While fishing at Lake Mead recently, I couldn’t help but notice the crowd that squeezed together at the end of the fishing pier that reaches into Boulder Harbor, where Lake Mead Marina used to be. Where there was room to fit perhaps 10 anglers comfortably, I could see double that, and nearly everyone had at least two fishing rods. The situation didn’t look fun, but as time went by, it provided a few laughs.
Not one for crowds or tight spots, my first thought was to leave and try another area, but periodic striper boils convinced me to stay and try my luck. I donned my waders and walked into waist-deep water south of the pier, where I wouldn’t have to deal with the mass of humanity fighting for a place to fish. At times, the scene was like something from a movie about a sinking ocean liner, with anglers running back and forth on the pier as they chased their quarry.
This scene repeated itself every time the water’s surface suddenly erupted into a boil as thousands of shad skipped across the surface in an often futile attempt to avoid becoming breakfast for hungry striped bass. And for some reason, the shad always seemed to boil just off the end of the pier, something that wasn’t lost on the anglers who arrived too late to get a front-row seat. Their tardiness, however, didn’t stop them from trying to force their way to the front.
Each time a boil moved across the water, I watched from a safe distance as anglers of all sizes and shapes grabbed their fishing rods and rushed to the end of the pier. Those who had arrived early enough to be in the front row found themselves pressed hard against the steel railing that kept them from being pushed into the cold water. The situation reminded me of the last time I boarded the tram to the D gates at the airport.
The situation got so bad that a woman who had been fishing from the pier’s southeast corner no longer had room to make a simple backcast. She finally managed to push away from the railing and yelled, “Hey guys, I don’t mind sharing, but give me a little room!” A tall, skinny guy in a cowboy hat looked down at her and complied by reluctantly taking a half step back.
“Mighty generous,” I said out loud.
Ironically, he was the same guy who had been glaring at me since I waded into the water an hour or so before. He had even made a few casts in my direction just to let me know I wasn’t welcome.
I don’t know what it is about anglers and even some hunters, but there are some among us who always seem to think the action is better where someone else is already fishing or hunting. Never mind that you or someone else is already there.
When my youngest son, The Wildman, was still in diapers, we spent an afternoon fishing for stocked rainbow trout at Sunset Park. My kids kept me running as they caught fish after fish. Then I noticed things getting a little crowded in our corner of the shoreline as several adult fishermen began squeezing in on both sides of my family. When I could no longer stand next to my own son, I had a heart-to-heart talk with the fellow next to me and encouraged him to give my family some breathing room. Not unlike the guy in the cowboy hat, the man took about a half step to my right.
Although they are not written into law, there are ethics that come into play each time we step into the outdoors. One of those is showing respect for the other guy, or gal as the case might be, by giving them some room. If someone is already fishing from your favorite spot, find somewhere else. If you recognize that someone is already pushing a draw for quail, go to the next one. Fish and game, after all, are where you find them.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is not affiliated with or endorsed by the department. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.