There was a time a few years ago when I truly believed my life was perfect. My wife expertly backed the trailer down the ramp, my son unhooked the chain and the strap, and my daughter backed it off the bunks and put it right against the dock as gentle as a baby. My crew was excellent, and that meant my days of running around were over. All I needed to do was tie the bow and stern lines to the cleats and ask for permission to come aboard.
My balloon popped when were all aboard — by a man I had never seen before.
“You going fishing?” He asked.
“Yep,” I said. “Should be on fire.”
“I just got in. It’s as dead as a haddock.”
“Where were you fishing?” I asked.
“Down by the southeast corner.”
He didn’t mean anything by his bad report, but it sure put a damper on our mood. No matter. An hour later we arrived at the spot, and it was game on! Blitzing fish whipped the water to a frothy white. A decade prior, there would have been an equally large melee on board, but fishing this day was as smooth and safe as the launch. Here are eight ways that was accomplished.
When there is a hot bite, everyone wants to catch ’em up. But when rods pitching lures, plugs, and bait whip through the air from all around the boat, someone is bound to get hurt. Implement a rotation to minimize danger:
• One angler goes to the nose of the bow to cast.
• After his cast, he moves to a position amidships.
• A second angler steps behind him, goes to the nose of the bow and casts.
• When the first angler has retrieved all of his line, he pushes his rod tip and lure to the opposite side of the boat, preferably in the water. Then, he steps behind the angler on the bow, and walks to the nose.
• The second angler steps to an amidships position and continues to retrieve.
• The rotation continues until fish need to be landed.
For landing, it makes sense to have a central landing spot. On our boat, we land all fish amidships.
PATIENCE IS THE MASTER
The younger the child, the shorter the attention span. To keep kids focused, intersperse fishing with other on-water activities. Fish for a while, then go for a swim. Go back to fishing, then drop the hook on an inshore island or a beach and knock around. By mixing fun activities with those that require concentration, everyone will have more fun.
NO DISHPAN HANDS
To keep decks uncluttered and reduce accidents, keep a dishpan or two on board. Use them to hold anchor line, to bail water or to keep wet gear separate from dry storage. Pop a hole on either side of the top of the basket, add a bungee cord, and you’ve got a stripping basket for fly fishing. In a pinch, that same dishpan can serve as a short-term livewell.
When I fish with my hardcore buddies, I set up frequently used gear like a surgeon’s table. One area is on the seat amidships, for anglers in the bow, and the second area is on top of the console, for those fishing from the stern. That approach is disastrous with kids. Instead, opt for a central location for all gear, and keep sharp items such as hooks, knives and files covered up in a tackle box or a plug bag.
Barbed hooks were designed for keeping live bait on a hook. If you’re using flies, lures or plugs, pinch down the barbs. Your hook will penetrate the fish’s mouth more deeply, and it will be a lot easier to remove if someone gets foul hooked.
NO SLIP SLIDING AWAY
Kids, particularly those who are young, run around slippery decks. Get them boat shoes or sandals with non-marking, squeegee-like tread.
SUNGLASSES OR UTILITY GLASSES
Plugs, lures and bait have hooks, and excited kids flail randomly. On the water, most everyone wears sunglasses, at a minimum, if not polarized glasses. That said, some polarization disorients kids. Give them a pair of clear utility glasses. Their eyes will be protected from any accident.
STEERING WITH A DROGUE
When your boat’s steering cable goes down for the count, you have to figure out a way to get back to shore. Make a drogue. Drogues are commonly known as sea anchors designed to slow a boat. If they’re moved from side to side, drogues can change a boat’s course. While a traditional drogue is made from canvas and is hung off a boat transom on a bridle, you can make one out of two everyday items — 50 feet of line and a five-gallon bucket — and still be home in time for supper.
• Before you leave the dock, cut a hole on either side of a five-gallon bucket.
• Run a tag end of a line through the hole and knot it until it won’t pull through.
• Repeat with the other tag end on the other side.
• Toss the bucket overboard, let it drift out, and tie the line to both stern cleats (starboard and port sides).
• To turn left, gradually shorten the port line. To turn right, let out the line so the bucket returns to the center and gradually shorten the starboard line. Mark the spot when the boat turns and you can immediately go to that spot when you need to turn.