Etiquette on the Flats
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Sport fishermen, for the most part, are a considerate bunch. But, as with any group, there are a few people who are capable of making everyone miserable.

Unlike some years in the not so distant past, this year sees Texas saltwater anglers enjoying full, healthy fisheries. Fishermen are catching more and bigger fish. However, fish attract fishermen; more of one usually means more of the other. More fishermen means more crowds and more chances for unpleasant experiences to take place.

But, that doesn't have to be the case. If everyone who takes to the water also takes responsibility for showing the bay and bay fishermen equal respect, our waters can be a much more pleasant place to be. This should not be a major inconvenience or burden to carry. Indeed, much can come from everyone making minor adjustments.

For starters, take care of the bay. Littering is an obvious lack of indifference. Make sure every can, bag or length of tangled line makes it back to shore. Take care when running to ensure nothing is inadvertently jettisoned. Picking up out of place items left by others doesn't hurt either.

Removing trash and debris is good, however, some important items should remain. Grass and shell are important players in the health of a marine ecosystem. Shut down the outboard before running over grass beds. This does not mean grass beds should be avoided. Quite the opposite; fish the grass, just drift or pole across. When readying to leave, pole out to an ample depth of water before attempting that "hole shot." Rooting up sand, grass and oyster shell damages more than just your outboard.

When fishing, make sure give other anglers their space. When wading, don't crowd other fishermen who are already in the water. If you are moving faster than anglers in front of you, slow down or adjust your route. When others approach your water, use hand signals to direct them out of your line of fire.

Knowing when to shut down is also a courtesy that should be extended to fellow anglers. Fishermen already on a flat or under a flock of birds have first right to those fish. Approach with caution and always turn off the big engine a safe distance away. Use the wind, a trolling motor or push pole to maneuver close enough to cast. Unless the other anglers give the okay, keep a respectable distance between you. No one likes to be crowded.

If you just can't stand to share water, find some more. It is a big bay and odds are there is a stretch of water that no one is fishing. But, while underway, run away from the shorelines. The majority of fishermen in Texas bays will be wading or poling the flats along the shore. Just because you don't want to fish a particular shore doesn't mean no one will fish it that day. Running over a skinny water flat can ruin it for the whole day and you never know who may run over your spot. So, just be courteous and hope everyone else will follow suit.

These are just a few suggestions. In actuality, most everyone knows what to do. Fish for fun and have fun fishing, just don't do anything that would make someone else's day less fun.

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