The angler's dilemma: Dock tyranny or owner's rights

August 6, 2011 

For years you have fished a spot known to harbor take-home species; you have found the proverbial honey hole. Now a dock has been placed directly over your presumed territory and you take exception to the intrusion.

I'm a dock-fishing junkie, and over these many years, on rare occasions I have had issues with property owners. Some to the extent that the situation centered on claims of ownership. I will admit that I get a bit frazzled with such claims. It may be that the overall impression of Owners vs. Fishermen has certain implications that give reason for confrontation.

Perhaps the owner of the dock had an experience with one of the 10 percent, the short-sighted and discourteous minority. Or it could be that the fisherman had a similar situation and vowed to make things a bit more difficult on the next encounter.

A few words of advice: Avoid confrontation whenever possible. If the dock is in use by others, pass it by. Show a bit of courtesy and fishing etiquette. Not because of some self-proclaimed regulation, but out of respect. Likely, there are other spots along the waterway, so passing the few that are being used by their owners is not going to ruin my day. Many times, the folks I've encountered ask if I'm having any luck, and some have pointed me toward spots where they know fish have been caught.

I have on occasion been harassed, which I diffused by simply moving on. Being threatened, however opens up another chapter. I've discovered that two hot-heads mix about as well as oil and water. So whenever I consider myself to be threatened, I simply note the location and report the incident. Otherwise, I usually just wave (maybe not with the whole hand) and go fish somewhere else.

Another condition to be considered is damage to private property. If you or anyone onboard your boat are less than proficient at casting, especially around docks and private property, be aware of the potential for damage. Your lure may land in a boat and damage the interior or rip covers if snagged. Broken lines result in exposed hooks, which left on the dock or hanging from a piling pose the possibility of injury. Use discretion and common sense when dealing with these situations.

But above all else remember this -- Nothing excuses bad manners and self-imposed or proclaimed rights of passage, just as not all fishermen nor every dock owner tend to be the most knowledgeable about manners and courtesy. Also remember that the dock and everything on it or attached to it is the property of the dock owner and should be treated as such. Waters may be public, but docks are private.


Vote Aug. 9 on a plan to prevent over-fishing. New catch limits on species that include cobia, dolphin, wahoo and king mackerel.

Meeting details -- What: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council; When: 8:30 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 9; Where: Charleston Marriott Hotel, 170 Lockwood Boulevard, Charleston, Phone: 1-866-357-6667.

Summary: Setting limits to prevent species being reduced to critical levels. A strategy of economic costs which may help avoid tougher, restrictions in the future.

Pew Environment Group on Over-fished Species fact and approach:


"The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope." -- John Buchan

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