How paddlers, anglers can coexist on same waterway
I am fortunate to have four large streams within a half-hour’s drive — the Little Juniata River, the Frankstown Branch, Spring Creek and North Bald Eagle Creek. Fishing for trout and/or bass on this bigger water is often superb.
When flows are up, these streams are also excellent places to enjoy the paddle sports. Herein lies a potential problem.
If I am trout fishing, the last thing that I want to see is a canoe or kayak rounding the bend and bearing down on my position. I am even less enthused when it is five kayaks. Some of these kayakers float through where I was casting — sometimes passing right over my line — invariably putting the fish down. I have never thrown any rocks at these inconsiderate paddlers, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought about it.
It is one thing for me to have spent 10 minutes sneaking up on a muskrat in an attempt to get a photograph and then a 5-year-old kid runs up and yells “Momma, Momma, look, there’s a beaver” — Muskrat gone. I can excuse the child. It is quite another thing for grown adults in a canoe or kayak to come way closer to an angler than they need to.
So, am I just another selfish fisherman who wants the stream to himself? No, I own a kayak and sometimes I am in that kayak that rounds the bend and sees an angler ahead. Sometimes I am fishing from the kayak, but more likely just paddling.
Whether I am in waders with a fishing rod in my hand or floating on the water with a paddle, it isn’t just my creek or river. It is, and should be, a shared resource.
My brother, a non-kayaking trout fisherman, isn’t a fan of kayakers and canoeists. He acknowledges that both groups have the same right to the water. However, he added, “It is the kayakers who negatively impact the anglers, not the other way around.”
Not true. When a kayaker receives a scowl or unkind word from an angler, that is a negative impact. Trust me, I know.
The solution starts with a recipe for understanding, flavored with consideration and topped off with a pinch of good manners.
On a big river, such as the Allegheny, Delaware, Juniata or Susquehanna, anglers can easily be (and should be) avoided by boaters, kayakers and canoeists. This isn’t always possible on a smaller flow.
You cannot blame a kayaker for coming close to a fisherman if the area behind the fisherman was too shallow to kayak. Sometimes kayakers are like the 5-year-old muskrat imp — they know nothing about fishing and lack the understanding to know the least intrusive way to pass an angler.
A polite comment such as, “You might not understand, but it would have been better for you to pass behind me,” might aid in the education process.
When I pass an angler, I usually apologize. At least then they know that I understand. From the other side, if a paddler goes out of his or her way to avoid me when I am fishing, I take the time to thank them.
Understanding, consideration and politeness will help both groups coexist. A river needs all of the friends it can get, and polite interaction allows everyone to have a good day astream.