Lots of fishermen don’t have the luxury of living in the wilderness. Many of them, in fact, live smack in the middle of big cities, where the siren song of nature is a little more difficult to find. But find it they do, from the carp fisherman in the Potomac River, to men trolling the ponds and pools of Los Angeles, to fisherman working the riverbanks and creeks cutting through cities of the Southeastern United States.

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But the demands and difficulties of urban fishing are different than the fishing in rural areas. There’s problems with parking. There are other people to deal with. There may be issues with pollution — not to mention crime. 

First, you’ve got to find a place to park. This can be harder than it sounds. Are you offloading your fishing gear in the middle of a sketchy neighborhood, on a street in the industrial park of town, in a place where you’re the only car around for blocks? Make sure, first, that you’re legal: you don’t want to return to find your car towed, as some of my local fisherman have when they parked too close to the road in a (posted) no-parking zone. Make sure you take all precautions of car-locking, valuable-hiding, etc. — the sort of precautions you always ought to take, but with all the bells and whistles.

If you’re in the lonely part of town, stay alert, and take those same precautions. You’re already conspicuous: don’t make yourself more so by driving an expensive car, flaunting expensive gear, or dragging a Yeti cooler behind you. Then, presuming you’ve done the recommended scouting mission, get to your spot while avoiding as many people as possible.

If you’re wading, don’t bring stuff you need to leave on the bank. It’s an invitation for people to take what they find, and you can’t get out of the river fast enough to stop them. You know the saying “teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime?” All he needs is a decent pole. Don’t leave your spare hanging around for the taking. Same for that expensive cooler. 

[Check out our Security Tips For Fishing Trips.]

And if you’re wading, wear a lifejacket. Just do it. It’s a pain, but it’s the safe thing to do, and it could save your life. It’s saved my husband’s. 

Yes, you want your phone to take pics of the enormous fish you catch. But don’t wave it around. People can hock that iPhone or Android for some decent cash. 

When in doubt, retreat into the water. People without jacket or waders aren’t likely to follow you into the river. My husband once had to stand and wait, in waders and jacket, for half an hour for two people to stop fistfighting on the trail before he could head home. He knew that if he stayed in the water, no one was going to bother him — but if he got out, the chances of someone messing with him increased exponentially. 

Bring some protection. There are snakes. There are loose dogs, feral and unleashed. There are humans. My husband takes an extendable baton that can shatter kneecaps when aimed in the right direction, and which takes up minimal space in his belt loop or pocket. But mace or pepper spray when aimed downwind from you, can work just as well. Don’t bring anything more lethal unless you’re licensed to use it, prepared to use it, and prepared to face the consequences if you do. 

Urban fishing is fun. It’s a great way to get into the great outdoors without going far from your doorstep. Just take some safety precautions and you’ll be fine. And remember: by far, your greatest threat is a hook in the hand. You’re more likely to need a first aid kit than an extendable baton, and more likely to meet a fellow fisherman than an angry stranger. But it never hurts to take precautions. Because you never know. 

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