The 10 Unspoken Rules of Fishing


Fishing, as most other things, has an unwritten code of conduct. This more or less universal code not only dictates proper etiquette, but also includes practical guidelines that aim to make fishing an enjoyable experience for everyone. After all, nobody wants to find their favorite fishing hole covered in trash or jostle for space constantly. These rules keep fishing civilized and below are 10 of the most popular.

Remember to keep informed on your local fishing regulations as well. Those rules could actually land you in hot water with the authorities, these will just annoy your buddies.

1. Don’t get in another angler’s spot

This is probably the most important, and one of the most obvious unspoken rules of fishing. Unless you enjoy tangling lines, scaring the fish off, and getting some angry glares, make sure to leave more than enough room between you and your neighbors. Of course exceptions exist, but generally you’re going to want a bit of space to yourself and other anglers want the same.

If you see a certain spot is getting a lot of action, don’t just mosey on over in an attempt to join in. Wait for the other angler to leave or come back later.

2. Clean up after yourself

Be kind to the environment, bring your trash with you when you leave. Nobody wants to find your used beer cans, lures, or lines laying around. This is especially true since fishing lines will often entangle wildlife and can become a nuisance. In many places, this is less of an unspoken rule and could actually land you in trouble, so clean up after yourself.

3. Newbies: don’t have your friends do everything for you

You’re new to fishing and your buddies have roped you into a trip down to the pier. We understand that you have a lot of questions, and it’s more than ok for you to ask them, but don’t try to make your friends do everything for you. Don’t ask them to tie your line, land your fish, and cook your dinner. Asking for suggestions is alright, but spending a fishing trip without even touching the fish is not. Unless, of course, you’re under 10.

Image courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Image courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

4. Don’t disturb the waters

Another pretty obvious rule, but watch out for other people and their lines. Don’t plop your kayak on the water right next to some bank fishermen, run through people’s lines, or follow a trolling boat closely. These are beyond simple manners, if will probably save you from getting into a shouting match later on.

5. If you bring friends, expect to stay for a while

Let’s say you have a friend named Bob. Bob is a diehard fishing fanatic and he invited you out to go fishing. Only problem is, Bob hasn’t got a bite all day and you’ve been landing trophy bass like nothing else. Then Bob unceremoniously decides that since it’s his boat, he’s calling it a day.

Don’t be Bob. If you invite friends to a fishing trip, be prepared to stay for the long haul. Unless you have a good reason, nobody is going to be happy if you decide to call it off early, especially if they’re enjoying themselves.

6. Keep the complaining to a minimum

Complaining is a natural part of any activity, but remember that there are topics that are safe—fish aren’t biting, weather is bad—and topics that will frustrate your fellow anglers—like badmouthing your buddy’s boat or their gear. Unless you’re very close friends and you like a bit of raucous banter, try to stay on the positive side.

Image from Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing on Flickr.
Image from Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing on Flickr.

7. Respect the anglers who arrived before you

Fishing is not exactly a first-come, first-served sport. There are plenty of times where anglers wake up early, steal away to their favorite fishing hole, and then later find themselves crowded out by people who came much later. Much like rule number one, if you find that someone had already claimed your spot, find another one or come back later. It’s the courteous thing to do.

8. If you’re on a boat, don’t hog the shore, too

When you’re on a boat, you are a lot more mobile. Just because you notice more fish near the shore doesn’t mean you should start moving in on the shore fishermen, too. They set up there first and the whole reason you’re on a boat is so you can reach places where they can’t. Be kind and throw your lines somewhere else.

Image courtesy Bureau of Land Management.
Image courtesy Bureau of Land Management.

9. Treat fish humanely

This is a no-brainer. Everybody has their own code of ethics when it comes to fishing, and whether you practice catch-and-release or fish for dinner, one thing everybody can agree with is treating fish humanely. In many places and with some species, this is less of a unspoken rule and more of a very real regulation. There have been plenty of stories of people killing native “junk fish” because they compete with more popular game fish, and this is often illegal. So unless it’s Asian carp or some other invasive species, don’t think you’re doing the bass a favor by taking out fish other people like.

10. Don’t eat bananas on the boat

This is an old superstition, but according to some anglers, this is the main unspoken fishing rule that should never be broken. It is seen today as mostly a joke but some people are more serious about it than others. If you’re fishing with somebody new or on somebody else’s boat, we’d recommend leaving your bananas at home. At least that way if calamity strikes, they can’t blame your love for a certain cursed fruit.

What are some other unspoken rules in fishing you can think of?

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