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Set a good example for other anglers to follow

I try to write this column with the idea of imparting some helpful information about fishing, or at least stimulating thinking about this great lifetime sport. This week I feel compelled to write about things to think about regarding fishing and boating. I know I may be "preaching to the choir" as I am guessing those of you that are reading this article are not the offenders of common sense, but have been the observers of the concerns I am about to mention. I know some of the issues escalated with the high amount of 4th of July traffic on the lakes this past week.

The first concern I bring up is the bow seat rider. I know I have mentioned the issue before, but it is worth mentioning again. Do not ride in the bow seat of a boat and do not let anybody ride in the bow seat of your boat. This practice is dangerous, especially in tiller boats due to the view obstruction and especially during busy holiday lake traffic. This practice is inappropriate in "wheel boats" also, as a rider can be thrown from the craft by a wave or the boat hitting an object like a ski or piece of dock in the lake. Hitting a sandbar with the boat with a bow seat rider will launch them -- not good! Take the extra 30 seconds to move the seat down to the main deck, or fold the chair over and sit on a cushion while traveling if other boat seats aren't available.

A dangerous practice I saw demonstrated all week was boating after dark without lights on. I am sure some anglers and boaters don't realize that looking to the west after sunset has better visibility that traveling to the east. This might be the case with one boater as I yelled a friendly reminder to put his lights on as we passed (traveling to the east). He was offended by my reminder and let me know by giving me the universal hand gesture of sign language that states, "I do not approve of you!" The next guy might be thankful, as it can be easy to forget when you are busy fishing and watching the graph. Some people also see better in dim light than others and will wait longer to turn on their lights. Get your lights on early, for safety sake.

This week I had an out-of-state outfitter in my boat and we watched another boat catching fish close to us throwing their fish back into the water. Please release your fish with respect back into the water. Throwing fish can cause shock and trauma and will definitely reduce the survival rate of released fish. His comment was right on the money when he said, "How disrespectful to your valuable resource."

The public accesses have become littered with garbage. I know some accesses have garbage cans and some do not. It doesn't seem to matter for some, as they still just throw garbage on the ground, or leave it on the dock for others to clean up. Really, c'mon man! I even had to remove glass beer bottles from a dock. Clean up after yourself. Take your garbage with you and dispose of it properly. Please refrain from throwing your cigarette butts and other garbage like that into the lake. Do you know anybody that doesn't think that it is disgusting?

My final reminder has to do with launching and parking at the public accesses. Please move to the side and get yourself ready. Make a plan that helps you be more efficient. Park your vehicle with the kind of consideration for space and location that you wish other had for you. It helps if we approach our boating and fishing with an attitude that "it is all about us" instead of "it is all about me." Be the angler that helps set an example for others to follow.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)