Fishing Etiquette – Anglers, Manners, and You (9 Tips & Golden Rules)

Ever had your day spoiled by someone else while fishing? We’ve all been there. Nothing gets me more fired up than anglers who are inconsiderate.

There’s a way around it, and no, it isn’t a boxing match on the bank. Today we are talking about manners, politeness, and fishing etiquette.

I’m going to give you 9 great tips on how you, as a fisherman, can respect others and the environment around you, which ensures we can all have a great day if we all stick to it.

After you, no, I insist…

Table of Contents

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fisherman fishing from boat with spinning rod

Why is it Important to Have Etiquette in Fishing?

There is one rule I try and follow where I can when fishing in the company of anyone.

It is basically one simple rule.

Treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.

It requires a bit of self-reflection and analysis, but trust me, it is worth it. Any time you encounter anyone while fishing, ask yourself if what you are doing would be welcomed if someone else behaved in that way.

If the answer is ‘no’, then it’s time to rethink your behavior.

Etiquette is basically an unwritten code of ethics. It is a series of conventions and kindnesses, as opposed to set in stone ‘rules’. By observing these ethics together, we can ensure that we all have a pleasant day out.

Why is it important to have etiquette in fishing?


Everyone deserves to have an enjoyable day.

Fishing Etiquette – 9 Golden Rules

Don’t Fish on Private Property

Fishing with etiquette is all about respect.

One golden rule. Respect other’s property. If you aren’t allowed to fish somewhere, I’ve got some great advice so you can have a trouble-free day…

Don’t fish there.

While this angler was respectful, he was most definitely in the wrong. Don’t be this guy:

Want to find out where you can fish? There are plenty of great apps showing you the best spots.

Check the Rules and Regulations

It is important that before you get anywhere near the water, you check the rules.

It’s all good and well filling your bag, but if there are limits on what methods you can use, there is probably a reason.

I remember going through a phase of catching several carp who’d all got severe damage to their mouths. Turns out a trend had developed on my local lake to use barbed hooks, which were forbidden.

Sure, it allowed anglers to haul in more fish. It also meant that for everyone else, they were catching fish in a less than perfect position.


Check the rules for your local water before you go. That way, you can ensure you are not offering yourself an unfair advantage or spoiling someone else’s enjoyment.

Speaking of hooks and carp, you might want to check this out.

man fishing on the lake from inflatable boat

Leave only Footprints, Take only Memories


Want to see a genuinely angry Bob?

The one thing that absolutely triggers me is trash and litter. I’ve caught trout with cigarette butts in their stomachs, bass wrapped in line, and you’d be amazed at what a catfish will eat.

Here’s a simple bit of etiquette.

In fact, no, do you know what this is a rule.

Anything that comes with you down to the water goes home with you again.

Take your trash home!

Here are a few tips to ensure that you can leave a swim the same way you found it.

Create a separate compartment in your fishing bag for trash. If you choose a good fishing bag with compartments, there should be plenty of room to store garbage without affecting your fishing. Some even have room for a water bottle (or beer can), whether full or empty.

Discarded line, in particular, is a biggie. It’s a polymer, a plastic. It doesn’t rot. If you leave it there, it’s there pretty much forever. If you have a lot of waste line, it is easy to deal with. Wrap it into a loop, get some fishing scissors or a fishing knife and snip through the loop. You’ll end up with a bunch of strands instead of wildlife endangering snares.

Give People Space

Whether you are fishing from a boat or on the bank, here’s a great tip.

Give people space.

There’s nothing more annoying than when you are having a great day fishing, only for someone to start ‘poaching’ on your swim.

I’ve been fishing and had guys cast over my line on purpose.

Remember, most fish swim around. They don’t just sit in one place. If you see another angler catching, be glad for them, pray to Neptune that the fish swim your way, and be sure to give them plenty of room.

It is really passive-aggressive to try and ‘muscle in’ on someone else’s patch.

inflatable boat on the lake at dawn and fisherman fishing

Respect Right of Way

Right of way?

Bob, what do you mean?

It goes something like this.

Ever been fishing on a float tube? (if not, you really need to check float tubing out). Those things are fun, but it takes some effort to paddle any considerable distance. Motorboats, on the other hand, are easy to maneuver.

What I’m getting at is, if you are in a powered boat, you yield to those who are on the water in something non-powered. You have more choice and freedom in where you go, and it is much less effort for you to change your position or drift than, say, someone in a kayak or float tube.

If you want to know more about kayak fishing, you need to check out my guide.

Respect Your Catch

This is another big one.

I’ve seen guys throw fish on the bank, literally throw fish back in the water, and generally act like wild animals when it comes to how they treat their catch.

Let me tell you something.

Every angler is an Ambassador for our sport. Behave like one.

It’s a two-way deal, an unwritten agreement. The fish give us hours of fun and pleasure, and we, in return, agree to treat them respectfully.

If you are taking fish home, kill them before unhooking them. If you are fishing catch and release, little things like barbless hooks can make all the difference. Having the right tools helps to unhook fish quickly.

angler holds catfish being in the fishing boat on the river

Ready for Launch

If you are fishing from a boat, there may be designated launch areas or ramps. Suppose you are spending an hour on the ramp tackling up as other anglers struggle to get past. In that case, you are spoiling other people’s day (and wasting fishing time, a cardinal sin!).

The best place to prep your boat and get it ready is away from the launch ramp, not with it on the back of a trailer while other guys give you evil looks. Be sure to stow all your gear and have everything safely packed away before you reverse your trailer down.

Watch Your Wake

Let me tell you something.

There is no reason to be trying to set a new speed record on any shared area of water. Going fast in a boat makes a wake. This churns up the bottom. If you’ve cut through someone else’s drift, they are going to be pretty peeved.

Want proof?

Even the professionals are guilty of it. Check this two minute out.

Don’t just steer clear of where other anglers are. Steer clear of where they will be when boat fishing.

Silence is Golden

Fishing is supposed to be a peaceful pursuit.

Do you know what I think?

If you have to have music blaring at the lake, you’ve missed the point.

While you might enjoy listening to… Whatever the kids are listening to nowadays, other anglers might not share your enthusiasm for K-pop, heavy metal, or electro-house.

Most guys come fishing for a bit of peace and quiet, and you owe it to your fellow angler to respect that.

Music aside, you should also tread lightly. Fish are spooked by loud noises. By crashing through the undergrowth, you might be spoiling everyone else’s chances, as well as your own.

Night fishing, in particular, is a time when you should be really quiet. If you haven’t tried night fishing before, you need to give it a go; check out my essential guide here.

Noise travels. It is a big part of fishing etiquette. This very short video explains it really well.


The bulk of fishing etiquette boils down to respect. Respect the fish, respect your environment and respect your fellow angler.

Provided you are conscientious and aware of how your own actions affect others, you should easily follow most of the above tips. There is fishing etiquette to be observed regardless of which discipline you choose.

For more detailed advice on gear, as well as several different methods of fishing, why not check out the rest of my blog? I offer tips on ice fishing, carp fishing, bowfishing, fly fishing, and so much more!

What’s the worst example of bad fishing etiquette you’ve seen? Let me know in the comments below!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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