Going out on a boat with a friend
Thank them for taking you out. Boats are very expensive to run, so be willing to chip in on gas, food, drinks, boat ramp fees and anything else needed for the trip. Honestly, the more you chip in on the trip, the more likely that they will ask you to go out again.
The number one rule on the boat is that the Captain makes the rules on their boat, not you. If you want to make the rules, go buy your own boat.
Ask where the owner/Captain of the boat wants you to fish. For instance, in the case of flats boats and bass boats, the Captain has the right to the front.
Don't tell the Captain where to fish, or it may be a long swim back to shore! If they ask you for your advice, and you actually have some knowledge of the fishing area, then go ahead and give it; but do it in a nice way, and educate them on what you know. On the other hand, if you don't know the area, then keep your mouth shut. Let them be the Captain.
Never take control of the boat unless you are asked to. Remember the store adage that if you break it, you buy it!
The Captain makes the rules, but you don't buy the gas and pay the ramp fees. It is still a good idea to bring some drinks and food, unless the boat supplies these things included with the fee you pay.
Always tip at the end of the trip. These guys work their butts off to try and get their customers on some fish every day, and have spent countless hours getting their boats ready for your fishing trip.
Going out on your own boat
Wait your turn when putting your boat into the water at a boat ramp, and don't crowd the people in front of you. When you do get into the water, get your boat out of the way, so that others can also get their boats in.
If someone is in your fishing spot, look at how they are fishing – Are they anchored, or are they working along a sand bar or structure like mangroves or rocks? If they are anchored, just give them space to fish. If they are moving, do not put yourself in front of them. Go behind them and work the same area. There can still be fish there; you never know.
If you're fishing in an area and someone is fishing behind you, do not crank up your engine and go out of there like you're the lord of the water. You just blew out that fishing area for that guy. You know you would not like it to be done to you.
If you see someone fishing, do not come up on him or her wide open, and then at the last minute, kill your engine. Come in slowly. Look at what they are doing. If you see them catching fish, idle in, but do not cross their fishing area.
If you see people kayak fishing along the mangroves, do not drive your boat in between them and the mangroves.
The number one rule is do not ever walk up to someone and just start fishing right next to them – ever. If there is a limited fishing area, then ask nicely if it would be ok to fish nearby.
Observe how the people around you are fishing. If they are using lures, they are going to be fishing over a larger area than someone with bait, so give them their space. Even if it means that you have to find another place to fish – they were there first. If they are fishing with live bait, they do not need as much room – still ask permission to fish nearby.
On fishing piers or rock jetty's, it is kind of rude to fish with lures unless the fish are right in front of you and you are not casting in a clockwise manner. Fishing piers and rock jetty's are very limited on room, so you don't have much choice on where you can fish. However, that does not mean that you shouldn't still ask before you start to fish if you have to fish next to someone. It is just courteous to do so. If you're already there, and someone wants to fish next to you, try to be nice. If there is room, then great; if not, explain why, but be nice about it. This also goes for fishing off bridges.
Do not ever, I mean ever, throw a cast net where someone is fishing. The only time that this is ok is if you asked permission and received it. When you do this, you kill that fishing spot, because any fish that were anywhere near that spot are now spooked away from it.
If you're after bait, try to find a spot away from other people, and also away from where you're going to be fishing. In the case of a bridge or fishing pier, you have limited space. However, most of the time, people are fishing away from the pier or bridge and casting a net straight down is no big deal. If possible though, find an area where no one is fishing.
Look where you are throwing your cast net! Don't throw it onto an oyster bed or rocks where the net is going to get all tangled up and destroyed. I can't tell you how many times that I have seen dead animals tangled in cast nets that were left in the water because the fisherman didn't look before they threw. If you do end up doing this, take the time to remove it for the safety of the fish and other wildlife.
What this all really comes down to is that you shouldn't do something that you know you would not like done to you. We are all out there to have fun and enjoy the great sport of fishing. So respect the other fishermen around you. Share your knowledge with others so that people learn how to be better fishing advocates, and more respectful people. Fishing is a great sport and needs to be treated that way. It's up to all of us to teach others the proper fishing etiquette.
Randy Laukshtein is an avid Snook fisherman and co-creator of the Florida Fresh & Saltwater Fishing site. Check it out at: http://www.FLFreshAndSaltwaterFishing.com