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How to Catch More Fish While Sailing

A good friend of mine asked me the other day, “Pam, what do you do to catch fish while sailing?”  He was just leaving the States and flying to his boat in the Mediterranean and then departing to cross the Atlantic!  What an opportunity to eat well from the sea!  In the four times I have sailed across the Atlantic we have always had fresh fish for dinner, and sometimes for lunch as well as breakfast!  How spoiled can one get?  Imagine freshly caught tuna for sushi, for tuna cassarole, and again with scrambled eggs!

If you follow the technique we have successfully used for years and years, you too can enjoy the bounties of the sea and get spoiled forever eating the freshest of fish!

Here is what we use and how we use it!  Let me know if it works for you!

  • Cuban Hand Reel
  • 150 of 1/8 inch leech line
  • About a dozen yellow feather lures with descent size hooks
  • About a dozen silver spoons with descent size hooks
  • About a dozen wire fishing leaders and swivels
  • A fishing Gaff as long as your topsides are high
  • A diving mesh bag with large mouth closing metal end
  • Fillet knife you can sharpen often
  • Knife sharpener that is easy to use
  • An empty and clean dish soap plastic squeeze bottle mounted somewhere near the cockpit
  • A bottle of cheap rum, or gin, or vodka
  • A canvas water bag, or deck hose down system
  • A portable cutting board
  • A long piece of 3/8” bungee cord tied in a know about six feet long OR an old bicycle wheel inner tube

OK that sounds a lot, but if you like fresh fish here is what to do

  1. attach and roll the 150 feet of 1/8 inch line around the Cuban reel that you keep in the cockpit
  2. attach the wire leader and swivel to the 1/8 inch line (you may need to replace these often that is why you need alot of them)
  3. attach the yellow feather or silver spoon with their hooks to the wire leader (you may need to replace these often that is why you need a lot of them)
  4. unroll Cuban reel all the way out each morning.
  5. take the Cuban reel through the loop made by the bungee cord or bike tire which you have put through itself on one of the stanchions forward of the cockpit
  6. secure what is on the line near the Cuban reel to a cleat or winch or something in the cockpit
  7. the fishing line, therefore, goes from the point of attachment in your cockpit, up forward through the loop of the bungee, and then drags back behind the boat
  8. when a fish strikes, and it will, the bungee cord will stretch considerably and you will know you have a fish!
  9. roll in the line on the Cuban reel you may have to spill some wind to slow the boat down if you have a fighting fish, just to make it easier to land.
  10. when you have the fish close to the topsides, get the gaff ready to hook it and have someone else at the ready with a open big mouthed mesh dive bag
  11. as you gaff the fish, and it will be jumping all over the place, drop it into the mesh dive bag and clamp it shut as quickly as you can or you might have the fish throw the hook and fall back into the water gaff and all
  12. the person holding the mesh bag has to be strong as the fish will be fighting it’s way out
  13. have the squeeze bottle of alcohol ready to shoot into the gills of the fighting fish as soon as you get him in the mesh bag
  14. the fish will die instantly when the alcohol is put into the gills
  15. take the dead fish out of the mesh bag, thank King Neptune for allowing you to have the beautiful fish for your dinner, then using the cutting board and fillet knife, cut off the head, slit the stomach and rake out the guts, then fillet the sides
  16. THEN and this is most important, put the fillets back in the mesh bag, close and lock the mesh bag, tie a stout line to the bag, and throw it overboard and drag the bag of fillets behind the boat for about ten minutes.  This will clean all the blood, guts, slime and any left over scales away BEFORE you take the fillets down below to the galley.  If you clean the fillets in the galley, they will stink up the entire place, better to let the swash of the water overboard do the cleaning for you.
  17. wash down the bloody decks with salt water using your canvas bucket or deck wash if you have one
  18. Then, have a feast!!!

If you need some fish recipes, twist my arm a bit and I will give you some of my favorite ones, they are all EASY!

Don’t forget to take a lot of lemons and limes with you before you depart for the crossing.

Bon Appetite!!!!