Waterlines: For Whom The Bait Trolls

Author:
Publish date:
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

Pico-Michael

Cruising: Less (LOA) is More

The breeze kicks up. The boat digs in, and I tighten my grip on the mainsheet. It’s overcast but warm. The slate-blue water around me is patterned with whitecaps. Ahead, the low, tumbling hills of Old Mission Peninsula, a 17-mile long finger of land separating the east and west ...read more

2020-06-01_13-53-06

A New Era for Sailing Program Safety

As states begin to lift restrictions on gathering and marinas open back up, many sailing programs are still wary, especially since sailors from different households will necessarily be in close quarters, whether on their boat, in a launch or at a yacht club. Most will not be ...read more

MTcyNTIwMzc1NDYzMTkyNDkw

Zipwake

Zipwake Series S, the world's first inexpensive dynamic trim-control system, incorporates a state-of-the-art family of durable, fast-acting interceptors. The system is fully automatic, and is designed to significantly enhance performance, fuel economy, comfort and safety when ...read more

CCA-story-2048x

Safety Culture Starts with the Skipper

Sailing might not be the first pastime that comes to mind when you think of extreme sports, but that’s not to say risks don’t abound. The Cruising Club of America tackles many of them head-on in their newly released guide for skippers, Creating a Culture of Safety: The Skipper’s ...read more

GMR19_F53_0539

Boat Review: Beneteau First Yacht 53

Luxury performance-cruising isn’t entirely new. You can go fast and still be comfortable. You can even race if you make the right tradeoffs—or so says Beneteau, which recently launched its First Yacht 53, in the process also reinventing the company’s “First” brand. Design & ...read more

BirdonBoard

Cruising: Birds of a Feather

One of the neatest things about sailing offshore is the other lifeforms we encounter. We smile when we see flying fish skimming over the surface of the sea. We cheer when dolphins leap and dance in our bow waves. We are duly reverent when mighty whales sound and spout, and ...read more

pirate-marlin-logo

Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament

This Spring has felt a bit like a slow day of fishing but it’s almost time to time to Bait…and Switch. The Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournaments offer something for every member of your crew. Exceptional fishing, fun times with family, old friends and new. Our run is short, our ...read more