Boat Ramp Etiquette, forums talk about it, and anglers at ramps point fingers while complaining. However, rarely are offenders addressed. Many offenders of boat ramp etiquette never know they are doing anything wrong because of a possible confrontational situation. While I’ve been told off before, I have also found most boat owners are very receptive to a polite suggestion on improving launching procedures. Especially if those suggestions speed up the launching process for everyone involved. It never goes over well to try and teach someone how to back up their trailer (unless they are obviously very new). However, things like explaining how headlights prevent other anglers from launching can be well received. I have included several typically seen etiquette issues as well as a couple of my personal pet peeves.
Prepare the boat before pulling onto the actual ramp. When arriving at the launching location, pull off to the side and prepare to launch the boat. Remove a boat’s safety chain, motor support, and steering locks before lining up to launch. If using a very steep ramp or during frozen conditions, it’s not only acceptable but it’s also wise to leave the bow strap connected until reaching the water during the launching procedure. Just be quick in removing the bow strap just before water immersion.
Loading or unloading equipment in a boat should be accomplished before getting in the launch line. There is nothing more frustrating for an angler waiting to launch, than to be blocked by someone still loading coolers, installing removable electronics or partners fishing gear in the boat when there is an empty launch lane. Accomplishing minor tasks while in line is fine as long as these tasks do not prevent launching in turn.
Typically dock space is valuable during morning launch. Whether a tournament is launching or not, most public ramps do not have sufficient space for more than just a couple boats. If fishing alone, the dock is necessary for launching and loading. However, don’t stay tied up to the dock for an unnecessary amount of time. Preparing rods and reels, or setting the boat up for a high-speed run can all be accomplished while drifting. Save the dock space for actual loading or unloading.
I fish many singles tournaments, meaning anglers fish alone. In these events, the dock space gets bound up pretty quickly as everyone is launching by themselves. To help combat this, on lakes with little wind and no current, anglers simply dump their boats and let them drift away from the launch. Once the vehicle is parked, anglers will jump in a boat with someone and be taken to their boat. We have several anglers who do this, and it speeds up the launching line tremendously.
If boat dumping is not an option, then offer assistance. Helping others to launch can also speed up the launch line tremendously. In a perfect scenario, only the last boat being launched should be tied to the dock. Just make sure to get the vehicle keys back to the angler, keeping them until the end of the event is not an option. Anglers occasionally need or want to leave before weigh in time.
I fully understand there is no better place to teach someone how to back up a trailer than at an actual boat ramp. Empty parking lots are level, and a student will not experience the effects of a trailer dropping below the line of sight. However, many of the basics can be taught in an empty parking lot, and to simulate the disappearing trailer, have the student learn to use the side mirrors. There will come a time for a student’s first launch ramp experience. It’s more effective if the experience is a good one. Try not to make this first experience during a tournament or crowded weekend ramp. If teaching someone, wait for the crowd to disperse or plan for a late morning session.
Boat Ramp Etiquette Pet Peeve
My biggest pet peeve when it comes to launch ramp etiquette happens when launching in the dark. Some anglers will leave their vehicle headlights on while backing down a ramp and while the vehicle sits on the ramp and they are mooring the boat. Headlights are absolutely blinding to the next angler trying to launch and completely stops the flow of traffic. I personally have not discovered a vehicle without the ability to turn off the headlights. The invention of automatic headlights has led a lot of anglers to believe headlights cannot be turned off in the dark. This is simply not true. Of the most confusing are the few year models when manufacturers used the parking brake to turn off automatic headlights. If the vehicle does not have a headlight off switch, usually depressing the emergency brake one click will turn the headlights off. Current year model vehicles now have several positions on the headlight switch, one of those being “off”.
Another pet peeve of mine is anglers who insist on idling through the crowd of boats on tournament morning. Let’s face it, at idle bass boats are not the most nimble of vessels. Once the outboard is started, and all systems are go, put the trolling motor down and maneuver the boat through the crowd to the designated staging area. Inevitably anglers will use the outboard with a series of forward and reverse thrusts to position the boat. This sends currents through the staging areas causing anglers, already staged, to drift around. Shallow water anchors help with a lot of this jockeying, however if anglers would simply put the trolling motor down, tournament morning launch would be much smoother.
Even experienced tournament anglers forget to pull straps or turn off headlights. Being courteous and friendly will go a long way at a launch ramp. We are all after the same thing; sometimes a minute or two of our time will go a long way. Being polite is good Karma, and Karma has a way of coming back in the form it was given.