Boating/Fishing Etiquette

Want to fish on a great boat with a great crew learn what the Capt likes!

Want to fish on a great boat with a great crew learn what the Capt likes!

Often I hear a story from fellow boat owners that goes something like this, “I took this guy from work fishing. We had a great day on the water the salmon fishing was on fire and he caught a nice king. He was fun to fish with but when we docked he took his catch, said thanks and walked off the boat. He didn’t bring anything to eat or offer to pay for anything. That guy is never getting on my boat again. What a D#%k!”


Unfortunately I’m sure just about every boat owner has had a similar experience.

Proper manners or the art of practicing good social graces extends beyond dry land with something called “boating etiquette” or as it’s called on my boat “THE WAY IT IS.”  Whether you’re going out on the water for an afternoon of salmon fishing or a weekend of hardcore tuna fishing here are some tips to ensure that you’ll be invited back the next time the boat leaves the dock:


·         The first and most important rule is that the captain (or the skipper) is the boss.  His boat – his rules.


·         Ask permission before boarding. When boarding a boat always ask permission from the person onboard first. “Permission to come aboard” is a common and appreciated boating courtesy.


·         Remember that you’re a guest. If the boat owner says no drinking alcohol on my boat, then don’t drink. If he says he wants you to fish the left side of the boat, then fish on the left side. You get the picture.


·         Pay attention during the safety lecture. You should know the location of the safety gear, lifejackets, VHF radio (how to turn the radio on), handheld VHF, flares, flashlights, first aid kit etc. If the skipper doesn’t tell you then ask. If there’s an emergency especially one that incapacitates the captain you will need to be able to assist and possibly call for help


·         Understand what is expected of you when leaving or returning to the dock. If you don’t understand, ask. All skippers leave the dock a bit differently.  Safety of the boat and crew is important. Wind, current and other conditions affect how a boat departs and returns to the dock, be aware of any changes. Tie the fenders at the proper height so that the fenders take the abuse instead of the boat.  Fender height may vary based on different docks or when rafting to another boat. Understand what is expected of you especially if you are handling a dock or mooring line.


  • Never be late! As the saying goes, late for work is excusable but late for fishing gets you left at the dock with no chance of another invitation!


  • Offer to cover or help with fuel costs. As an invited guest you should offer to pay a portion of the fuel costs. It’s the least you can do and will show your gratitude for being invited along for the fishing trip. Boats are not cars and $10.00 is not going to cover fuel in most cases. As of this writing marina fuel is $4.25 a gallon and most outboard boats get approximately 1.3 – 2.0 miles per gallon on the water. If the boat is a two stroke outboard oil can go for $40.00 a gallon. If your host towed the boat to the location don’t forget about the gas for the truck even if you met the skipper at the ramp in your own car. If you’re not sure inquire what the costs are for a day of fishing.  It’s easier to ask these questions before the trip so you can arrange to have cash available.


  • Don’t show up empty-handed. The skipper brings the boat, the guests bring the food is a pretty standard rule. You can bet your host was at the dock the previous night or before dawn preparing the boat for the journey. Offer to bring along lunch for everyone and your skipper will appreciate having one less thing to prepare. Avoid bringing any glass onboard.


  • Pack light but smart. Bring the minimum amount of clothing for the climate to conserve space on the boat but be prepared. Sunscreen, sunglasses, sea sickness medication, non-slip shoes, rain gear, and a warm sweater should be on your list.  Pack all personal belongings in the smallest bag necessary and ask where you can stow it so that’s out of the way.  Also remember to ask if there is any cold storage for food or drinks.  Most folks don’t like to keep their lunch in the fish cooler. 


  • Tackle; ask if you want to bring gear. Most boat owners don’t have heartburn if you want to bring your own rod or hot lures however when you show up with ten rods and four tackle boxes you may create some friction.


·         Only wear non-marking boat shoes, boots or sandals. There is no bigger sin than leaving black marks all over someone’s boat.


  • Don’t touch any dials, buttons, gauges, radios or anything that even resembles an electronic instrument used on the boat without specific instructions from the captain.


  • Help the skipper when asked.  Any assistance should be rendered based on the Skipper’s specific instructions.  Even if you own a boat remember that every skipper does things his own way and you should ask how he wants it done if you’re not sure?


  • Many boat owners have a non-smoking policy while others have an outside the cabin and downwind policy. Ask the skipper what his policy is before smoking. If you can’t go a few hours without a smoke then get your fix BEFORE the trip or it could be a very long day.


  • Stay out of the way and take a common sense approach to conversation.  The captain has to concentrate on boat traffic, weather, waves, and fishing locations.  Trying to navigate across the bar to the open ocean is not usually the best time for social hour.


  • Ask before you “go.” Before you use the head get proper operating instructions. No two marine heads operate alike and a clog caused by excessive amounts of toilet tissue can be embarrassing and expensive.


  • Keep it clean, the captain is not your mother, pick up after yourself. If you make a mess clean it up or you’re risking removal from the captain’s guest list the next time he goes fishing. Ensure you dispose of trash after you dock. Want to make the skippers black list, forcing him to clean up your trash because you were too lazy to put it in the trash is almost always a guaranteed way to do it!


·         DO NOT BRING ILLEGAL DRUGS OR RECREATIONAL CHEMICALS OF ANY KIND ON BOARD EVER! The Coast Guard has a zero tolerance policy regarding drugs. They can and have seized boats for very small amounts of drugs. Besides upsetting the Skipper you could cause them to be jailed and lose their boat even if they were unaware that there were any drugs onboard.  Failure to obey this rule on my boat would get you dropped off at the nearest dock with a call to the local law enforcement agency advising them where to find you.


·         When docking don’t rock the boat or jump to the dock. Wait until the boat has docked to gather your personal items and make your way off the boat. The sudden shift can distract the captain as he is trying to dock.


·         Wash the Boat! Everything on the boat needs a good washing after a fishing trip. Grab a brush and hose and help out. Don’t even think about leaving until every inch of that boat and gear has been cleaned.


  • Help Clean the Days Catch. Even if you don’t know how to clean a fish you can still help with bagging and icing the catch.



Many non-boaters enjoy their time on the water as a guest angler and it’s only natural to wonder about the costs associated with boating/fishing.  Here is a general overview:

Damage/liability insurance:  $400-$1000 year
State registration   $50-$200/year
Routine mechanical maintenance $800-2000/year
Major mechanical repairs  $500-$4,000/year
Fuel (depends on use) $300-$1500/month
Miscellaneous expenses  $850/year
   In water marina storage  $200-$600/month
“Dry” marina storage  $200-$400/month
On-trailer storage   $90-$170/month
Trailer purchase   $1000-$7000

   Bait Herring $4.50 a dozen

   Tuna Anchovies $50-$100 or more

   Ice $30-$150

   Boat ramps launch fee $5-$20




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