Kayak Fishing Etiquette


In Monday’s post “The Pause Button” I talked about being patient, slow to anger and paddling away when conflict arises. In the multitude of comments came the reminder that not all of the kayak fishermen or boaters for that matter know these perceived rules that many of us operate under. 

Here are my thoughts from an academic perspective:

Etiquette is only able to be followed when a potential offending party knows the boundaries in which they are expected to act. If they do not know the boundaries, our disdain for the subject and the offending action is more of a reflection on us rather than them.

A little more down to earth reading of this statement would be:

Don’t get mad they break the rules when we haven’t told them what the rules are.

After much discussion with several folks across the country, the overwhelming desire was to open a dialogue and talk about some of the things everyone should know to keep the peace a little easier. Please feel free to add to this collection as needed via the comments field here or in other social media.



Kayak Fishing Etiquette 101: The Rules

If you are paddling near another kayaker, it is courteous to wave. Small talk is optional but almost always appreciated. If you are getting yes/no answers, say have a good day and keep paddling.

If you see someone catch a fish that you do not know, it is ok to congratulate them and engage in small talk. Again, yes/no answers mean keep moving. Do not paddle straight for them and crowd the location they are fishing.

When fishing, if you do not know the people you are fishing near, keep a distance of 50 yards. This changes on some water systems but better safe than sorry.

Observe the direction that the fisherman is moving down the bank. It is not ok to paddle 50 yards ahead of him and start fishing. Try fishing an opposite bank. If you feel you must paddle by it is expected for you to ask if you can slide up the bank a ways and fish. If allowed, make sure it is 100 yards or so up the bank. If you do start catching fish after an allowable pass, it is courteous to invite the angler to come fish that new spot with you.

If you are invited to fish a location with a local, do not give away the spots they show you. If you are the host, it is usually customary to ask the guest to not give away your spots. Set the expectation early.

If fishing in tight quarters, if you must pass between a fisherman and the bank, please ask before going through, especially if he is throwing toward the bank. The best bet is to avoid it as much as possible.

If loading or unloading on a boat ramp, please be quick and efficient. Picnics should not be on the ramp.

If you are loading or unloading with a group, offer to help others take their boats to the water or vehicle.

If you are fishing in a group it is most polite to share what the fish are biting on. If you have additional baits to share, that is a huge plus but not mandatory.

Do not disparage other kayakers if their boat does not meet your standards or brand preference.

Share ideas on rigging and compliment when you see something you like, even if it wouldn’t work on your kayak.

Always help a kayaker in distress.

If you are a spot stealer, expect to be labeled as such in the community. We may not post it publicly but we will all know and you will find yourself fishing alone more and more.

Carry extra gear if possible. 360 lights, paddles, PFDs and rope are a good start. You never know who forgot what.

General manners, like saying thank you, go a long way.

People get tight lipped around tournament time. Don’t ask. If they want to share their report, they will.

Some folks have sponsors. Some don’t. Both sides of the argument need to be ok with each other’s situation. Don’t be pushy.

There is no perfect kayak. Always remember that.

There are no perfect people. Always remember that.


This is just a start to the list and my hope is that others will add to it. I’m not the expert that decides these things, just a guy trying to help others know what some of the other folks are thinking and expecting. Feel free to chime in.

Additional submissions:

If it is dark do not leave your vehicle parked at the ramp with the lights on. It blinds other people backing down. Just leave your parking lights on until you pull out.




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