If you’ve never been deep sea fishing, your only frame of reference is probably a show like the “Deadliest Catch,” where burly, lumberjack-looking guys are pulling in huge sea monsters between waves the size of small buildings.
That’s a bit of a stretch from the average deep-sea fishing adventure, off camera, which is usually more relaxing. That being said, deep-sea fishing is not for the casual angler. You don’t have to be a seasoned fishing expert; however, it does call for a level of knowledge, attention to detail and patience that most other forms of fishing don’t require.
Luckily, a good charter or a good seasoned friend will catch you up to speed quickly. If you’re going to head out, for arguably one of the most challenging and rewarding forms of fishing, make sure you have the right mindset, the best equipment and the perfect boat for the job.
First, when you get on the boat, find a spot for your gear. Avoid putting your things directly on the deck as it gets wet, and the crew and other anglers need room to pass. Introduce yourself to the crew because you may be relying on these people later.
When they ask if you want a bag for your fish, say yes. It’s usually only a couple bucks extra. Later, when you catch fish, a deckhand will come to get your bag off the hook for you. Your fish will be stored for you to take with you. A lot of deep-sea charters also offer fun, jackpot competitions (usually $10 or less to enter, depending on venue) and if you hook the biggest catch of the day, you win the pot!
More so, than any other fishing trip, it’s essential that you have the right boat when deep-sea fishing. You need to have a boat large enough to handle rough waves and can cruise smoothly from one destination to another. In most cases, this means having a boat with some size; you’ll probably want something around the length of 35 feet or longer.
Deep-sea fishing also takes time. You’ll want a boat with plenty of comfort and space. Comfortable seating and a cabin for relaxation are ideal for extended offshore fishing adventures. Items like rod holders and live wells should be included, but you’ll want to have extras like a marine fighting chair, cranking outriggers and an onboard grill for cooking your catch.
Once the boat gets underway, the captain will either come out on the deck or speak over the intercom. Pay attention to what he’s saying. The captain will tell you where all the safety equipment is stored, give you an idea of what to expect for the day and tell you how to rig up. If you don’t catch all of it, don’t hesitate to ask a crew member.
On a one-day trip or less, expect to ride 30 minutes to an hour or more to get to the fishing grounds. During this time, a deckhand will be setting up the rental gear and giving a quick fishing 101 class on how to use it. Even if seasoned, pay attention. Each boat may have slightly different rules/norms, and this is where you will find out what they are. The crew wants you to catch fish and have fun. It’s in your best interest to listen and act accordingly.
Choosing the right equipment will depend on the exact species you are pursuing, but when you want to learn how-to deep-sea fish, you need to learn about heavy gear.
Deep-sea fish are, in general, big trophy fish. Think 500, 1,000, or even 1,500 pounds of hard-fighting marlin, tuna, or shark. Most offshore rods are graphite, a lightweight yet extremely powerful material. Likewise, the reel will need to have plenty of cranking torque to help you drag a trophy out of the depths. You should also consider having downriggers, which allow you to set your bait to specific depths. Charter companies take care of all of this, and most deck hands are all too happy to geek over gear questions.
Once you get out to the fishing grounds, remain calm. Find an open spot on the rail and wait for the captain to say it’s time to drop lines. If you drop early, more often than not, the boat is still settling into the spot and you’ll either get tangled or need to reel in and reset. Be patient and wait for the greenlight. If the bait is squid, feel free to bait your hook early. If the bait is live fish (typically sardines or anchovies), don’t take it out until you are ready to fish. You want a lively fish at the end of your line to attract the target fish to bite. If you bait your hook early and let it dangle on the line, it’s dying and won’t be an attractive bait.
All in all, deep sea fishing is a lot of fun! If you decide to go with friends or family, there is an air of anticipation about who might catch the first fish, how big will it be, will they manage to reel the fish in, or will they have a battle on their hands. It’s the same excitement that comes when you caught your first fish ever; maybe sitting on that river bank with your dad all those years ago.
So, the next time you are on holiday wondering what to do, or perhaps thinking about doing something with a group of friends, consider a day out on a deep-sea fishing boat. You might not catch the biggest fish of the day, but you’ll have a great time, nonetheless.
Chef Bobby is a Chef and Cookbook Author. He loves to share his knowledge of cooking and handling of fish with our community.