Neil Taylor, Strike Three Kayak Fishing
Things our mothers taught us that somewhere along the way many forgot. The golden rule? Thinking of others before yourself? Don’t embarrass me? Wear clean underwear? Whatever the cause, there are a lot of things that happen on the water with various water users that detract from our positive experiences and sometimes lead to very frustrating situations that are often tenuous and maybe even confrontational. The irony is that we want to share our experiences on the water: But not at the time we are out there.
Captain Mel used to ask me the question: “Can’t we just all get along?” I responded in a way he didn’t expect to hear. Doubtful. It is a painful reality. These kind of interactions are inevitable. But could it be better than it is? Absolutely. But how?
It falls on each one of us. Every little bit helps too. It trickles down, the messages branch out. Even the knowledge of how to handle the situations will help make progress. Some personal choices, combined with a little bit of restraint plus adding in some of the other criteria listed below and “Voila!”
Most of these situations are avoidable, or can be avoided in the future if folks take the time to educate those who have never heard of certain principles of conduct. Think about it this way: Maybe they don’t know what you do. Of course there is a certain amount of the offenders who know and don’t care, possibly even embracing the chance to upset other people. There is little you can do about that.
Rude, unnecessary and likely to “cause a fight” the average guy needs to have more respect for others, in general, than they are currently exhibiting. Taking too much time at a boat ramp, kayak launch or elsewhere just shouldn’t happen. In a recent interaction I had with a man, I was not in any particular hurry because I was excessively early in arriving but I told him that he was headed for trouble. Not only was he nonchalant about blocking the entire put-in, he told me that he intends on going his own speed. So I notified him that it would not be a great interaction if I was trying to get my clients in the water at this location. He wanted to argue the point “I got here first.” I countered that argument with “If you move that three feet that way anyone else wanting to go out from here can still do it while you are taking an hour to tie your shoes.” Game, set, match. A little common sense making its way through the clouds? Now he knows. More hopefully will after reading this.
Up another level and worse yet, people who have little forethought or respect for all people who use an entire area- If you have seen this one, you know what I mean. The public access point to the water is a break in the trees. Joe Meathead has backed up into that spot, parked, taking up the entire opening and is nowhere to be seen. This prevents anyone else from being able to use that location. How hard is it to unload and then pull up into a space where everyone else can also use the launch? I have had this happen where I got out first; I get back and cannot easily get by the parked vehicle to load up to leave. In one interaction with the person who blocked the launch (not the most sophisticated guy I ever met), the man said “What’s your problem?” It started out an “education opportunity” I described already. It ended up an undressing. Other people within earshot spoke up in defense of my position because they too have grown tired of people who ruin these locations for others to use.
At the boat ramp, the guy who parks diagonally taking up four parking spots? The people who loiter in general for loading up or launching when they prevent anyone else from access when they could float their craft out of the way? Generally any of other examples that can be brainstormed: People occupying space that they could make some simple adjustments and let others use the same facility?
The article and statements are not just to be critical or to gripe, hopefully these topics means something to people and prevent altercations moving forward. Raise your hand if you know someone who does things like described above (hand went up myself). People can be defensive but you know what, maybe they need to hear it more. If you are being inconsiderate to others who want to utilize the same resource, maybe you need to get zinged for it. I’m not saying not to be patient with these folks because we all have our tough days, but people need to try to get better at certain things.
How else does this weigh in once out on the water? Sharing fishing areas and just working around the waterways for various water users comes to mind. Something, as I talked to Mel about, that will get worse instead of better: There will only be more people, not less in the future. I’ve seen in the time since Mel died, places I just don’t even go to anymore because they are overrun with anglers or other water users.
There is tension when any anglers talk about “intrusion” on their trips. Why is that? It is simple really: We all enjoy having an area to ourselves, particularly for the anglers seeking success in catching some fish. As annoying as it may seem, we do have to share the waters with other people. That being said, there is “courtesy” and there is the “law.” Sharing the water incorporates both. Sadly there are a lot of people who have no regard for either the law or courtesy for others who are also on the water. The offenses are committed by the tourists, the “newbies” as well as the self appointed “entitled” who are regular water users who feel a divine right to go wherever they wish and do absolutely anything they please.
There is no “might is right” in this scenario. My own feelings and having discussed this at length with others who spend a great deal of time on the water as guides or very active anglers: “ye who gets there first has reign”. If someone else is there and you want to fish nearby, can’t you pass by at a distance whereby you are not being intrusive? If the answer is no, feel free to drive to the Skyway bridge and jump off. Just kidding. If the answer is no: Why? With all the water we have here, you can’t pick a path to avoid others?
Go back to my first time on the internet and meeting people from my area. In the course of discussion people began to realize that I was very familiar with the same areas that they like to go fishing. The question came up “How come we have never seen you out there?” I said “That is really quite simple. I would never get close enough to anyone else for them to meet me.” With so much truth to it, the way I operate on the water, I do not move into areas where other people are already fishing. Changing to Plan B or C if necessary, I feel I would rather take people fishing where there is less activity.
Another example: Just before the first Captain Mel Classic, I ran into another guide at a local tackle shop. The owner interjected, “You guys are talking like this is the first time you have ever met.” The other guide said “Unless I am mistaken, it is.” I confirmed this. The owner wanted to know how that was possible. I said “Pretty easy. If I see him in that spot, I go the other way” and he said “And if I see him in that spot, I go the other way.” Because of that kind of understanding I have waved him in on fish after we have decided to move on (and vice versa)
Passing one another may be inevitable. That being the case- There are times where someone will be set up on a point where there may be only way to pass through. I’ll get close enough to talk to them and ask where they would like us to pass through and then we can either squeeze behind them or quietly pass right off one end of their craft, not going through any fish they may be working. Someone blocking an entrance or exit to an area, they have to understand that they’re going to have to allow people to pass.
Let’s take a moment to examine “partial courtesy.” What on Earth could that mean? Imagine this one. You are fishing and you get to share the area with another group who comes in on pushpole or trolling motor, is in close proximity. At the time they have finished in this location they fire up their motor to leave, ruining any chance of you catching a fish in the next 45 minutes??? This reminds me of attending a meeting a few years ago on Manatee Zones and the arguments I heard from one side talked about the amount of time it took to idle through zones like these. Guides stating this. My remark was “I go that speed all the time. If you can’t take that couple of minutes to go that speed to tell a story or otherwise kill the time then you shouldn’t be a guide anyway.” If you can’t use common sense (and your pushpole or trolling motor) to exit an area where others are fishing, then you do not have any appreciation for other human beings.
A really big inconsiderate issue that affects us all: Violators of Combustion Motor Exclusion zones. So many of my colleagues are hoping to see even more “Pole and Troll” zones. These zones are actually designed to protect shallow seagrass but also serve to create great opportunities for targeting redfish.
Honestly, people who can’t or won’t use their trolling motor or pushpole in these zones, they should probably be tied to one of those markers and flogged Just kidding but as in the case of deciding to cast a lure or large sinker at these people, forcing a confrontation is probably not the very best choice. Make a phone call. Leave it at that and move to another area if they messed up your fishing.
In Pinellas County, the Combustion exclusion zones are Sheriff jurisdiction. Basically, over here your best shot at getting a response in Pinellas County is the Sheriff’s office. That’s just the way the staffing is. The FWC will address these but I would use the Sheriff number first then the FWC. For resource violations like reporting a poacher, use exactly the opposite approach.
Regardless of the offense, the officials cannot respond if they do not know about it. Staffing, better than it used to be, still deficient for this much territory to cover with the number of people assigned to do it. Give the most complete information possible and keep your cell phone handy to talk to the responding officer.
Don’t give in to the hate:
If you cast or throw something at another person and the authorities come out, you’re facing assault charges. In what could also be an escalating situation, just don’t do it no matter how frustrated or upset you are. If that person has some kind of weapon, you may be the one who loses the worst.
I get it, and it is frustrating. You finally get to go fishing. You get out there. I call it the Magnet Effect. One boat comes into view: There is a high likelihood they are going to come within 30 yards of you. You can say something, again, creating an education opportunity. But having a physical altercation, you are really rolling the dice on that one.
How to move on from here: Evaluate yourself. Do you move in too close to others? Do you block other people from starting their time on the water? Will you try to help other people to not make these same mistakes? We have to share what we have. That won’t get any easier with time and a growing population. Be proactive: Be courteous and try to teach other people how to do the same. Orrrrr, be an obnoxious, inconsiderate jerk? I know some of you held on reading to see where having clean underwear would be tied in. I can’t lie to you: It is important but it was not critical to this subject.
Neil Taylor is a top fishing guide in the Tampa Bay area, specializing in Instructional Kayak Fishing trips for both beginners and the experienced. If you have questions about his charters or services call 727-692-6345. His web site is www.strikethreekayakfishing.com