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Accurate casting mandatory around boat docks

Boat docks attract fishermen like flowers attract bees, but the dock-angler relationship isn’t always a match made in heaven.

A variety of species of fish are genetically inclined to seek overhead cover. Boat docks certainly score high in that category, which makes them prime real estate for bluegills, rock bass, perch, crappies and game fish like largemouth and smallmouth bass and even muskies and catfish.

Anglers gravitate to boat docks for good reason. Lots of fish live around and under them as they are rich in cover and food for everything from crustaceans and minnows to predators

But not everyone appreciates that fact. The people who own the docks and the boats secured to them sometimes become annoyed at the prying anglers that pitch and skip lures with hopes that a big fish will bite.

I fished western New York’s Lake Chautauqua last weekend. It’s well known as a great boat dock fishery, and it proved to be true as I boated more than 30 largemouth bass–all plucked from under big, shady docks.

Several of the hundreds of docks where I skipped and pitched baits had friendly neighbors who asked questions about techniques and commented about the Bass Cat. It made for pleasant fishing.


But unfortunately, boat docks sometimes become battlegrounds. Some, but certainly not all, dock people would rather anglers go out to the middle of lake to fish and leave their docks alone.

To be sure, some anglers are not careful around boat docks. Truth is, careless anglers cause problems for everyone who fishes boat docks. They cast inaccurately, clank sinkers off pontoons and snag hooks in wood poles, ladders, boat covers and boat lift bunks.

A few bad apples can cause a bushel of trouble for the rest of us.

Anglers can up their chances around boat docks by learning how to present their lures without disrupting the tranquility and damaging property.

Accurate casting is mandatory around boat docks. Learn the correct snap of the wrist and the proper release point while practicing out in open water. Weightless stick worms and Texas-rigged plastics are recommended, not just because they do not snag easily, but because they are proven fish-catchers.

Never fish around docks where children are playing. Parents will be justifiably worried about the possibility of an errant cast, so don’t give them any reason to fret.

If you see a frisky dog on the dock, move on without casting. I learned that lesson the hard way many years ago on the Ohio River when a golden retriever leaped into the water to literally bite my topwater lure. Fortunately, the man on the dock scolded his dog and not me.

Should you snag your lure on a dock or boat, make every reasonable effort to retrieve the lure. If you do cause damage, do the right thing and leave a note. Your insurance likely will pay for repairs.

Learn the most likely hiding places where big fish can tuck in to ambush prey and focus your efforts on getting your lure to them. With practice, you will learn the best angles and the high-percentage targets, and get your lure in and big fish out without disturbing the peace and quiet our lake neighbors enjoy.

Jack Wollitz’s new book, The Common Angler: A Celebration of Fishing, was released May 11. He enjoys emails from readers. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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