow at a fast idle, as it only makes for bigger waves.
I used to love to fish D’Arbonne Bayou. Quite frankly, I quit fishing it due to so many close calls with boat operators who didn’t know what they were doing. Boats don’t have any brakes. Your trim is your “brake.” But you must understand boat drag to understand how to safely operate a boat without affecting other boaters. Another piece of friendly advice is what to do if you are fishing and come up on another boat. If you see a boat on a bank line, weed line or channel edge, please don’t go down 75 yards and start fishing. Generally, fisherman will point the boat into the wind and fish into it. If you must start near or around another angler, do so from the downwind side or at the rear of his boat. Not ahead of him in the direction he is fishing. I love to crappie fish on Poverty Point….or at least I used to love it. I haven’t been in quite a while as the anglers there will teach you some lessons on lack of courtesy. On the deep community holes on the lake during the winter, it is not uncommon to see 30-40 boats in one small pocket. Everyone is fishing vertically so it is really no big deal. That is, until I took my party barge one cold December morning to fish in comfort. I noticed that my boat was sluggish when trolling. I checked my prop, my battery connection and anything else that could be slowing me until I saw the problem. A bonehead had TIED his boat to the rear of my barge and was letting me pull him around and fight the wind. I thought I had seen everything until that day. But boneheads to abound.
When fishing a tournament with a partner, never violate the number one rule of fishing: If I take you to my sweet spot, don’t come back. Ever, nor with anyone else. I remember a guy who loved to fish that asked me to help him out. He wanted to fish a small tournament on the Ouachita River. I took him to three spots and showed him how to fish them and what to fish as well. He won his tournament and I was very happy for him. The next week, I returned to find this guy in one of my spots and to make it worse, he was keeping the fish he caught. Never again.
I have seen a lot of courtesy on the water over the years. I have seen tournament anglers tow a boat in that was disabled with big money on the line. I have seen anglers help property owners retrieve lost items and even seen competitors lend a hand when it would cost them the tournament or points in a championship run. But I have also seen anglers have guns drawn on them for fishing “my pier” and seen anglers come to blows over fishing spots or secrets. We are all responsible for our behavior and are responsible to act professionally when we are representing the sport of fishing. My hope is that a few of these tips will hit home and if you have been guilty of some of them, we forgive you. Good luck and good fishing.