A Misty Isles guide to fishing etiquette

  • Sep. 8, 2010 8:00 p.m.

By Jane Wilson-So you’ve been invited on a fishing trip? That’s great, let me congratulate you and point out that you are about to receive freely an experience for which people who take charters may be paying thousands. You may be thinking to yourself “Wow, I’m very lucky and I should probably mind my manners. I’m also grateful for that exceedingly charming columnist who gives me such wonderful unsolicited advice”. And while you’re right you are very lucky, and that you should mind your manners, you don’t need to be grateful, I’m just happy if I can give you some advice to make your trip the best it can be. You probably want to say something along the lines of, “But Jane, while you are as sweet and flaky as really good pastry, I’m not sure that you’re an expert on how to behave on fishing trips”. Which is a good point, but I haven’t found any instructions anywhere else on proper etiquette for being a guest on a fishing boat, and I’m not going to offer any advice on your fishing, just on your behaviour. The main thing to remember is that if someone is inviting you on their boat for a fishing trip they have a few main reasons for doing so. The reasons are, in no particular order, that they are very nice and are doing you a favour, they want company, they need extra hands and/or they want more fishing licences. So never forget to say thank you, try to be good company, be prepared to work and absolutely make sure you have a fishing licence. (If you’re sure that they are not inviting you for those reasons, they may be looking for a return favour, perhaps a kidney donation). At this point you’re likely wishing you could say, “Jane, you doe-eyed sylph, that was very helpful but could you give me more concrete examples of good and bad behaviour while being a guest on someone’s boat? And while we’re talking, I feel the dialogue you write for me is both unnatural, and somewhat self-indulgent.” Well, first let me say you should write your own dialogue, I’m the one doing all the work in this relationship anyway, but yes, of course I will give you more concrete advice. The main thing is not to assume that any fish you pull up on to the boat is your personal possession. The deal is this, unless you baited the line on your own personal rod, set your own personal downrigger, net your own fish, while driving the boat at the same time, then it was a team effort and reeling in the fish is only one part of what brought it into the boat. Now you can claim that you recorded it on your licence so that makes it yours, but you still didn’t do it by yourself. Really, the best thing to do is to let the captain decide how the fish are divided, and act like any fish you receive are a gift with which you are very pleased. Based on my own personal experience, I can tell you that, if at all possible, don’t break a line because if you do it will be taken for granted it was the biggest fish hooked by that boat in the entire season, and you just lost it and no claims that it was an octopus, or Jaws is going to save you. There will be yelling and carrying on and you’re not even allowed to cry to get out of it. Also not acceptable is wrapping a line around the captain’s head by accident and any use of the phrase, “Oh #*%#, we’re all going to die!”, no matter how bad the waves. (Which is odd because so many situations are improved by the yelling of “Oh #*%#, we’re all going to die!”). Strangely, accidently dropping a live fish into the metal swim grid on the back of the boat after netting it and then standing on it to keep it from flopping out of the boat, is apparently just fine and causes no yelling whatsoever. Calling out, “Don’t worry, I’m standing on him” will not fill anyone with confidence in your skills though. Equally strangely, it is also okay to grab the club and then perform unnecessary violence to said fish, while simultaneously verbally abusing it. I don’t know any other situation where violence and bad language are so gracefully accepted. I suppose all behaviour is judged by context, for instance being fully-clothed and looking for a bargain may be completely appropriate in the grocery store but not so much in a gym changing room; see, context is everything. Please email me at jane.wilson@hgqci.org if you want to share your fishing stories with me. As a last bit of advice, when you go on your fishing trip wear rubber boots, as you will get fish guts on your feet (if you’re lucky) and you never know when you might have to stand on a fish in a crisis situation. They say that if you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime, but if you teach me to fish you get a line wrapped around your head, and many smart-alecky comments. Some things just aren’t fair.