Cruising

Let's Call It Catching Page 2

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LINE OF
COMMAND

From the hook forward, the gear running back to Moose is very simple. The hook is attached to a stainless steel wire leader, of 100-pound breaking strength, about 4 feet long. The leader can be crimped onto the hook, (leave a generous and loose eye), or connected with a haywire twist, which is a loose twist coming from the hook and tightening into a coiled wrap. Work the extra bit back and forth and it will snap off without leaving a meat-hook to catch your hands.

You can use beads to serve as spacers so that the hook is properly positioned inside the skirt. The other end of the leader also terminates in a haywire twist. When you are not using this particular lure coil the leader, being careful not to kink the wire.

I use 50-pound fishing line that ends in a snap swivel so I can quickly change lures. Some days, when I'm feeling experimental, they change hourly. The actual line has a Bimini twist at the end. This is basically a complicated way of doubling the last few feet of the line. I recommend you study Scott Bannerot's The Cruiser's Handbook of Fishing to learn this and many other things.

I have two older Penn reels, each carrying 500 yards of line, permanently mounted at the stern of the boat and I generally fish two lines at the same time. Two old rods serve as outriggers for this setup, one sticking out each side of the boat. Strong clothespins hold the lines at the ends of the rods. If you're running two lines at the same time, put the lighter or surface lure on the downwind side so it can blow off without tangling the other line. Line doesn't break too often, but when it does it is usually near the leader, so you need not carry more than one replacement roll. I use smaller lures, targeting fish in the 20- to 50-pound range, but someday you will hook something big that tears off 300 or 400 yards of line and snaps the leader at the hook, all in about 10 seconds. For this reason I suggest not using stainless steel hooks, as they won't rust out of a fish's mouth.

Moose is a center cockpit boat, which frees the stern for fighting and landing fish. On the rail is a yard-long fish-cleaning table made from industrial cutting board material. Close at hand are two 4-foot gaffs and a pair of orange fisherman's gloves with the fingertips cut off. Two sharp knives are stored in webbing nearby, ready for use. A 2-foot length of finger-thick pipe completes the lineup of tools.

THE
STRIKE

Usually you have to take a nap or start cooking to get a fish to bite, but the screaming of line coming off the reel will be your call to action. The first step, for those of you who are married, is to take off your good shorts and put on dedicated fishing clothes. Boots are a good idea, too-some of these fish have formidable slashing teeth. The fish will still be making runs away from the boat at this stage. You do not want a large, green (untired) fish on board; they carry more muscle than you and are certainly in better shape. I let the fish work back and forth while I get on the gloves and get a gaff ready.

By now you can start getting back some of the line the fish ran out, never allowing it to go slack. With the big Penn reels, line comes in easily. I set the drag to around half the breaking strength of the line. When the fish is close to the boat and seems very tired, take the line in your gloved hand, resisting the urge to put a wrap around your palm, and work it around to the side of the boat. His head should be close enough to slip the gaff through the gills and out the mouth or through the soft tissue under the chin and out the mouth. Once this is done you should be home free; we rarely lose a hooked fish.

Pull the fish up to the handrail and give it two solid smacks just above the eyes. That should render it instantly unconscious. After you haul it on board, a couple of whacks more might be prudent-by this point you'll know why you changed your shorts. Now tie a tight couple of turns of quarter-inch line around the tail and make the fish fast to the boat. Cut the gills to allow bleeding, hang the fish up over a bucket if you can, and you will have had a good day fishing. You might even drink that glass of whiskey some people suggest you give the fish.

You may have noticed that during the busy scene just described, the second line was mysteriously brought in and the lure put out of harm's way. Additionally, the genoa was somehow furled and the main eased to get the boatspeed down to 1 or 2 knots, which is best for landing a fish. Irene does these things automatically.

You may have also noticed that as the fish was getting whacked, Irene stood looking resolutely forward with both hands over her ears. She loves fresh fish, but she did not cross over to the dark side with me. Irene also gets the camera, if it's a good fish, and passes up a box of lock-top plastic bags for me to put the filets into.

I make a point, during the more frantic moments, (to try) to get past the adrenaline and speak to Irene in a courteous and conversational manner. You do not need to be left alone in a situation like this, and who knows, the technique might even carry over into anchoring.

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