Bored on a Long Passage? Here's How to Fish On the Move

26 July 2020 By Capt. Mx
two men fishing off boat
Credit: Mark O'Connell

Still pushing water, having enjoyed and excelled aboard square riggers, Whitbread Maxis, the world cup circuit when there were only 7 boats, America’s Cuppers, 12M, modern classics, real classics, salvage, racing, passage, refits, builds and more, for 38 years, 54 Atlantic crossings, 48 world championships, and a few stories more. I enjoy the serenity and clarity that a life between the blues offers, washed by wind and waves, where all that remains is the simple truth of all things, questions for all things technical, and acceptance of all things magic. 

One of the simple pleasures on a transat, or any passage, is fishing as you push water to your next port, oftentimes at a perfect trolling speed, although this may vary depending on the boat, the schedule, and the prevailing breeze.

It provides a pleasant distraction to the daily duties and is as old as sailing. One must first discuss with the skipper to determine his preferences — some allow rods and reels aboard, while others prefer a reel off a stanchion, and others a simple hand-lining reel. Once you have the right equipment, you can determine the length and strength of the line to use: perhaps an 80-pound test will work well for all eventualities — be sure to keep a proper tackle box. Plastic is best (as it avoids corrosion and possible stains), and you should use rubber pads to restrict damage and help keep it secure on deck, with an array of compartments and trays to better manage the varied items you need.

Once there’s a catch, be sure you have at least two crew at the reel, if only to keep one of you from falling overboard or to help you land the fish on deck. 

If you stick a noodle on a hook you may get a bite, but there are many options for hooks and lures, each with a particular advantage depending on who you ask. Discuss preferences with your crewmates and set up your kit, perhaps with a Krog transat-lure pack. Keep it simple, safe, and secure. You’ll need a hook to land the fish or perhaps a big net. The hook is practical for whatever you land, although a net does little or no harm should you hook a marine mammal, bird, or turtle, so take both in the event of a rescue. Collapsible handles may be acceptable, but make sure the hook and net are well made, secure, and thread fasteners through the handles so as not to let the tube slide into the sea as you hang onto the handle.

With your kit in order, all you need do is set the line overboard, leave a big bucket of saltwater standing by, and wait. It may be some time, so go read a book, sing a song, wait for Brexit, or wait for the watch to yell out “Fish On!” when the reel sings.

Once there’s a catch, be sure you have at least two crew at the reel, if only to keep one of you from falling overboard or to help you land the fish on deck. Good teamwork will ensure the deck is wetted down, perhaps with a protective sheet or sealed fish board laid on it to protect it from the fish, knife, and the blood, guts, and slime.

With the fish landed, you’ll need a bat or some ready implement to knock the fish on the head and ease its path to your plate as painlessly as possible. Some prefer the deft use of a sharp blade, while others alcohol through the gills and a bevy of other home-grown methods. All I can suggest is that you learn from those who are experienced and be mindful of the pain inflicted, for fish suffer too, and we must be mindful of all we do to others.

There’s nothing worse than the slime and blood a fish leaves on deck once it’s cleaned and prepped, so keep the bucket or high-pressured hose standing by. Leave no residue on deck — clean all utensils and equipment meticulously before storing it for the chef who will want to bake something exquisite.

This column is taken from the July 2020 issue of Dockwalk.


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