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Don't take jerk bait

S tanding on a dock near Englewood's Stump Pass, trying to convince a monster snook to eat a 1-pound mullet, I heard some yelling from two boats about 100 feet away.

Four anglers, fishing in a small boat anchored a few feet from the mangroves, tried to signal a charter boat captain who was cruising at a high rate through an idle speed zone.

Words were exchanged — the specifics of the conversation still a matter of debate — but what happened next is not. The owner of the pleasure boat yelled at the charter captain to slow down.

When the charter boat did not, an angler tossed a couple of ice cubes into the captain's tower boat. This prompted the guide to then run a tight circle around the recreational anglers' boat in what appeared to be an attempt to cut the four fishing lines.

So what differentiates this altercation from hundreds of others that happen each week on Florida's waterways? For starters, I witnessed the incident and was able to talk to both sides afterward (I'm actually quite an expert in conflict resolution, with two children, ages 7 and 10, and a nephew, 8, who like to fight).

The captain's first mistake was failure to obey a posted slow speed zone. Sure, he wanted to get his clients on some fish. But even if the area was not posted, he should have slowed down as soon as he saw the recreational fishermen so he wouldn't rock the boat.

The captain, a professional angler, apparently doesn't have much respect for weekend warriors. Perhaps even less for tournament fishermen, especially those who compete on the professional redfish and tarpon tours, who may think their tournament entry fee gives them the right to do as they please.

The recreational angler, in retrospect, probably should not have anchored so close to the channel if a restful afternoon's fishing was what he sought.

In the end, both probably felt that they had been equally wronged. And both would have basically the same advice for their fellow boaters: "Be nice. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

So the next time you are on the water and run across an inexperienced boater or angler who may not know the finer points of proper flats etiquette, instead of yelling, cursing and making a scene, make it a teaching moment. As I tell my son when he fights with his sister, "I expect more from a 10-year-old than I do a 7-year-old."

If you are new to fishing and boating, remember a few cardinal rules. If you see another angler fishing a spot, give him wide berth. Take the long way around or wait at a respectful distance for your chance to fish.

If you really want to catch fish, get there first. As one of my photo-snapping colleagues puts it, "Go early, stay late."

Remember, courtesy costs nothing. If you are wronged, take the high road. I tell my kids, "They call that class."

Don't take jerk bait 08/11/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:51pm]
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