Are you a Close Talker? 

Lake Huron spans 23,012 square miles and is home to many popular sportfishing species such as walleye and smallmouth bass. The improvement of water quality has enhanced catches in recent years and tributaries and waterways of Lake Huron have made Bassmaster’s “Top 100 Bass Lakes” for a number of years in a row. With such great fishing opportunities over a wide area, why is it that I have to constantly look over my shoulder for fear of my back cast will hit another angler.
At the risk of sounding too “ranty” or “whiny” I’ve wanted to write this blog entry a number of times but held off. I’ve struggled to come up with a positive spin on this because, honestly, this is a huge pet peeve of mine and I could go on for days. Fishing is a sport and a lifestyle that many of us turn to because of the enjoyment and comradery shared by all. I have yet cast a line in the water where, at the end of the day, I didn’t learn something or notice something I previously hadn’t before. But a little courtesy and respect can go a long, long way so every trip can be equally as enjoyable.

How many times as a shore angler, a kayak angler, or an angler fishing from a boat of any sort, can you remember another person getting too close for comfort? It happens to all of us. We could very well be guilty of it, too. Since I’ve been fishing from a kayak, it’s happened more frequently and I’m not sure why. It could be because I’m on the water more or the physical size of a kayak isn’t as intimidating to other boaters. For whatever reason, I’ve held my tongue, stood my ground until I’m done fishing a certain location, and then left without confrontation. I didn’t want to ruin other angler’s days and I’m confident enough in finding another location holding fish that I can simply leave and return later, if I had to.

Channeling my old “Interpersonal Communications” professor, we all abide by social norms whether we know it or not. Everyone has their own comfort level in certain situations. One of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld involved a “close talker”. If I had my own TV show, I’d borrow the idea and do one about a “close fisher” but maybe I could talk Zona into it, we’ll see. Anyway. What we should take from that is sometimes our proximity makes others uncomfortable and it begins to push the outer limits on one’s personal bubble. I’m convinced that the majority of time, the excitement of catching a fish gets to us and we may let that take over and we become unaware of other things around us. It happens.

How close is too close? Ideally, I’ve heard numbers thrown out there but how do you judge distance accurately on the water. A good rule of thumb is to stay one to two casts away from other anglers in all directions. However, there’s nothing wrong with anglers asking others, “would you mind if I fished here?” That will go a long way with them, I guarantee it. During tournaments, I ask myself, how close would I want another competitor to be, and I stay away. Granted, that is probably a lot farther away than most would agree with, but there’s nothing wrong with leaving and then coming back later. Water is water and everyone has a right to fish it but don’t ignore one of the fundamental ideas that the sport is based on; sportsmanship. You don’t have to fish competitively to understand that.

Make yourself aware of your surroundings. Be mindful. Have fun. Be safe. Be courteous.

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