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Would one of you Captain please set me straight on trolling etiquette. What are the rules of the water so to speak. I have been fishing for the better part of 10 years on the Bay and have seen some unbelievable things, from running over lines to running into each other and cursing the very breath one takes. It seems that the only sure thing out there is that nobody knows for sure who has the right of way, including some charters. There is no doubt that there are more boats on the water today than ever before, both charter and private. It would be nice to have an agreed upon set of protocol when it comes to trolling. Having said that, I know when the fish are biting most of us will forget most if not all manners, etiquette and decorum.

Questions
1- Who has the right of way and when?
2- What is the proper distance one should leave before crossing the bow?
3- Acceptable planer width?
4- Following Distance?
5- Right of way w/ fish on?
6- This is the big one-What is the distance from one boat trolling and the other boat passing heading in or out? Keep in mind that there are boats, boats, boats everywhere.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
 

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Trolling etiquette
before the debate on questions 1-6 begins, here is-

Question 7- When is it OK to troll right through a school of breaking fish that is being fished by a bunch of LTJ fishermen?
Answer- Never!
 

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Two rules are all you need to operate safely.

1)Law of gross tonnage. If the vessel is bigger then you , Give him the right of way.

2) Figure the other vessel doesn't know what he is doing. Give him the right of way
 

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I for one just try my best to stay out on the outter skirts of the crowds..... I'd much rather catch a few less fish and have an enjoyable day than mix it up with a bunch of boats trying to get at the same pod of breaking fish...... Then again you have to deal with the occational boat that comes your way and I then do as Reds states in his Rule #2.....
 

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I have got a question about schools of breaking fish. Say you sneak up on the school very slowly, put yourself upcurrent of the school, and then shut off your engine. Is it okay to drift
through the school if the current takes you that way?
 

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Mind68, that's exactly what I do! However, they're talking about when you're already there and another boat either trolls right through the pod, or another motors right in the middle. Don't complain too much on the board if it happens, as you might get a spanking.
 

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I have to agree with some of the other boardmembers. I try to stay away from all those boats in the Spring. Those Fish are not schooled up and boat traffic spooks em. I may try to stay in the general area because of fishing certain drop offs, points, or cuts; but I try to time myself so that I'm not trailing lots of other boats.
In the fall, when birds are working, everyone runs into the birds. I try to stay downtide of all the action and pick up those larger fish waiting for bait to fall. In my humble opinion, those of us that fish the upper bay (bay bridge to key bridge) might just as well stay away from small bird action that points out small blues and rock working small bait.
I had to chuckle last year when I had some people onboard willing to catch some small fish just for some action. A Large charter kept circling right through the middle of the birds and NEVER picked up a fish. We kept yelling to the customers that they had hired an idiot and wasted their money as we continued to bring in fish after fish with LTJ.
In the fall, when trolling becomes unnerving with everyone chasing birds; stop trolling, catch some spot or perch, go out after work, set up one hour before dark and liveline until one hour after dark. You will catch 27 inch fish on light tackle and avoid all those trolling headaches.
P.S. If you see me out there trolling; stay the he!! away from me or I'm bringing all your tackle to my boat.
P.P.S. Just kidding
 

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Question 8- I'm trolling a school of fish moving down the edge of the channel and as typical they sound and then reappear some distance away. How far away from me can they surface before they are considered free domain to the chicken chasers and the bent rod sonar crew?
 

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Family Affair, there are no definite answers to your questions. In general, I do whatever it takes to avoid a mess, even if I firmly believe I'm right at the time. That being said, there are a few general guide lines that I follow:

Troll in the same directions as the rest of the fleet. Normally this ends up being North and South around the Bay Bridge/Kent Island area. On certain less crowded days, the fleet may be trolling East and West, because at times this produces better. When you're ready to go in the opposite direction, plan your turn well ahead of time to avoid causing problems with other boats coming toward you. If it's so crowded you can't make your turn - pull your lines in - or up short - so you can spin around faster, then put them back out. (a pain - but much simpler than a tangle with another irate fisherman).

When approaching a head to head situation, show your intention by making a large enough turn with your bow for the other guy to recognize. Most will see this and bear the opposite way.

In a crossing situation, try to determine which way gives you the most room to get by, and don't forget to allow for the trolled lines - both your's and his. You may have to angle off of your course a little to allow yourself more space.

When approaching another boat from the stern and wanting to turn across their lines, I look at the angle their lines are entering the water, and try to leave enough space to avoid a tangle. This may involve slowing my speed slightly, allowing the other boat to pull ahead, widening the distance before I cut over - then increasing back to my normal troll speed.

Be reasonable with your spread. Guys running extremely long lines and extremely long planing board lines are being hogs and messing things up for everybody else. I'm not going to quote numbers, that will stir up a hornet' nest!

Remember, regardless of what you do, it won't always work and you will have to take evasive action or be involved in a confrontation. I choose the evasive action. As Reds said - assume the other guy is an idiot and give him the right of way. Pay alot of attention to where all of the other boats are, and plan your moves in advance!

Hope this helps - a little common sense goes a long way - it's easier to avoid a problem then to fix one once it's happened.

Mikie
 

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avoid the melee and you will catch many more fish. I like it when boats cluster up, it gives me a real good idea of where the fish aren't. maybe the first couple of boats on the scene will catch a fish (early bird & worm), or an erratic fish here and there, but more or less, the traffic will force the bait and fish down and away from the area. if someone posts or says bouy XX, it means in the vicinity of XX, not necessarily fighting everyone else who read the same post and is doing circles around bouy XX. the big fish show up in nets close to shore as well as on hook and line out in the channel. its a big bay, use it wisely. again, when I see the clusterfug off on the horizon, I know its exactly where NOT to go.
 

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My Advice

I agree with what most of the others have said but the most important thing to consider is if your boat is under power the Rules of the Road always apply. Doesn't matter if your pulling lines or not, whether you have a fish on or not they apply. One of the biggest things I try to keep in mind particularly during spring season is to give other boats plenty of room. Alot of guys are pulling planner boards and not all are painted a color that can be easily seen. Especially on days where you have a little bit of a chop makes it even more difficult to see them. I always assume a boat is pulling boards and try to give them plenty of room. Try to avoid the crowds (hard to do on weekends) but you will probably catch more fish away from the crowd then you will if your in the middle of the pack. Don't let the excitement of having a "Fish On" take you away from keeping a lookout of where your boat is headed. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people all clustered around the guy/gal who has the fish and absolutely no one is operating the boat or paying attention to where the boat is headed. If you plan on pulling boards yourself make sure they are painted a color that can easily be seen and display flags which makes them more visible. The last bit of advice I might add is if you do get a fish on try to head for open water, when others see you hook up they will head straight for you. Hope this helps, good luck!!
 

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I will give you mt 2 cents I guess.

Questions
1- Who has the right of way and when?
2- What is the proper distance one should leave before crossing the bow?
3- Acceptable planer width?
4- Following Distance?
5- Right of way w/ fish on?
6- This is the big one-What is the distance from one boat trolling and the other boat passing heading in or out? Keep in mind that there are boats, boats, boats everywhere.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I noticed someone said troll N-S. The majority of the fleet will be trolling East - West, There is a reason for this. Those fish are not like the fall run. The are using the main channel as the highway in and out. If you are going N-S you are limiting yourself to a certain range of water depth and most likely cutting across a few bows and sterns..Please observe the fleet and watch the direction they are going. If you look up or down the bay at the big picture you will see most boats are going E-W. these fish are not worried about hanging around drop offs, structure etc. they are on the move. They are not here to stay. they come to spawn and then leave. A good place is around the river mouths. The fish were or were on their way to the rivers to spawn, being at the "bottleneck of these narrows it down a little. thats why Bloody point is always a hot spot. They could be in ANY depth but will be somewhere around the main channel. crossing the channel lets you cover all the water depths. We troll E-W starting in about 50' on the E side...cross the the channel thru 100' or so till we hit around 50' on the west side. then make a turn and head back the other way.. The will be scattered and no in schools like fall. Fall you will run through a school but the spring you will find single fish. thats why the more lines you can run the better.

Troll east and West across the channel. Make note of the depth you catch in and they you can concentrate on the depth.

Following distance. Its very crowded as you know...Lines will be out 250 ft or sometimes more. Figure at least 5-6 boatlength

I try to stay away from the fleets too. Last year we had a hard time doing that. People get crazy. Just avaoid the traffic as much as possible. Show which way you are turning way ahead of time. If I have to make a quick turn I speed up the boat a little it helps avoid tangles.
Be there right before daylight...Last year limits came within a couple hours... You can be home cleaning fish when alot are just starting their boats

Best advice I can give you is use common sense. If you THINK you are too close to another boat...then you probobly are....

Just my 2 cents
 

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GO EARLY in the morning or late afternoon. Avoid the once or twice a year people
Last year opening day went out early morning back in with limit by 12 noon. No problems. By 10:30-11am there were more run abouts and cruisers that had been fitted with rod holders
 

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as others have mentioned stay on the edge. i love to see boats bunch up, gives me more room on the edge where the fish are. down at cbbt this winter there will be 600 boats all in a knot with people on the radio wondering why the fishing is slow? there is plenty of bait? we can muster limits along the edges or off by ourselves. dont know who thinks rockfish will bite well with 600 engines gurgling 30' above them?
 

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I generally take note of every boat in the area for a mile or so radius, and see what direction they are going, then try to stay atleast a quarter mile away from all boats. im not always able to stay a quarter mile away, but thats what I try to do, it seems to work well. but the laws of seamanship still aplies while trolling just like in anytime you are underway, execpt that you should always give way to smaller boats that are trolling;)
 

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I have had at least 2 different charter captains explain to me that the "professionals" should basically have the right of way over the pesky pleasure boaters--all we do is go out there and screw stuff up for the guys trying to make a living--

:mad: :mad: :mad:

my favorites are the troll through the breaking school boats--because its too hard to cast 25' into them I guess;)
 

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If your boat is under power, follow the rules of the road. If you don't know the rules of the road, get off the water and take a safe boating course..............
 
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