Have you ever wandered the local docks envious of the luxury fishing yachts and the lucky owners who get to chase their prey far off shore? Do you wish you could join them? Almost every angler has. The good news is that dream is far closer than you might imagine. You do not need the best boat available, you need the right boat with a small safe to secure your documents. Even with a much smaller (and less expensive) craft you can greatly expand you range and with it your fishing adventures.
The right boat
As I said before you do not need a 6-figure luxury fishing yacht to enjoy offshore fishing, but you do need the right boat for the job. Many new owners think only of size but that is only part of the equation, you also need to take into account your experience and what the average conditions are in the area you will be fishing. A skilled boat handler can take a small boat out in conditions that would send a novice with the Queen Mary under them back to the dock.
Far more important than size is fuel capacity. Obviously, if you run out of fuel your trip will come to an abrupt stop. The general rule of thumb is 1/3rd tank to get where you are going, 1/3rd for return and the remaining 1/3rd in reserve.
There was a time when sailors circled the globe with a compass and hand drawn charts, that is not how things are done today. The modern boater has a wide range of navigation and safety equipment available to him and it is foolish to head out without every advantage you can. At a minimum you should have a marine vhf radio, compass with backup, electronic navigation, PLB, fish finder and weather radio. Back up radios and GPS are a good idea if you afford them. Do not rely on your cellphone for communications or GPS as the signal can be lost or interrupted as you travel even a short distance off the coast.
Make the most of the space you have
Although you boat may not be as big as those you admired that doesn’t mean you need to leave behind valuable tackle or equipment. It does mean that you need to plan accordingly. Spend the off season learning exactly what you need to catch each species and then figuring out where or how you will store it. Only take what you will need for that trip and leave unnecessary gear at the dock. This will likely mean re-rigging for striped bass after having targeted tog on an earlier trip but it will allow for a more economical use of the space available.
Some areas you will not want to skimp on is cold storage, if you get a trophy you will want to be able to get it home at the end of your trip. But your fish storage can do double duty as cold drink storage on the way out and you cooler can be fitted with a cutting block top to double as bait station as well. If you look around you will find other way to conserve space and expand gear storage. While doing so remember that a clutter free deck and helm is not only easier to operate but safer as well. Have a place for everything and everything in its place.
One of the biggest precautions you take cost nothing except a little time and planning – a float plan. This is detailed plan outlining where you will be going, launch point & time, estimated time of return, who will be with you and how you can be contacted. Leave this plan with someone you trust, and who will miss you if you do not return on time, who can then contact authorities if you are late. Remember to let this person know if your plans change throughout the trip.
Aside from the Personal Locator Beacon and communications equipment you will also want to have the appropriate personal safety equipment available for each person on board. At a minimum this means a personal floatation device (PFD) a suitable for the current temperatures. Additional recommended safety equipment includes a signal mirror, chemlites/strobe, flares and whistle for each PFD. Some PFDs will come equipped with pockets specifically for these items, if not a light weight mesh vest can be worn over the PFD. Be sure to check local regulations to see if there are any other items required.
It is also recommended that you have a toolkit and small supply of spare parts onboard as well. This list will vary depending on the type of boat/motor you have but should include fuses, spark plugs, prop, battery & hosing for fuel or water lines.
With the right planning, some basic knowledge and proper equipment you can set sail knowing your boat is up to the task. This will allow you to concentrate on getting to the destination and then doing what you set out to do – catching fish.