Flats Boat Etiquette, Being A Good Fishing Partner

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Here are a few suggestions to help you, and your fishing partner, have a better day on the boat.

Flats fishing from a boat is a team sport. Whether you’re out fishing with friends, out with a guide or on a trip to a fishing lodge, you’re never out on the boat by yourself. Usually you are sharing your fishing time with another angler. It may be a friend, a spouse or a complete stranger but regardless of who you’re fishing with, one thing is the same. How you behave on the boat affects their fishing experience.

I’ve seem some pretty thoughtless things done on flats skiffs. Usually out of ignorance and often ending in embarrassment. Neither angler, or the guide for that matter, needs that. With that in mind, here are a few simple rules to help you be a good boat buddy.

Be Quiet!

Rule number one. First, last and always, be quiet. Saltwater fish are easily spooked and the noise of cooler lids, camera cases and beer bottles banging against the hull travel for great distances in the water. Don’t be a busy bee. Your buddy’s fishing time is not your chance to get a few things done around the boat. Be still. Rocking the boat moves water and fish can hear it. Keep your shoes off. Sock feet are quiet feet. Be obsessively quiet. You never know when you’re about to see the fish of a lifetime.

Don’t Be A Bow Hog

Share the fishing time fairly. It’s not fair to stay on the bow all day, even if you’re not seeing fish. The worst is when two anglers of very different skill levels get paired together. All too often the better angler spends the day watching his partner blow shot after shot. When it’s his turn to fish, he gets up, catches his fish in five minutes and is back in the chair for an hour.

There are some “rules” for lack of a better term. They vary a little and guys who fish together often sometimes have their own rules but they are all something like this.

1. 3 strikes. If you take 3 shots you sit down, fish or no.

2. Switch on fish. You catch a fish, you sit down.

3. 30 Minutes. You’re on the bow for 30 min, you sit down.

These rules keep it fair for everyone.

No Tantrums

I have seen guys completely lose it on the boat. Throw their rods, scream, pound the deck. There is no excuse for childish displays of temper on a fishing boat. It spoils your partner’s day. It spooks fish. It screws up everybody’s attitude and it’s a great way to get your ass kicked. If you are unhappy with your performance, sit down and take some time to get your head straight. Don’t be an asshole to your fishing partner or your guide.

The Guide Is The Boss

They don’t call him captain for nothing. It’s his boat and his rules. He’s responsible for your safety as well as your fishing. If he tells you to sit down or put on your life jacket or reel up, don’t give him an argument. He has his reasons.

Don’t Do The Guide’s Job

All too often, good intentions lead to bad behavior. You may think you are helping by calling out fish positions or giving directions but the odds are good that you aren’t. There are plenty of times when anglers see fish that the guide misses. Guides are human too. But there are many more times when your guide is not directing an angler to a fish for a reason. He may see a much better fish a little further away. He may be responding to an angler who doesn’t handle pressure well. He might want to get the boat into position or wait for the fish to move before getting his angler worked up. The guide is a professional. If he wants your help, he’ll let you know. Let him do his job. He’s out there every day.

No Religion or Politics

Don’t ask me if I know where I’m spending eternity when I’m on the bow, unless you want to spend the rest of the day on some shitty little key. Flats fishing requires focus. You can’t fish and argue at the same time. Everyone has an opinion. Nobody cares what yours is. Keep the conversation friendly.

Don’t Get Sloppy Drunk

I like to have a few beers during the day. Most guys do, but spending the day on a boat with a knee crawling drunk is no fun. Basically, stay sober enough to follow rules 1-5 and you’ll be fine.


The golden rule. Respect your partner. Respect your guide. Respect the water and the fish. Do this and just about everything else will fall into place. Best of all, everyone will respect you too.

Stick to these rules and you’ll have more fun on the water, more fishing buddies and better fishing. You’ll be the guy everyone wants to fish with and that’s not too bad.

Please add your comments!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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2 thoughts on “Flats Boat Etiquette, Being A Good Fishing Partner

  1. When I fish with a partner in a flats boat, it’s usually on the basis of a switch whenever there’s a gamefish hooked, or 10 minutes. Everyone stays sharp as you’re never more than a few minutes from being back on the bow.

    Sounds like you’ve had some tough fishing partners of late.

  2. Pingback: Flats Boat Etiquette, Being A Good Fishing Partner | Latest Fishing Blogs Posts

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