Boat rage is a growing problem

Larry Woody • May 3, 2017 at 8:30 AM

A couple of buddies and I were fishing for white bass on the Cumberland River earlier this spring when a boat came roaring up the river toward us.

It got closer and closer. We kept expecting it to slow down and swing around our boat, but it didn't.

Instead, the driver went flying wide-open between us and the bank, right through where we were casting. Our boat rocked, waves sloshed the bank, and the school of white bass we had been working disappeared.

I've had similar encounters on Old Hickory Lake and Percy Priest Lake, especially during the peak spring fishing season when every cove is jammed with an armada of boats.

But that morning on the Cumberland we were the only two boats on that stretch of the river. The other boater clearly saw that we were fishing that particular spot, and he had the rest of the river to go around us -- but we still got run over.

As Middle Tennessee becomes more and more crowded and congested (what our tax-addled politicians like to call "progress") we're seeing an increase in such inconsiderate incidents, resulting in flaring tempers.

On the highway it's called road rage. I fear we're on the brink of a similar epidemic of water rage.

Nowadays in addition to sun screen, you need to pack your blood pressure pills.

I've about given up trying to fish Priest on spring weekends. I fish for enjoyment and relaxation, and there's nothing enjoying and relaxing about fighting boat-ramp traffic jams and dodging a growing fleet of reckless, bone-headed boaters.

Then, about the time spring fishing starts to taper off, the water skiers, pleasure boaters and personal-watercraft riders take over. Urban lakes like Priest become watery rush hours -- without speed limits, stop signs or traffic cops.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency patrols the waterways looking for drunk, disorderly and dangerous boaters, and it does as well as can be expected with limited resources. But it can barely make a dent in the escalating problem.

Besides, law-enforcement personnel can't enforce civility -- there's no law against being rude and inconsiderate.

About all that can be done is to remind boaters to be respectful of others, starting at the boat ramp: don't back the boat onto the ramp, THEN start loading stuff aboard and getting out the life jackets and other gear. Do all of that before backing onto the ramp; there's usually a line of other boaters waiting to launch.

You'd think boaters wouldn't have to be reminded of such basic courtesies. But many do -- and they still ignore them.

Another basic point: if you arrive at your favorite fishing spot and someone is on it, move on. Don't barge in on top of them and start casting around them. Likewise, don't go roaring past other fishermen -- slow down and swing around.

Every year in Middle Tennessee more boaters are crowding onto the same amount of water, and with the growing congestion comes increased aggravation, frustration and temper tantrums.

I don't know any solution to the over-crowding, but a little common sense and common courtesy would help the situation.

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