The lures that you choose are also an important aspect of fishing from a sailboat. There are several things that you should keep in mind. Boat speed, water conditions, and lure size are all factors. If your vessel can sail at eight knots, then use weighted lures that are three to five inches long. When you drop down to six knots or less, non-weighted lures work the best. We try to rig our gear so that the lures pop out of the water or skip at least every 20 seconds.
Now regarding what distance to set the lures behind the boat, I like to fish close, say maybe 100 to 50 feet off the transom. If your speed is slower, try bringing the lines in even closer. By doing this you can more closely watch the action of the lure. The popping and splashing of the lure attracts the fish and makes them hungry.
Of course everyone has their own way of dealing with a live, kicking fish on the deck of their boat. I know of people that break out the old bat and club their fish, which can also damage the deck. And one of my good friends once had a fish kick the bat back at him, which resulted in a bloody nose.
Another approach is the Kage or Japaneese fish-killing stick. Like a bat, this is short stick, but this one has a three-inch, stainless-steel spike protruding from the end. It's a great tool for the purpose, but it takes lots of practice to kill a fish instantly with this because you need to know where the exact location of the brain is to deliver the one-shot kill.
For sailors, it's too bad that many of the fish that they'll catch at sea are too big for a net, because that's really the safest way to boat any fish. On one of my many sailing trips to the island of Lanai, we hooked a Mahi mahi and, after a short fight, I was able to hand line the fish up over the life line and hold it in the air above the deck while my buddy got a towel. He wrapped the towel around the fish's head and with a death grip on it, I laid the fish down and we suffocated it into submission. Of course we know a little trick that can help a lot in these situations: If you keep the fish's tail from touching anything it will remain fairly docile. The minute something touches the tail, the fish will go crazy—guaranteed!
OK so you've hooked a fish; now what do you do? First, make adjustments to your sail trim to slow the boat down. Then, get some gloves on. This is where the fight begins, and you'll want to tire the fish out so that you can more easily get it on board once you've won the fight. With your gaff at the ready, stand by to gaff the fish once it's alongside the hull so that you can get it in the boat. Don't forget to have a towel handy. By putting the towel around the fish's head you will calm it down and make it safer for you to deal with. I recommend cleaning the fish right away while you're at sea, however, if you're headed for port, cleaning it will likely be easier once your boat is secured in the relative calm of a harbor. After that, you're on your own. Just apply your favorite recipe and enjoy.
The Right GearThe gaff on your boat should be able to reach the water, I've made two custom gaffs for friends that own 45-foot boats. Both required gaffs that were almost eight-feet long. The hooks on these gaffs were only three inches in diameter, but I like to add a barb on the tip of my gaff hooks because I hate losing fish.
You can make a simple strike indicator out of a rubberband. Just band the line to the pulpit or to the pole itself and if the rubberband is gone, you've had a strike. I have seen sailors coming back to the dock with a fish still attached to the hand line or fishing pole, because they did not know the fish was on.
Fishing lures designed specifically for sailboats are highly recommended due to the slower speeds of sailboats. The size of the lure is important too, a huge lure will only catch big fish and you will miss any chance to catch some of the small, good eating fish that abound. Have a look at www.hawaiifishinglures.com for lure options.
Lyle Chong, the author, is the proprietor of www.hawaiifishinglures.com, an avid ocean fisherman, and a sailor who lives in Hawaii.
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