By Adam Johnson
It’s that time of year where the first run sockeye are coming in strong in one of the best runs the Kenai Peninsula has had in years and Ship Creek is in full swing for King Salmon.
Also this time of year is when social media blows up with people complaining about the jerks and idiots who have no courtesy for anybody else fishing next to them. This can lead to a very bad day of fishing. Losing that big fish that could have won the gold nugget for first place for the Slam’n Salmon’n Derby on Ship Creek would certainly boil my blood. A little bit of courtesy can go a long way on the river and make for a wonderful experience for everybody fishing. A lot of times the mistakes come from people who are new to fishing and just don’t know what the proper etiquette is. So here are a few things to keep in mind when going fishing, especially in a combat fishery such as the Russian River or Ship Creek.
First things first — give proper space to the person next to you. When stepping into a fishing spot with others around, you need to make sure you are giving them proper room to cast (or flip) depending on what type of fishing you are doing. Pay attention to how everybody around you is casting and make sure you are giving them enough room to cast and that you have enough room to cast, as well. This will avoid the big mess of tangled lines with the person next to you on every other cast. Tangles will weaken your line and cause for your line to break when fighting a fish. Not only that, but take your bait or fly out of the water for a period of time. This specially sucks when the fishing is red hot and everybody is catching but you!
It’s easily avoidable by following this rule: If you are unsure, simply ask your neighbors if it’s OK if you fish next to them and if they have enough room. This simple courtesy goes a long ways.
Another big thing — and one that really pisses me off when it happens to me — is don’t slide into somebody’s fishing spot when they are busy fighting a fish and have to move to land it. Just because they leave that spot for a minute doesn’t mean they are not fishing there anymore. I’ve seen arguments and actual fights happen on the river over this issue. It’s not worth it. There are plenty of places to catch fish on any river, so there is no need to take somebody else’s spot and cause problems. This goes as well if they break off and have to step back to the bank to re-tie their leader. If anything, ask them if you can step in and fish for a moment in that spot while they are re-tying. Most of the time they won’t care as long as you step back out when they are ready to fish again. The key is to communicate and simply ask first before you do it.
There is nothing that sucks more than losing a nice fish because the person next to you didn’t reel in their line to give you space to fight the fish. You should always reel your line up and back up a little when somebody hooks a fish next to you, especially for larger fish such as king salmon. They are very powerful fish and can go on multiple runs before tiring and then can be netted or landed. If you are the person to hook the fish make sure you yell “FISH ON” so others around you know that you have hooked a fish and are fighting it and they can reel up. Most of the time if you reel up for others when they are fighting a fish, they will do the same in return for you. Sometimes you it might be the only fish you hook that day and it sucks losing it because it’s tangled with somebody else’s line.
If you are going to start fishing in a spot where there is already people fishing, don’t fish in a way that is going to screw up how they are fishing. There are many different techniques to catch fish such as plunking bait on the bottom or bobber fishing. Bobber fishing means they are making longer drifts with their presentation. Showing up and plunking bait on the bottom right in the middle of their drift is going to cause line tangles with them. There is usually an area of the river where others are fishing how you want to fish, so the smart thing to do would be to go join those people so others can fish how they want to fish and everybody is happy. If you are the first person in a spot then you can fish however you want. There is plenty of room on the river for everybody. A big thing to keep in mind is that usually when multiple people are fishing a certain way, it’s because it’s best practice.
Fishing should be fun. A little bit of kindness can go a long way. A lot of the time you could be fishing with people that simply just don’t know any better because they are new to fishing and haven’t been taught the proper etiquette yet, especially in Alaska. Whenever I fish next to new fishermen I try to be patient and calm and explain to them why we do things a certain way. Tangled lines are always going to happen some way or another, but the odds of it happening can be lowered by following some of these simple guidelines.