Be sure to practice boat ramp etiquette when headed out fishing

Prepare your boat for launching while in the parking lot, then make quick use of the ramp to get your rig on the water. (Photo by Tom Pink)
When I read Walker Smith’s story, the “Eight Unwritten Rules of Boat Ramp Etiquette” on wired2fish.com recently, I thought it seemed a bit early to be talking about launching boats, at least in Michigan. Then I remembered that fishermen have been putting their boats in Lake Erie all winter.
I was originally drawn to Smith’s post because I worked in one of the busier marinas on the north side of Lake St. Clair when I was in high school and college. During that time, I saw just about anything you can see happen at a boat ramp, especially on busy weekend afternoons, when fishermen were trying to get out and pleasure boaters were trying to get in. We had three ramps, with one kid helping people launch and one or two others directing them in the parking lot. The experience taught me a lot about launching boats.
Every boater could benefit from the experience of working at a ramp for a summer. I consider myself lucky to live in a place now where the lines for the launch are rarely more than three or four cars deep, but the guys Smith mentions who pull their trailer straps, put in drain plugs and talk to neighbors at the ramp are found everywhere.
I chuckled a bit when Smith mentioned turning off your headlights when launching in the dark so the lights don’t shine in the faces of the guys who are trying to maneuver to the launch pad. My last two trucks have been of the vintage where the emergency brake must be deployed in order to shut off the headlights when the truck is running. It’s difficult, but not impossible to launch a boat with the emergency brake on, but I usually just try to launch well before anyone else has made it to the ramp or wait for an opportunity after everyone else has launched. There’s nothing like starting a beautiful day of fishing with being threatened in the parking lot.
When the cable to the emergency brake snapped in one of my old trucks, I was able to use the pedal to turn out the lights without activating the brake. I never did fix that brake – its use at the boat ramp superseded my desire to be safe, never mind lawful.
Smith also urges fishermen to give their compatriots a little extra room in the parking lot if the lot isn’t full. That’s good advice, too, but as a ramp worker on parking lot detail, I’d get a lecture from my boss if I allowed too much space between vehicles, no matter how many were out there. He urged us to stand in place while we guided customers, and I got the feeling that he would have wanted me to let the boater run over my toes rather than give way.
Smith is correct: All boaters need to use common sense at the ramp and think of their fellow fishermen. But before you yell at that guy with his headlights on, make sure he’s not driving an old truck.
To see Smith’s article, visit wired2fish.com and search for “boat ramp etiquette.”

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