What is Fishing Etiquette?

Fishing can be a relaxing, enjoyable activity. But when other people are around it often becomes less so because somebody isn’t following the rules of fishing etiquette. But what is fishing etiquette? Well, as with anything else where there can be crowds, etiquette is often a mixture between actual rules and regulations, social expectations and of course, things that are done in consideration of others. And of course keeping all of this in mind can help you have an enjoyable experience while at or on the water. Let’s check then 5 common etiquette mistakes I see in my travels below…

1. Don’t fish in a no fishing zone

No fishing zones or sanctuaries are put in place by regulatory authorities for a number of reasons such as protecting declining species or allowing fish to spawn uninhibited by fishing hooks. Hence, fishing in these areas is not only illegal, but can also make things harder for other fishers in future years as well.

However, this rule is not always broken by people looking to flout the rules. In many cases, there are people who do this simply because they didn’t notice the sign. When you’re out on your boat or even standing on shore, take a minute to look around and see where you’re allowed to fish before dropping your line into the water. There’s no reason for wasting time and effort trying to fish somewhere that doesn’t allow it- especially as if local authorities catch you fishing in an undesignated zone, you will highly likely be fined. Oh, and make sure you have a fishing license as well.

2. Ask for permission on private land

When fishing in inland areas or the upper reaches of an estuary, the reality is that quite often really good fishing holes are often found adjacent to private property. Now, depending on where you are, this can include the water as well however if you are in a boat, you are generally ok. However, as soon as you step off the boat and onto the bank, your are technically trespassing.

In my experience those that own the land will know why you want to fish there however that doesn’t mean they will want you to use their land. After all, they might be using it for commercial reasons or have other hazards evident. Where I live, there is an estuary that runs up amongst residential properties and most owners put signs up outlining whether you can use their bank or not for fishing – most agreeing as long as you arrive by boat and stay at the water’s edge.

Regardless, fishing etiquette usually dictates that you ask permission first and fish second.

3. Clean up after yourself

You would think that this is a no brainer however in my experience, sadly it is not. Trash is an unsightly thing that nobody wants to look at when they’re trying to fish – not to mention the damage it can do to the waterway and its inhabitants. For this reason it’s important not to leave rubbish lying around by your gear, in the water, or within reach of wildlife that may come into contact with it.

Always bring a bag and clean up after yourself if you can. If there are no garbage bins nearby, make sure you hold onto it until there is one accessible or you can take it home with you. And despite the behaviour of most fishers around the world, this should include old and used bait as well. Just because it used to be in there, doesn’t mean it should be now – this is a good way to poison fish and damage the waterway.

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4. Don’t crowd others

One of the best things about fishing is the silence and solitude of it all. However, in times when more that a few of us have the same idea, things can get a bit crowded. In these cases, consider the following:

  1. If possible, don’t set up ‘camp’ right next to others – try and space things out a bit.
  2. If you’ve caught a fish, or are retrieving your line, be sure to raise your pole as high as possible over the water as you reel in the line. This helps to prevent the line from getting tangled with others – especially if there is a current.
  3. Piers are a common crowd point so if possible, see if you can come at it from another angle – for example, ff there are rocks etc. available for fishing, try going there instead. By fishing from rocks, you can make sure there is always space for everyone to fish at once which also means that no one will accidentally hook your line because they’re too close.
  4. If on a boat, try and keep a good distance between you and others as you anchor.

There are other examples here for sure but at the end of the day, if you can keep some space between yourself and other fishers – then that is the way to go!

5. Keep your bait legal

As with our first point above, fishing regulators not only manage target species but will often outlaw certain types of live bait from certain waterways as well. This is generally so that waterways are not overrun with vermin or non-natural species (bait fish and crustaceans in particular can overtake waterways very quickly) and also to further protect natural bait fish stocks as well.

This means that the other thing to consider here is just because it is found locally, also doesn’t mean it can be readily used either. A common mistake many fishers make is to use undersized fish as bait. If it is not a designated bait fish, then this is illegal as well. So, before you use any livebait – especially if it actually alive, be sure to check local regulations first.


And there you have it, 5 ways you can ensure you are maintaining good etiquette when fishing. As you have seen, there is nothing difficult here – all you have to do is check local rules and regulations and be considerate of others – and most of all, have fun.

What’s your take, lets see if you can get some debate going below…

Until then

Have fun


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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.