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Friday, October 31, 2014

There needs to be etiquette in fishing

COLUMN: Jerry Holt and I were coaching together at Water Valley and he invited me to go crappie fishing with him. He was an experienced jig fisherman. I had crappie fished before but never with a jig pole. Jerry lent me one and borrowed waders for me to wear.

It was a high water year, and Jerry had found some crappie at Robinson’s Crossing. We waded out and stood on the edge of a ditch. Jerry pointed toward a tree and said, “Stand by that tree and fish that top.” I was truly a novice, but I still remember that I caught 17 fish out of that top. I never moved my feet. From that day, I was addicted to jig fishing. I can still walk to that tree, and I wish I could point to that same top, but by the end of that day I had completely destroyed it.

One of the first times I was out fishing in my boat, Kenny Goodwin, the superintendent at Water Valley, pulled up beside me and said, “Chick, if you really want to be a good crappie fisherman, there are two items you’ve got to have in your boat. You’ve got to have a good jig pole. And if you really want to be good, you’ve got to have a good pair of binoculars.”

I know that Mr. Goodwin was kidding, but at least one of those statements must be in a manual that out of state fishermen read.

During years like this with the lake levels so low, if you’re catching fish you can expect a crowd to quickly gather around your boat. The only explanation that I can give for so many out of state boats to be attracted so quickly is that they must be using their binoculars while on their cell phones telling all their buddies that a local is catching fish. It’s not uncommon for four or five boats to pull up and try to fish on top of you. Southern fishermen, however, respect the unmarked boundaries of other fishermen. I am reminded of a comment that a well respected friend, Charles Walker, made years ago while we were bird hunting.

We were discussing why most landowners allow bird hunting even on posted land. He told me that most landowners do not mind bird hunting on their property because most bird hunters are southern gentlemen. They take care of a man’s property. They don’t walk the fences down, they would never drive their 4-wheel drive trucks across fields leaving ruts, and they would never leave gaps open for cows to get out. In general, Charles explained, bird hunters are men of etiquette. They abide by unwritten rules of respect.

I’ve had a lot of conversations with other fishermen over the years, and I think what my friend said could be applied to fishermen around here. Out-of-state fishermen have caused quite a stir locally.

Several rules of etiquette might need to be explained to them. The first might be if someone is fishing a certain spot, it’s theirs until they leave. I’ve heard that possession is nine-tenths of the law my whole life, but when it comes to crappie fishing, it’s everything. Secondly, if you’re within earshot of someone catching fish it’s OK to desire an invitation, but don’t ever get close enough to be able to identify the color of the jig.

Lastly, part of the fun of crappie fishing is finding your own fish. Remember it’s not called catching, it’s called fishing.

The water is so low right now that the areas to fish are limited. With each rain, the fishing will improve once the lake settles out. I hear that a few fish are being caught in the rivers, but the best fishing seems to be jig fishing wherever you can find open water 6 to 8 feet deep. My hope is that we get a good rain and one quick rise in the lake. The fish will then start moving to shallow water.

The forecast looks promising. (March 3, 2011, Page 7)

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