How To Be A Valued Guest

joe yack, delaware, chesapeake bay, sussex county, striped bass fishing,
Joe Yack with a nice striped bass from the Chesapeake

I am a self-professed “Fish-Bum”.  I manage to fish over a hundred days a year always on someone else’s boat. Over the years I have learned to be a good guest when fishing, whether on beach or boat being invited to fish with a crew requires some work on your part. My Friend J.R. Whitsell, a local lure maker (JIGGED UP CUSTOMS) and I were discussing this on social media this week and I’ve summarized the conversation for you here. From time to time we all get invited to fish with friends or people we barely know. In every scenario there are some rules to follow as to “How to get on the list of people invited and stay there” …

The first thing you want to be is a good communicator. Talk to your host and get an idea of how you will be fishing, what the target species is, how much and what type of gear to bring. Ask if the host needs anything.  Ice, bait, lures and gas money have been the usual requests. Also get the show up times and estimated length of trip. The next thing you want to do is check the weather where you are fishing. If rain is in the forecast pack a small bag with rain gear. That bag should also include sunglasses, medicine, first aid kit, flashlight, knife and anything you need to get thru the day. Keep the bag size small so it can stow away easily without cluttering the decks. I have been using a small soft sided cooler which carries 4 frozen bottles of water, 4 cool waters, my lunch, rain-gear and accessories.  As a guest, you want to be self-contained, requiring nothing from the host to fish all day. This means your own rods, lures, bait and lunch. The host should enjoy your company without excess work or expense on his part.

If there was a list of guests to be invited how do you move to the top of the list? Doing the following things will help ensure you get invited: more than once.

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  • Show up on time! Being late costs you fishing time. Your crew members will lose that time as well. Best way to not get invited again is to be late. I have learned this the hard way. It is way better to be punctual!
  • If you get invited multiple times and can’t make it but get offended when not invited you’re headed to the bottom of the list.
  • If taking you requires as much attention as a little kid… you’re moving down the list! Little kids are exempt from the list as they are in training!
  • Try to achieve “Valued Angler Status” … this means “be handy”… help with lines, launch and retrieve, loading, prepping the boat and washing down after the trip. Be the “anchor boy” without being asked. Basically, anything you can add to make the trip easier on the host will move you up the list.
  • Having achieved “Valued Angler Status” you must now put that to use in the way of helping to find fish. Searching for signs while the captain is driving is a good example.  I spotted bird activity while the captain was weaving thru a sea of crab pots at speed… thirty inch Stripers were busting Bunker under those birds. I get regular invites on that boat now. In addition, when I’m the captain I appreciate another pair of eyes looking forward for safety.
  • Share any knowledge of the area or techniques with your host. We all learn from each other. Be open to new ideas in return from your host. Listen to the captain!
  • Dress for the conditions at hand and bring some extra clothes. You will not enjoy yourself if you are wet or cold. Complaining about the conditions is one of the quickest ways to move to the bottom of the list. Some of our best fishing occurs in very wet, sloppy conditions, be prepared.
  • If you’re a drinker maybe bring six for the host… have a few and enjoy yourself but no one is there to “baby sit” a drunk. Being a drunkard on board actually puts you off the list. Things happen too quickly on the water!
  • If you post where the fish were caught in social media after the trip you are off the list! We call this “Spot Burning”…If you must say something don’t say exactly where, you fished…Talk about “patterns not places”. Let your host post and edit any pictures… if you post a picture with just a bit of recognizable background your spot will be overflowing with people soon. Try not to ruin your host’s fishing spot. I learned this the hard way as well. If you are sworn to secrecy on a spot, don’t be an Oath-breaker!
  • If you own a boat and invite your friends about as often as they invite you both of you will be higher on the list. We can all learn from each other.
  • Many of my fishing friends are professional lure makers… Buying goods from these local builders helps keep the invites coming also. Those friends that tie flies or build their own lures often want some of my hand-made stuff … I bring some for sharing with the host and crew members.
striuped bass, rockfish, liesider, delaware, sussex coutny, Chesapeake bay
Joe Yack holding a striped bass

A “Valued Angler” will also be part Photographer sometimes. When asked to take pictures try to get the shot quickly but also try not to get too much background. Sea and sky are good backgrounds if possible. Foremost, get the fish and the angler in the best light. Tell them how to move for the perfect shot. Seconds are precious to a fish being released in warm weather. Work fast! When I’m on the water, I want all on board to catch fish. If someone is struggling I will do what I can to help them get on the bite, too! Sometimes just a subtle change will make the difference in a person’s catching. I offer what I know to help the entire crew do well. I have been blessed to find fish most times, by patterning their habits and sometimes by dumb luck. Being known for being a “finder of fish” helps one advance up the list quickly, too. The best way to keep the invitations coming is to never lose your enthusiasm! Never stop believing a good fish could come on the next strike! This behavior is contagious and can contribute to better catching for the whole boat. Enthusiasm will move a person up the list as quick as anything. So the next time your buddy calls and says “Let’s go fish on my boat” if you show up on time, be handy, become a prepared and self-contained, enthusiastic, fish finding member of the crew. I bet the invites keep coming!

Joe Yack

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