Throughout the world "fishing the line" is a frequent harvesting tactic in communities where no-take marine reserves are designated. This practice of concentrating fishing effort at the boundary of a marine reserve is predicated upon the principle of spillover, the net export of stock from the marine reserve to the surrounding unprotected waters. We explore the consequences and optimality of fishing the line using a spatially explicit theoretical model. We show that fishing the line: (1) is part of the optimal effort distribution near no-take marine reserves with mobile species regardless of the cooperation level among harvesters; (2) has a significant impact on the spatial patterns of catch per unit effort (CPUE) and fish density both within and outside of the reserve; and (3) can enhance total population size and catch simultaneously under a limited set of conditions for overexploited populations. Additionally, we explore the consequences of basing the spatial distribution of fishing effort for a multispecies fishery upon the optimality of the most mobile species that exhibits the greatest spillover. Our results show that the intensity of effort allocated to fishing the line should instead be based upon more intermediate rates of mobility within the targeted community. We conclude with a comparison between model predictions and empirical findings from a density gradient study of two important game fish in the vicinity of a no-take marine-life refuge on Santa Catalina Island, California (USA). These results reveal the need for empirical studies to account for harvester behavior and suggest that the implications of spatial discontinuities such as fishing the line should be incorporated into marine-reserve design.