By CAPT. GENE ZAMBA
Each morning bait fishermen head for a popular place were locals gather to catch white bait. In some areas, such as those around Anclote Key on a weekend morning there will be as many as 30 boats packed into a small area. As more anglers hit the waters each year, these venues become more crowed, and with it elevated tensions and emotions. It’s really not very pretty. I have observed a lot of very unhappy, yelling and screaming anglers out there lately.
I’ve had a lot of mornings recently when I set the anchor — started chumming — had the bait were I wanted it — and along comes a boat that motors within 20 feet, tosses out his anchor and yells over “morning Captain!” I wanted to respond with some kind acerbic comment, however, I kept my mouth shut because he likely had some small children and women on his boat. Frankly, he would have gotten an ear full of nasty words if they were not there.
Why would I get mad? Well, I just spent 20 minutes getting the bait were I wanted it and had one good toss of the net that produced about 100 pieces of nice bait. I only needed one more good toss and then I’d be off with my clients fishing.
What this guy did was run all my bait off by running his motor all the way up on me, way too close to were I was chumming. Then, letting the motor run as he was trying set an anchor that apparently didn’t hold well. This is to say nothing about his kids running around on deck.
This lack of common (maybe not so common) bait catching etiquette compelled me to pick up my anchor relocate at another bait stop, and start the process all over again. That exercise chewed up another half hour of what could have been my clients fishing time.
Therefore, I would like to offer for your consideration some basic rules of chumming and bait netting etiquette to help newcomers understand how we can all help each other and get better at catching bait. I genuinely believe that can also help all anglers in the area get out sooner. Above all, it can make for a much more pleasant experience all around, and get everyone out to their fishing destination much sooner.
Here are a few helpful tip that could facilitate this concept of bait netting cooperation:
1- Always approach an area at idle speed. When you get to within 300 yards of another vessel chumming and netting bait, shut off your motor. Use your electric tolling motor, a pushpole, or better yet, if the wind is blowing out of the right direction, let the breeze do the work.
2- Above all, never ever set up within 100 yards of another boat that is chumming and netting bait.
3- When you get to the bait spot, try to set your anchor as quickly as possible — and make sure it holds. I see a lot of problems out there because people are not deploying the right kind of anchor. One anchor that I can recommend holds well in grassy, sandy bottoms. It is called a “Sea Claw.” You might want to consider getting one . It’ll save you a lot of anchoring problems such as when your anchor slips, drifting your vessel toward that other boat already in the process of chumming up bait. If this does happen, by all means let them know that you are slipping and likely will be drifting by them. By the way saying “I’m sorry” is not a bad idea either. Above all, don’t start your engine until you’ve drifted well past the anchored vessel by at least 100 yards.
4- Keep your deck activity down as much as possible. This will not only help you in your qu3est for baitfish, it helps everyone around you. Slamming your net’s lead line down on the deck will also have the effect of running the bait off.
5- When you’ve acquired sufficient baitfish, remember, it doesn’t mean that everyone around you is finished catching bait. Pull up your anchor and move out of the area the same way you came in — quietly and avoid getting near any other boat. After moving to at least 300 years away from everyone, start your motor and idle away and before you take off.
It just takes is a bit of consideration and all of us can get quickly our bait and enjoy a productive Florida fishing day
Tight lines and good fishing.
Capt Gene Zamba