First and foremost, anglers must respect the space of others, whether they happen to be fishing or not. Fishing spots are claimed on a first-come, first-served. If you come across a group of anglers in a desired area, you’ll need to either wait or move on. While it’s always a nice gesture to give up a productive fishing area after you’ve enjoyed it for some time, it’s never required.
If you find it necessary to approach or pass another group or individual, be sure to do it very carefully. Pay attention to the direction they’re casting in and leave plenty of space so as not to spoil the water they’re fishing in. Wade only when necessary, keeping in mind that fish can be rattled quite easily, even with shadows from above or far-away vibrations. Upstream travelers always have priority over downstream ones. However, an angler with a fish on his line is always considered to have the right of way.
Conversation on the river is a sensitive subject, and every angler is different. Don’t bother a stranger with small-talk unless it’s clearly wanted. At the same time, if you’re in doubt of a fellow anglers plans, you should always ask. Similarly, do everything you can to communicate your own plans with others, possibly even leaving notes where appropriate. Remember to offer advice to other anglers only if asked, and to always politely. Even if a someone is breaking etiquette, try to be nice about it.
As exciting as a fishing trip with your buddies might be, don’t act like you’re in the end-zone seats at a football game. If someone else can unwillingly hear you, you’re probably being too loud. Watch your choice of language in case of younger, impressionable anglers. Don’t litter and be careful with any source of fire. And if you see a sign that says “No Trespassing”, obey it. Common sense goes a long way, and good behavior shouldn’t keep you from having a good time
While respect to other anglers is important, respecting the fish you’re targeting is another key to proper etiquette. Pinch down barbs on hooks if they have them, and make sure your net and hands are good and wet before they encounter a fish. Once you’ve got the fish properly handled, be careful not to squeeze or poke it in sensitive areas. When throwing fish back into the river, photograph it as you wish and get it back in the water as quickly as you can. If a hook is stuck, cut the line and throw the fish back before it suffers too much.
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