Deep-Sea Fishing Basics for Your Vacation

If you live near or will be visiting one of the coasts, you may find a deep-sea fishing trip to be a pleasurable excursion for you and your family. Catching "the big one" may be the perfect highlight of an otherwise tame holiday.

Assuring an enjoyable fishing adventure takes some planning. Here are some tips and reminders to make sure you have everything well in hand:

By Keith Giddeon

Getting the Fish You Want    to top

As you know, there are many types of fish, and each one requires a different game plan to catch. There are basically three types of deep-sea fishing that charter boat captains use:

  1. Bottom fishing
  2. Trolling
  3. Offshore fishing

Bottom fishing is exactly what the name implies: One simply drops his line to or near the sea floor, where particular types of fish live. Many captains have dropped artificial reefs off the coast for fish to inhabit. This gives a customer a better chance of making great catches when doing this type of fishing. Some examples of fish caught in this manner are:

  • red, white, and black snapper
  • scampi
  • grouper
  • triggerfish
  • amberjack

Trolling is a more exciting type of fishing in that the bait is always moving at or near the top of the water. The captain will motor the boat in a straight line at a slow speed. Since the fish have to catch up to the bait they will usually put up a great fight. Some of the fish caught while trolling are:

  • kingfish
  • mackerel
  • sailfish
  • cobia
  • wahoo

If you're of the more adventurous persuasion, you may want to try offshore fishing. This is the most "glamorous" type of fishing. The fish caught with this approach are large and require a great fight before you land them on the boat. More often than not, these fish are better suited for trophy mounting than for a good meal. Some of these fish include:

  • blue and white marlin
  • wahoo
  • dolphin (not Flipper)
  • black fin tuna

Speaking of Gear and Tackle    to top

Now that you have an idea of the types of fish you can catch, it's time to discuss what you should carry on a trip. That's simple in most cases. Charter boats usually provide all rods and reels, bait, and tackle that you will need. You should bring a cooler to store your catch. Later, we'll discuss other things to bring.

Captain's Advice
Be sure to verify that a charter boat supplies all bait, equipment, and tackle before showing up "empty-handed." It could save your day.

Avoiding a Bad Time    to top

When going out on a charter boat, you must keep in mind that you'll be gone for quite a long time. There are steps you can take to assure your family has a great time.

First of all, ask the person with whom you book your trip if food is available onboard. If not, take what you need. Most boats ask that all drinks be in plastic or metal containers, so don't bring glass.

Before leaving home, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about a seasickness remedy. Also, ask about the interactions of these remedies with any medications you are currently taking. Make sure you have enough of your medication(s) for the duration of the trip. If you have any serious medical conditions, such as epilepsy or diabetes, someone else onboard should be aware in case of emergency.

Captain's advice
Check out the wristbands that are designed to prevent seasickness. They are relatively inexpensive and available at most drugstores.

Other items you should take with you:

  • two coolers, one for food and drink, the other for your catch
  • aspirin or other pain reliever
  • sunscreen
  • a hat or cap for each person
  • rubber-soled shoes (those decks can be slippery)
  • Your ID and some extra cash

Knowing Your Options    to top

When planning your trip, there are many options available depending on the boat you choose. When you call to book your trip, you should consider the following:

  • Length of trip—Boats generally book trips from four to sixteen hours long. This is a vast range, so make sure all in your party are comfortable with the time chosen.
  • Type of trip—Will you be booking a private charter, or going with others whom you don't know?
  • Children acceptable—Does the boat allow children? If so, in what age range?
  • Amenities—What does the boat provide? Air- conditioned cabins, TV, restrooms, etc.
  • Electronics—Does the boat have GPS, Loran, and VHF radio capabilities? These will assure precise fishing locations and emergency contact ability.
  • Boat capacity—How many people will the boat carry? This is especially important if you have a large family or group.

Captain's advice
Asking questions beforehand will provide you with the knowledge you need to be sure you're booking the right boat. It also assures you of no surprises after the boat is underway, making the trip more enjoyable.

Landing at the Marina    to top

Okay, you've had a great time and caught some fish! The boat has docked and everyone is milling around. What are you to do now?

If you know nothing of filleting fish, most boats or docks will provide services for dressing your catch for you. Keep in mind, this may cost you extra.

Another important thing to remember is that charter boat captains have helpers called mates. Mates usually work for very little or no salary. They make their money from tips, which are customary. So, remember all the hard work they did while you were enjoying yourself.

The number-one thing to keep in mind is this: Fishing is supposed to be fun. Get all the questions about the actual trip out of the way before you book it. That way, you can focus on the fun.

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