How Close is Too Close?

Shore-bound and boating anglers sometimes find themselves competing for the same structure. So who gets to fish it?

fishermen on a jetty
Jetties can be productive places to fish, sometimes even drawing a crowd. Joe Albanese

Confrontations between shore and boat anglers can get ugly. Access to the best fishing spots is getting more and more crowded, and competition can lead to anglers losing their heads and making bad decisions. In these confrontations neither party is innocent, and both are guilty of being rude or worse.

It’s really easy for a boat angler to unintentionally (or intentionally) block or ruin a fishing spot for a shore-based angler. Shore anglers are not only far more limited on the spots they can fish, it also typically takes a lot more time to move from one spot to the next. While it’s easy to suggest that the shore angler should “just buy their own boat,” some can’t afford to do so, and many others simply prefer fishing from shore. Understanding that we’re all on the same team—and having some empathy for your fellow sportsman—makes fishing more fun for everyone.

Naturally, this all also goes for shore anglers. If a boat is tight to your favorite beach, jetty, or rock, you just have to wait or go elsewhere—just like you would have to if it was another shore guy. Yeah, it may have been harder for you to access that spot, and you likely have less options than the boat angler, but that doesn’t give you the right to harass them or the fish they’re targeting. Again, empathy, courtesy and commonsense reign supreme here. In essence, treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Just because two groups of anglers are interested in fishing the same piece of structure doesn’t mean they have to fight about it. With a little thought, both can fish the area without interfering with each other. Give a wide berth, and keep the following in mind before getting in tight.

If a boating angler encounters a spot with a shore bound angler there prior to their arrival, it may be possible for the boater to fish without blocking their ability to work the structure effectively. The boater should give the shore angler an arc that is equal to or greater than their casting distance. Depending on the situation and gear (fly, spin, or casting) involved, this will be anywhere from 30 to 80 yards.

It should be noted that the shore angler can’t move around structure like a boat can, so they cover ground by casting in a variety of directions. While they may be standing in just one spot, it’s likely that they’re casting up and down the structure, too. For instance, if they’re using a jig in current, they will cast up-current and let it settle towards the bottom before swinging it down over the structure.

So if you position your boat in a way that prevents them from casting up-current, it doesn’t matter if they have a direct lane into the area the fish are holding. Their jig simply won’t ever get to the right depth if they can’t cast up-current too. While you can rotate around the spot in a boat, they are stuck where they can stand. I’m certainly not suggesting that a shore angler gets a 300-yard exclusive zone, or ownership of an entire jetty or sand bar. Just don’t slide in between them and the fish.

But if your boat is out of the casting range or the lane of the shore angler, you’re good. Even if your casts are overlapping in the strike zone, as long as you’re not crossing lines, there’s no foul. For example, if I’m standing on a rock casting to breaking fish that are 30-yards out, and you’re in a boat 60-yards from shore, casting straight back towards the fish, you’re good. It’s also polite for both parties to time their casts so that they don’t overlap, which will decrease risk of tangles.

The Golden Rule

jetty on Long Island
Jetties are put in place to break up currents, which often pushes bait and gamefish on to them. Joe Albanese

If you take nothing away from this article, it should be this: The simple rule for any fisherman—shore, boat, kayak, or otherwise—is that the person that is there first gets the spot. That’s the simplest and most clear-cut way to decide. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been fishing, if you deem the spot “yours,” or even if the other person doesn’t seem to know what they’re doing.

If they are in your spot, you either wait for them to leave, or you go somewhere else. I personally find this to be frustrating; showing up to find someone in my spots can be very disheartening. But it’s just the way it goes, it’s something we all have to deal with. Tight lines!

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