Steelhead Fishing Etiquette & Conduct
British Columbia offers some of the World’s most incredible Steelhead fisheries, and this is where a lot of local and foreign anglers come to play with these magnificent fish. Easily one of North America’s most sought after game fish, “Steelheaders” all around have developed a code of etiquette that has been transferred river to river across the board. This particular code of etiquette is how most anglers should conduct themselves on a daily basis, and use as a general guideline when angling for Steelhead, especially on rivers that see more angling pressure.
The first piece of advice I can give beginner or novice anglers is how to correctly approach a run that may be vacated by another angler. There are a few options you have depending on the size of the run or spot. When first approaching the run, especially on a river that is heavily fished, scan the run or spot from the top to the bottom for other anglers. If there is nobody in the run, I would recommend starting at the top and working your way down like most spots, although if there is an angler working the stretch, watch and observe for a short bit. If the angler is moving, this is surely a sign to not hop in below. If the angler is not moving, watch them for a short bit and see how they are covering the water. When dealing with a large run, it may be possible to fish below angler, although you never want to just make your way to the spot and begin fishing without the consent of the angler above you, as this is terrible etiquette. If you think it is realistic to fish below, approach the angler and ask if you may fish below them. The worst case scenario, they will say no and that they are working their way down, and if not, they just might say yes. Regardless of what happens, you and your fellow anglers around you will know that the proper steps were taken, and are much less likely to stir up conflict, which in the end is the better outcome.
In a similar situation working downstream, you may often come across anglers who will be working slower than your pace. The same general rules will apply when approaching a run. When you have gotten close to the angler below you, you will have to make the decision to see if it is either A: Worth it to wait out the angler and fish behind them; B: Ask the angler to fish below them (if possible and within reason); or C: Continue to the next run or spot well below the angler if they are moving. You may often come across this scenario on a river that is heavily fished, and it is always good to be conscious and aware of what you should do in a situation like this.
Along with your standard angler etiquette comes your part in participating in proper fish handling and releasing skills. Like I have mentioned before in previous articles, maintaining composure and control of the fish is important, either before or while you are handling the fish. For quick photo ops and releasing of Steelhead, it is always necessary to put yourself in a position of landing the fish without causing any unnecessary harm or damage to the fish. If you desire a photo fish your catch, make sure your cameraman or camerawoman is set and ready before you hoist the fish for a quick photo op. The fish should not be out of the water for more than a couple of seconds, if at all. If you are struggling with the fish, it is always a better idea to keep the fish in the water and take a photo that way before you send it off.
The next time you venture out the river, practice your “Steelheading Etiquette,” and help a fellow angler out that may be new to the sport, or may not know correct etiquette. If you happen to find yourself in a predicament, it is always a better idea to educate than to start a confrontation. Confronting one in an argumentative tone will get both parties nowhere but into a world of frustration, and in the end will not have solved anything but made matters much worse. I have noticed over the course of that last few years especially, the popularity of Steelhead fishing, and angling in general has increased substantially. It is essential to teach young, up and coming anglers the most thoughtful and efficient way to conduct themselves on the water which will continue for future generations to come.
Tight Lines & All the Best,
Cody Sojka @ The Sea-Run Team
(As a thoughtful reminder, please remember to pack out what you pack in. For example, do not leave discarded fishing line or coffee cups along the river bank.)