Publish date:

Waterlines: For Whom The Bait Trolls

fishWaterlines1805

There are some hardcore “veggie-lantes” I know who like to argue it is immoral to catch fish while sailing offshore. Theoretically, I might sympathize with this, but gastronomically it’s hard to argue with a plate of fresh-caught tuna or dorado while on passage. So I like to rationalize instead and look at it from the fish’s perspective. A fish that is bigger than you may well not hesitate to eat you if it is hungry, but it surely won’t kill you for sport and display your corpse in its home. I reckon all is fair so long as you eat what you catch.

As far as the process of catching fish goes, from their point of view, it must seem supernatural. There they are, minding their own business when along comes a free snack. They take a bite and next thing they know they are yanked into another spatial dimension and are butchered and eaten by ugly air-breathing aliens. It must be terrifying. Hence rule #2 in my handbook of ethical fishing: you should never “play” a fish on a line, but should land and kill it as quickly as possible.

People who kill fish for sport, besides driving boats that burn way too much fuel, are often obsessed with gear. The amount of money you can spend on rods, reels and lures is truly staggering. In truth, however, you don’t need much gear to catch fish while sailing. My kit consists of two handlines stored on plastic yo-yos. For lures, I use cheap rubber-skirt squids, two in series on each line. My lines are 200lb test monofilament. Using such heavy line allows you to land fish quickly (see rule #2 above), and the line is unlikely to break under load and saves you from having to put a steel leader in front of the hook.

I’ve installed bungee cords and metal snap-hooks at the bitter end of my fishing lines, and when deploying one I simply clip the end of the bungee cord to a lifeline or stanchion base. I then gather the bungee cord in a loose bight and fasten the end of the monofilament line to a lifeline with a clothespin. The clothespin popping off the lifeline alerts me that I may have a fish on, and the slack bight of bungee cord, combined with the cord’s great elasticity, is a great shock absorber and keeps the lure from being ripped out of the fish’s mouth.

One important thing I’ve learned is that it is best to keep your lines short. Mine probably isn’t more than 50ft. This keeps the lures skipping periodically on the surface while I’m sailing, which is attractive to fish. And when you do hook something, a short line prevents the fish from getting far enough under the water to get its tail working hard and put up a fight. Instead, it stays bouncing along at or near the surface, which allows you to haul it in quickly without stopping your boat.

I often meet bluewater sailors who complain they never catch fish on passage but using my technique I’ve never once been skunked. No, I don’t catch fish every time I trail lines, but I’ve never gone through a whole passage without catching fish if I had lines out.

I remember one time I went head-to-head against a serious gear freak fishing off a 47ft cutter on a passage to Bermuda—his fancy rod and reel and expensive lures versus my ratty old handline—and I totally smoked him.

We agreed we’d each have one corner of the transom to fish from, and while he fiddled with his fancy lures on an almost hourly basis, I just plunked my handline in the water and forgot about it. I soon caught two nice tuna, then put away my line for fear of snagging more than we could eat.

I urged my shipmate to do the same, but he refused, as his pride was now sorely offended. Fortunately, there was nothing for me—or the fish—to worry about. His pride remained offended, and the only thing he ever caught was a bird that persisted in diving on his lure.

May 2018

Related

ed3b8ae9-b65d-2941-47ec-cd0277bfcbe8

Mirabaud Voting Open to the Public

Photos from the industry's top photographers are in, and the 12th annual Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image competition is underway. An international panel of judges has selected this year's 80 finalists, which have been published online. The panel will also select the winner of the ...read more

P1320232-copy

Annapolis’ Boat Show is Back

After a year off in 2020, the United States Boat Show in Annapolis is back. From the diminutive Areys Pond Cat 14 XFC to the massive Lagoon Sixty 5, many of the SAIL’s 2022 Best Boats Nominees are on display for the public to get a firsthand look at, and SAIL’s Best Boats panel ...read more

05-Squall-in-the-ITCZ

Close-Hauled to Hawaii

The saying “Nothing goes to windward like a 747,” is one of my favorites. I actually once took a 747 upwind, retracing my earlier downwind sailing route across the Pacific. I’ve also done a fair bit of ocean sailing to windward. The 747 was a lot more comfortable. But then ...read more

01-LEAD-IMG-2106

Refurbishing Shirley Rose: Part 3

If you missed the first installment, click here. The hull and deck of Shirley Rose had been repaired, but what kind of sailboat would she be without a sturdy rig? I was told she was ready to sail, and that the owner replaced the standing rigging a few years before. Shirley Rose ...read more

211007MINI_1208-2400x1600

Mini Transat: Bouroullec and Fink Win Leg One

The Mini Transat is a roughly 4000-mile course that comprises two legs— Les Sables D’Olonne, France to Santa Cruz de La Palma in the Canaries, and Santa Cruz de La Palma to the French Caribbean island Guadeloupe. Two fleets of Mini 6.50s compete—the Production class in ...read more

01-LEAD-7-1-Rhiannon-loaded-on-the-truck-with-Clark,-Andre,-and-Louis

Book Excerpt: Taken By The Wind

In 1975, as a senior at Harvard, the question for Chicago-area sailor Mike Jacker became what to do next. The answer, as related in his new book Taken by the Wind, was to make a small-boat voyage to Tahiti with his grade-school friend Louis Gordon and Harvard classmate Clark ...read more

Maserati _Arthur Daniel

The RORC Caribbean 600 is Back

With a start planned for February 21 in Antigua, the famed 600-mile Caribbean race is back. The course circumnavigates 11 Caribbean islands starting from English Harbour, Antigua, and heading north to St Maarten and south to Guadeloupe, passing Barbuda, Nevis, St Kitts, Saba and ...read more

01-LEAD-14_00_210613_TORE03_JRE_4266_16961-3000x3000

The Ocean Race Europe

The fully crewed, round-the-world Ocean Race has experienced tremendous change over the years. From the 1993 transition to a one-design fleet to an ever-shifting route, what began as the amateur Whitbread Round the World Yacht Regatta in 1972 is a very different race today. The ...read more