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Proper Kayak Fishing Etiquette

Etiquette, it ain’t just for tea parties. Using socially correct behavior on the water is just as important as anywhere else. As more and more people take up the sport of kayak fishing, it is important that they learn to operate appropriately. Simple manners can go a long way toward creating a pleasant day on the water.

So, what are some of the behaviors expected by kayakers? I mean, if you don’t know the expectation, how can you meet them, right? 

Here are just a few generally acknowledged “rules” for kayak fishing etiquette.

On Land

One of the biggest areas of potential tension is at the launch site, particularly on the ramp. As a kayaker, you may be able to avoid the ramp altogether since kayaks can be launched from almost anywhere: shore, beach, dock, etc. If you do need to use the ramp, don’t dally, especially if it is busy.

  • Load then go

One of the biggest pet peeves of other water craft enthusiasts is a group of potential launchers that arrive at the ramp and spend time going back and forth to their car loading and rigging and using the restroom - while their kayaks or boats jam up the space.

Load your kayak in the parking lot (or a boat staging area), secure your equipment, and set your rig as much as possible BEFORE bringing it to the ramp. This works in reverse as well. When you arrive back to the ramp, retrieve your fully loaded kayak and bring it to the lot or staging area to disassemble. 

  • Make room

As soon as possible move out of the way of other boaters, paddlers, and anglers. As a small craft, you might even be able to quietly load off to the side and make room for boat trailers to launch.

  • Save the chit-chat

While the friendliness of the kayak community and bonding with new paddlers is a great strength of this activity, don’t share your life story on the ramp. Be friendly, but keep moving. Feel free to meet up in the parking lot or arrange for further conversation at a different location.

  • Lend a hand

One huge way to speed up the launch process, especially on a busy day, is to offer to help. If you are just standing around waiting for your turn why not be a part of the solution. (It might also be a gentle nudge to others about the need to move swiftly.)

On Water

  • Communication

As mentioned above, the kayak community is generally a friendly one. If you are on the water and see another angler, it is polite to wave and even engage in small talk. This goes a long way if you are needing to pass them or negotiate fishing grounds. If someone is at a spot before you, give them plenty of space as you pass or, even better, ask them respectfully where they would like you to scoot by. If they have lines out, they may have opinions on the best place to pass.

It is polite to share information on what is biting or the bait you are using. However, don’t assume everyone on the water wants to engage in chit-chat. If fellow anglers answer in monosyllables, it is fine to say have a nice day and keep on your way.

  • Respect

In general, give plenty of space to others out fishing. Sharing is caring. If you see another angler, observe the direction they are heading. Don’t then leap frog over them to fish 50 yards ahead. Try fishing the opposite bank or go even further ahead. Even a quick conversation asking if you can slide by and fish up a ways can go a long way toward peaceful co-existence.

If you are invited to fish someone’s spot, don’t pass along that information without permission. Likewise, let others know if you don’t want them sharing your special spots. Make sure to express those expectations early.

‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ go a long way. And always be ready to help another in distress.

  • Safety

Of course, this is a bit more than just courtesy but staying safe on the water is a form of caring for others. Keep a respectful distance from swimmers. Be aware of others on the water. Stay visible. Wear your PFD and have signaling gear.

In Nature

  • Leave it as you found it

As much as possible, leave no footprint when out in nature. Don’t take the flora with you when you leave. In fact, rinsing, draining, and drying your kayak near your launch site can help you reduce the chance of invasive species spread - especially if you are kayaking far from home and have the risk of bringing something unwelcome back with you.

  • Respect wildlife

Be aware of the wildlife around you. Practice catch & release if you can. Observe and avoid nesting spots for seabirds or other aquatic animals. Enjoy from a distance.

  • Camping conventions

A few courtesies to remember if you are turning your fishing trip into a camping trip.

Plan ahead. Know the areas that you are accessing so you can make sure you have permission to use it. Smaller groups are better since larger groups require more logistics.

Leave no trace. Camp on “durable” surfaces: sand, stone, resilient grass. Choose established campsites whenever possible. Make sure your kitchen is located for minimal impact to land or water. Carry all trash and human waste out with you for proper disposal. Do not cut vegetation. Return your site to its natural state when you leave.

Prevent fires. Use a cookstove or portable heat source whenever possible. If you must start a fire, ensure that it is small and safe, preferably in a fire pan below the high tide line.

Growing pains are inevitable as more and more interest in kayak fishing develops; however, it doesn’t have to mean fist fights and temper tantrums. Pack a bit of patience and common courtesy along with your lures, rods, and jigs. Remember kayak fishing is meant to be a relaxing and enjoyable endeavor. Don’t lose your perspective. Happy paddling!!!



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