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Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Captain Jim Freda Running and Gunning, Proper Boating Etiquette
by Capt. Jim Freda
Shore Catch Guide Service

eel up guys, we’re moving, get ready, hold on! And off we go. Picking up from one location and quickly moving over to another where fish are blitzing up on the surface is a common tactic that is employed by many boaters. However some do it right and some do it wrong. Running and gunning as it is called has one chasing after birds and fish when they pop up within eye shot of your boat. This tactic is usually used when you are not catching fish at your present position. In other words the grass looks greener somewhere else and high levels of optimism follow in your boat wake.

There are times throughout the season when this tactic is highly effective. One of these times is at the end of our striped bass season in December when the fish are tightly schooled together as they chase sea herring all over the ocean. During this time your fishfinder will attest to whether or not bass are beneath your boat. They are easy to read as massive schools of fish will blacken your screen.

When the bass are below your gunwales catching them is simple. They are not very selective and will hit jigs, swimming plugs, shads, metals, or flies as water temperatures that are right around 48 degrees triggers them to feed voraciously. On the other hand if your fishfinder is empty many casts often produce nothing. So this makes it time to move as one knows that being over or in fish will produce instance hook-ups.

The other time of the year when running and gunning is effective is during our inshore false albacore run that takes place along the beach. This event usually begins right at the beginning of September and will last until mid to late October. During this time false albacore are moving around, or better said, blistering around, chasing small baits such as bay anchovies, spearing, mullet, sardines, or small peanut bunker.

Albies can push these baits and pop up just about anywhere from along the beach out to about 60 feet of water. To catch these speedsters one has to get on these fish and quickly get off a cast before they sound and move to another location. Since false albacore are a pelagic species, meaning open ocean, you can bet they don’t like sand under their bellies so they don’t want to be in the shallows for long.

Now I know most of our stripersurfers on this site fish mainly from the beach but let me tell you if you have an opportunity to jump on board someone’s boat during the course of the season than do so. I myself starting as a beach guide and limited myself there but once I got some fiberglass under my feet a whole new world opened up to me. I saw things that I never saw before and caught fish like I never caught before. It also became a lot easier to catch fish as my boat would bring me directly to them or over the top of them.

I give a lot of seminars over the winter and at a recent one a surfcaster from the audience said that “that was cheating” in reference to catching fish while using a boat. I simply responded “no, that is fun”. My point is to not be closed minded to other types of fishing this way you can experience the full gauntlet of what our resource has for us to enjoy. I am always open to new opportunities and new adventures. I have never done any ice fishing but if someone were to say to me, hey do you want to come with me, I have all the gear and equipment, then I’d be there.

Copyright © 1998 - 2007 Captain Jim Freda

o that brings me back to running and gunning if and when you get a chance to be out on a boat catching fish. In both of the two scenarios that I described above running and gunning can be effective but it does require a certain amount of boating etiquette and awareness. Let’s look at some these.

Ideally upon picking up and running a boater will very slowly and cautiously approach a new school of surface feeding fish and get well ahead of the school after determining which way they are moving. One will then cut the engine and allow the boat to drift into them.

When picking up and running one however must be aware of any boats that may be in your direct path or are already set up on the school and are catching fish. Remember you are responsible for your wake while out on the water. If your wake causes someone on another boat to lose their balance, fall and get hurt, that is negligence on your part and you are responsible.

Even if you do approach a cluster of boats at a slow speed do not pull into the parking lot if there is not a safe and proper distance between you and any other boat. This would be considered crowding someone else. So don’t crash their party just because you’re not in one.

Also don’t race another boat to a pod of breaking fish. This can be extremely dangerous and unprofessional. Keep in mind too that sound travels at approximately 3300mph in water so it will get to the fish much quicker than either of you ever will. In most instances this fast arriving vibration will serve to do nothing else than to spook the fish.

Just before you begin to throttle up be sure to let your crew know that you are going to make a quick move so that no one is caught off guard. Everyone should be holding on or sitting down with their feet firmly planted on the deck so your acceleration doesn’t force or throw someone in a direction you don’t want them to go. Also have your crew positioned so that your boat is balanced out and not listing to one side or the other. And have everyone situated so that no one is getting hit with spray while you are running. Arriving to the next spot soaking wet is no fun.

Don’t forget to stow your rods securely so that none of your equipment is lost overboard. However it would be to your advantage to have your rods is such a position so that when you come to a stop they can be picked up and a cast gotten off quickly. With fly rods this may mean to have a rod secured in a side gunwale rod holder with the line already stripped out on the boat deck.

The way you exit a fleet of boats is just as important in terms of boating etiquette as the way you enter. When you are leaving your current position to fish somewhere else, or to go home, do so by going around and behind the other boats and not across the water that that they are casting into. This would be very rude and send a statement that you lack consideration for others. Also don’t throttle up until you are far enough away so that your boat wake is not felt by anyone else.

One place you should never run and gun is on a back bay flat. Because of the shallowness of these areas fish will spook very easily from the vibration that will be produced from your engine noise as it quickly propagates in all directions. It is also not safe to travel at high speeds in these areas because bottoms can shoot up quickly without warning and before you know it you can be crashing right into a bar. This could spell disaster for you and your crew’s personal safety or at the least damage your hull.

Back bay flats are also fragile ecosystems that can easily be disturbed by your prop churning only inches from the bottom. Marine life and vegetation can quickly be damaged.

Unfortunately the frustration of not catching fish when fish are around causes many boaters to forget these rules of etiquette and move about without regard for others. I have seen boaters just crash in on pods of bait and fish in desperation to catch a fish in spite of all the other boats that are already around. Keep in mind that this is a lose-lose situation for everyone. It is better to work together with other boaters while on the water. When you do you will see that everyone will catch more fish.  End

Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Jim Freda, All Rights Reserved

Articles by Captain Jim Freda

Capt. Jim FREDAEmail Captain Jim Freda

Jim Freda is a highly respected charter captain, author, outdoor writer, seminar speaker, and photographer. His first book Fishing the New Jersey Coast, has been a best seller and received the “New Jersey Center for the Book Award” as one of the most notable NJ books. He co-authored a second book Saltwater Fishing a Tactical Approach, A Guide for Northeast Beach and Boat Fishermen, with his Shore Catch associates Capt Gene Quigley and Shell E. Caris.

Jim has weekly fishing columns that appear in the Bergen Record, NJ's second largest newspaper and the Coast Star and Ocean Star newspapers of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Nationally, Jim is a contributing editor for Fly Fishing in Saltwaters magazine and also writes for Fly Fisherman magazine, Saltwater Sportsman, Eastern Fly Fishing, Big Game Journal, and Regionally he writes for On the Water magazine where he has is own monthly column, The Fisherman magazine and the NJ Federation of Sportsman Clubs newspaper.

As a seminar speaker Jim is featured as one of the celebrities on the Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series, as one of the “Stars of the Show” at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ, the Northeast’s largest fly fishing show and is on the National Pro Seminar slate at the Toyota Saltwater Expo also in Somerset. He is also regularly featured each year at many of the local fishing clubs in the surrounding area including the State’s two largest clubs the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and the Saltwater Anglers of Bergen County. Capt Jim has also been a guest speaker at all the Trout Unlimited Clubs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jim has also been a special guest speaker at the Bloomberg Network in New York City.

He is a member of the National Factory Pro Team for St. Croix Rods and pro staff for Fins Fishing Line, AVET Reels, Spro, Gamakatsu, Hogy, Korkers, Costa Del Mar, Columbia Sportswear and Aquaskinz.

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