'Unwritten' rules of fishing the river

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2004

Most activities have their "unwritten" rules. In fishing, these can be every bit as im-portant as the written ones.

Unwritten rules guide anglers in matters of ethics, manners and fairness.

The following "rules of the river" are pretty much universal on all Kenai Penin-sula streams:

When fishing crowded streams, use tackle that's capable of pulling a fish in quickly. While you're fighting a fish, you're preventing others from fishing.

"Go with the flow." When everyone is "flipping" flies for red salmon, which migrate only a few feet from the bank, don't wade out past where they are standing. That just pushes the fish farther out in the river.

And you're sure to get bad looks if you start casting a spoon halfway across the river.

On a crowded stream, it's polite to yell. When you hook a fish, yell, "Fish on!"

A hooked salmon almost invariably runs downstream. If you don't yell, "Fish on!" your fish will likely swim across someone's line. Or someone will cast across your line.

Use light enough line that you can break off a salmon if you see that it's hooked elsewhere than in the mouth.

If you can't break 20-pound-test, use 15-pound, or use hooks that straighten more easily.

Pulling a fish upstream, stresses not only the fish, but everyone you're keeping from fishing.

When a fair-hooked salmon runs downstream, don't stand in one spot and try to pull it back to you. Follow it downstream, yell-ing "Coming down!" as you go.

Thank anglers who reel in their lines and make room for you.

When someone hooks a fish and has to leave their spot, don't move in. Not only is this bad manners, but it can be hazardous to your health.

When someone near you hooks a fish, ask if they would like your help landing it.

Some anglers prefer to take their chances, rather than have someone "help" and lose the fish.

If someone has a fish on and your line becomes tangled with theirs, cut yours.

Treat all fish with respect, and don't take more than you can use.

To avoid damaging the fragile bank, grasses and bushes, stand in the water or on a boardwalk while fishing, and keep to designated trails.

Know and abide by both the written and unwritten rules, and politely correct anglers who don't.

If you're patient and courteous with your fellow anglers, they'll likely return the favor, and with interest.

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