July 28, 2021
Drift fishing, just like any fishing technique, can be a rewarding fishing experience, but only if all anglers practice proper decorum and etiquette on the water. While there are some places where actual rules and regulations for drift boat fishing are in writing, for the most part, practicing fishing etiquette is really up to the anglers themselves. It requires a certain amount of common sense and empathy to know how to act and react in certain situations when fishing. So, if you’re new to fishing or drift fishing, here are just a few notes on drift boat fishing worth keeping in mind.
Before launching your boat at the ramp, make sure it’s rigged and loaded and ready to go. If you’re not yet ready, let the others go ahead of you, even if you got there first.
And once your boat is in the water, pull it away from the ramp to let the ones after you launch their own boats or kayaks. If you need to anchor and wait for a companion, move your boat upstream away from the ramp. However, if there’s current, moving your boat downstream of the ramp might be a better idea.
Additionally, if you used a vehicle or trailer for launching at the ramp, make sure to get it out of the way as soon as possible to make way for others. The rule of thumb is to park it where it won’t block any other users after you.
Simply put, if your fellow angler has his boat anchored and is fishing toward the right, head the opposite way. The same is true if drift fishing is underway on another boat. If there’s enough room on the river, a good rule of thumb to follow is to stay at least 100 yards away from fellow anglers. If the hundred-yard bubble is just not possible, a simple heads-up and apology will do.
Similarly, if the water is quite crowded and there’s just no way to pass without disrupting other boats that are currently on the move, the best thing to do is to wait at a distance until the boat slows down or stops.
When anchoring your boat, assume that the other boats around are casting at fly line length so you can avoid anchoring in anyone’s casting range.
If your anchor doesn’t hold, make sure to secure it and don’t let it drag. Dragging anchor is one of the leading causes of collisions on the water and can cause streambed gravel disruption.
When anchoring, look around you and make sure you’re not blocking anyone’s path, especially if you’re in a narrow channel.
When drifting, avoid starting when you’re near another boat or, more specifically, in its own current. Again, try to follow the 100-yard rule and leave plenty of space between you and the other boat to avoid tangles.
Low-holing is a catch-all term that refers to when a boat cuts in downstream in front of another boat which prevents the former to fish the hole as planned. Take care to avoid this as you may be disrupting your fellow angler by moving in downstream of his boat.
If you arrive at a section of the river that’s already being fished, consider using the same technique being used by the first boat. However, if the water is wide enough, head on over to the opposite side of the water if you want to use a different technique. The key is always to minimize the disruption to each other’s fishing, so if you see a fellow angler back trolling a fishing spot, avoid the side-drifting on the downstream.
You do not own the river. It’s for every angler to enjoy. So do not hold or hover in just one spot. In places like New Brunswick in Canada, anglers have agreed upon how to share the length of a run among one another by allowing only a particular number of casts and moving upstream three steps. Then once the angler reaches the top, he has to go back to the bottom. This allows more people to fish the length of the run. While not all bodies of water will have such an unspoken agreement, a good rule to follow would be to leave a run for a few hours for others to fish before returning.
If you choose to fish on the front of the boat, cast to your left or right or ahead of the boat if there’s a slow current. If you’re casting from the back, then cast behind the boat. This will help you avoid getting tangled in someone else’s line or oar.
When you encounter a wader, the best thing to do is go behind him to minimize disruption. If you’re passing by a wader, do not fish the water as you do. Wait until you’re down the river before fishing.
If you’re learning to fish, you probably know that one of the key virtues, if not the key virtue, that every angler must practice is patience. It’s true for the act of fishing itself. But it’s also true for fishing in public waters. If you see an angler who may be acting out of negligence in the water, be patient with them and try to understand where they’re coming from. Oftentimes, they may not even know that what they’re doing may be disruptive to the water and fellow anglers. Rather than confronting them and stooping to their level, you should deal with them in the most level-headed way. You may even find out that they’re actually not acting out of pure negligence but only out of ignorance.
Most of these do’s and don’ts are really just a matter of common sense and compassion for fellow anglers. As in any communal activity, living the Confucian maxim, “Do unto others what you would want others to do unto you” helps if you have no clear idea how to act in a certain situation. To honor the water and the fishing tradition, don’t let the pursuit of fishing records prevent you from respecting your fellow anglers and Mother Nature.