Fishing ethics and proper fishing etiquette are core responsibilities of all anglers.  Fundamentally, these ethics and etiquette can be distilled down to the "golden rule"- that is, treat others the way you want to be treated.  Be respectful of others and be responsible for the area you're fishing.

If you're new to the sport, some of these practices may not be as obvious as others.  For example, leaving an area better than when you arrived is one of the most important fishing rules anglers should follow.  Read on for more fishing etiquette or  "golden rules."

Two anglers in boat wearing life jackets and steering away from other anglers as they practice good fishing etiquette 
  • Treating fish and our natural resources with respect is essential to the fishing community.  Practice TreadLightly's recreational guidelines and be mindful of sensitive habitat and taking care not to disrupt the environment around you.
  • All anglers should review their state's relevant fishing rules and regulations before heading out for the day and always have their fishing license with them. Regulations are in place for a reason, so please respect and carefully follow the laws on the water you're fishing.
  • Keep only as many fish as legally allowed and that will be eaten. Also, when you plan to keep fish, dispatch of them humanely and care for them immediately by either cleaning them or putting them on ice so their eating quality is preserved.
  • If live bait is allowed in a body of water, only use fish species or other baits that are either permitted by regulation, or are from the water you're fishing.  When practicing good fishing ethics, do not use exotic species such as goldfish and be mindful that any foreign bait may disrupt the ecosystem.
  • Avid anglers and fishing license holders consider spawning fish to be the future of fishing. If you catch a spawning fish, handle it with extreme care. Be mindful of the season and avoid sensitive areas that are known for spawning if possible.
  • Spawning fish are the future of fishing and should be handled with care if caught and not disturbed if possible.  Be mindful of the season and avoid sensitive areas if possible.
  • Be sure you have the permission of landowners if you plan to fish on private property.  If you don't, you're trespassing.
  • On a public waterway, there is no such thing as somebody's personal "spot".  Fishing areas are enjoyed on a first-come, first-served basis.  While it might be frustrating that you find someone fishing water you've been fishing for days, months or years, the fact is they have as much right to that spot as you do.
  • Do your best to keep noise to a minimum.  Most fish species spook easily.  Quietly approaching an area where others are fishing is not only courteous but will assure fish are not spooked and can still be caught.  An important part of any quality fishing experience is the tranquility found outdoors.
  • Give anglers around you a wide berth and make every effort to avoid crowding to assure a positive fishing experience for all.  In some cases, crowding can't be avoided. Under those circumstances, taking care not to cast over other's lines and to provide as much space as possible for those around you will be greatly appreciated.

Remember, as long as you have a fishing license, that fishing ethics are not in place to restrict you, but to help build a positive angling community. If you wish to discuss fishing ethics best practices or fishing etiquette, join the conversation on the Take Me Fishing Community Forum.