On the Hook: Acceptable fishing behavior awry

Bill Walsh
Some of the honorable fishing standards are emboldened in written rules and regulations but there are an equal number of rules of honor or human etiquette.

All sporting activity carries with it an implied code of honor. Some of the honorable standards are emboldened in written rules and regulations but there are an equal number of rules of honor or human etiquette. The latter are those things you carry as the “right thing to do” sans a written edict. It’s a self-appreciating conduct that produces honor and self-respect and emboldens love of the sport.

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For example, perhaps the loftiest self-induced code of conduct in ingrained in the game of golf. You count all the strokes, even the “whiffs” in the woods, penalize yourself if you touch the ball in the sand trap and the most defeating is when you charge yourself for that lost ball in the woods. All self-inflicted penalties, strictly defined in PGA rule books but within the structured game of golf, adhered to religiously. Great, huh?

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How about sport fishing? Where’s the detailed rule book? Sure, we have dizzying pages and pages of what species you can take and when and how many and where you can fish and when. But where are rules of conduct; how we treat others on the water.

Ever see conduct anything like silence on the green when the other guy is putting or quiet courtesy on the tee out there on the briny. Don’t think so!

Over the years, running a charter boat, you see most everything out there, so allow us to run through several examples of egregious behavior that quickly fails the good behavior test.


It’s a beautiful spring morning a couple of years back and our crew is a young father and his two young boys, both still in single digit ages that get treated to half day charters a couple times here during spring break vacations.

They’ve been customers for a couple years, so things are cool and comfortable on the boat. Dad is very specific on his approach “Teach them but don’t fish for them.” On this trip we’re working the Capri Pass and targeting pompano with a companion chance at mackerel.

The boys were on the rods armed with small white tipped jigs on 12# test. Dad was the coach and chief “encourager.” He would coach them to keep the jig moving and up off the bottom. For the first hour that fell on deaf ears and we were flipping caught catfish time after time.

At his suggestion we downsized the jigs to 1/8 oz. and made run where the pomp’s got into the game; but the boys were losing them on break offs after errant runoffs. But they were learning what’s right and wrong. Things were very active and exciting.

There was a half dozen boats working the pompano who were rather schooled up working a gathering of bait. Everyone was rather close to one another but leaving room for casts from the other boats, except one.

Manned by obvious rowdies, this boat would power up and produce a hellacious wake as it moved back for another drift to the shouts from the others in the group. Had to sit the boys down numerous times; very disruptive. Additionally, they would come within 10-15” of our boat which would further disrupt the boy’s casting space,

On one of the “close in’s,” I made comment “little close, huh?” Answer from one of the three guys was a Long Island Salute. Kids missed that fishing on the other side of the boat. I took their hull number down.

But undaunted, the boys stayed with the effort and the two of them finally landed a couple undersized pompano; pictures and high fives as they carefully released the small pomp’s. Just then the louts came up port side holding up two nice big pompanos saying directly to the two boys “Is this what you guys were looking for? Too bad!”

Dad almost came out of his shoes with choice words to the obnoxious louts.

Before we finished, the boys did land a “take home” pompano that was now heading to dinner and I gave the hull number to the FWC.

But it’s tough to understand that kind of conduct. Thankfully it doesn’t happen too often.


A neighbor, Jim, who loved to fish but always arrived home sans any fish was lamenting one day that he just didn’t know where to fish.

We had spent hours over the years working the hot spots charts at the marina, but he just couldn’t line up properly facing changing currents and wind conditions. That led to a joint day on the inshore reefs trying again to help him attain some level of success. It would be a day of hands-on experience.

The spot we picked was an “ancient” reef put together in the 1950s and composed of old automobile tires banded together and spread over a large area. This would be ideal for him as there was no requirement for pinpoint anchoring. We fished for nearly an hour here and had good results on some snapper, a couple of pompanos and a nice size triggerfish. Jim was impressed and asked me for the coordinates of the spot we fished.

Had made it a “golden rule” to keep coordinates private but in a moment of compassion I gave my friend the numbers with a provision to keep them to himself. He promised that he would keep them to himself even if he were tortured.

A couple weeks later and I scheduled a trip to the same reef for my scheduled group. As we entered the Gulf that morning, in the distance, I noticed a gaggle of boats right on my “banded tires “reef spot” and as I closed in I counted six boats laden with anglers right smack on my spot.

Incensed, I quickly diverted to another spot. Couldn’t wait to ask Jim., “how come?”

That evening, I got in touch with him.

“Jim, did you give out the numbers?” In a soft sheepish tone, “well the other guys in the fishing club knew I had begun to catch some nice fish and asked where I was fishing; couldn’t lie so I told them.

There were over 100 members in the fishing club. I have never seen the spot empty since. I didn’t fish there ever again. But never took Jim fishing again either.

That code of honorable conduct is important to maintain personal honor.

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Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to dawnpatrolmarco@cs.com.