The Anonymous Deckhand

An old salt just trying to help people catch fish and have fun!

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May 18, 2013

Can I Bring My Kid?

by The Anonymous Deckhand

Working on boats we hear this question a lot. Now that school is almost out it gets asked more frequently too. The answer to this in most cases is "Yes, please do"! The best thing for a kid's first trip or two is to make it as easy on them as possible. Trying to plan for when there will be good weather is a no brainer. I'd also suggest perhaps taking an easier type of trip for a youngster's first couple, perhaps a trip for bottom species like rock fish or sandbass on the west coast, or fluke/flounder or maybe cod on the east coast. The reasons for this are simple. Firstly, the kid will likely catch something which holds their interest. Secondly, the wide open riot of a hot albacore bite can be intimidating for a new adult angler! How much more so for a child?

We like seeing kids coming out on the boats with their parents or grandparents. When they are a little older and a bit more experienced, some can even come out by themselves. (This is how we sometimes find our younger summer crew members!) Let's face it. If kids don't come out and find out just how much fun fishing is, we'll all be out of a job sooner or later. It's a known thing in the sport fishing community that the average age of our passengers is getting a little older every year. So having kids out with us is a very good thing. Not only does it insure the future of our sport, but it gets them outside and away from the computer, video games, and the TV. How could any video game ever compare with an albacore or a yellowtail ripping line off a youngster's reel in a rod bending run for freedom?

Still, there can be a few problems and most of these are not the fault of the young boy or girl. Oh sure, there are the occasional behavioral problems with those who are a bit on the spoiled side. But what I've seen to be the problem most often was when a dad brings junior along more as an excuse to go fishing, rather than to spend time with his son or daughter. Far too often I will see a man bring a child out fishing with him and basically ignore him or her the entire time, and fish as though they came by themselves! To leave a kid to their own devices in what to a beginner is a completely foreign environment with it's own set of rules is just plain wrong! It is a truly sad situation. Guys like this seem to think that the skipper and deckhands are a baby sitting service. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially in a hot bite. Will most of us help a kid every chance we get? Sure we will! Not simply because it's our job, but because we still remember being young and appreciating the help we received on a boat. It's a real treat for a kid when the captain has a bit of time and comes down to teach a kid how to pick a hot bait, how to cast, and what to do when he or she gets hooked up to a fish! But how much more of a treat is it for that same kid to be shown these things by their dad or their granddad? Some of my best memories of growing up were fishing with my dad and my grandfathers. Let's not leave mom or grandma out of it either! I've seen some women fishing who on any given could out fish anyone on the boat!

The better examples are those who bring their young fishermen out and take the time to show them how and teach them. Over the years I came to know that most of these sort of parents did this because their folks had done the same thing for them. I've actual seen a couple of dads who only brought along enough gear for their child and none for themselves. Maybe just a couple of rods and a small tackle box with only the essentials in it. They stayed with their kid the whole time, not "hovering", but helping and encouraging as needed. How to tie a good knot or two, how to pin a bait on the hook and get it in the water, proper casting technique, how to fight a fish and bring it to gaff, and such like.

I've seen a few particular kids over the years that I really didn't want to have back out on any boat I was working on, and thankfully they were few and far between. But by and large most of the problems I've seen have been with the parent, (usually a dad.), who brings them out. If you want to completely turn a kid off to something, try hollering at them or criticizing them a bunch in front of a group of complete strangers. When the kid ends up looking down at the deck most of the time, there is a problem. As deckhands we will try and help get such a kid involved and having fun as much as time allows us. (If we are not doing that then we aren't doing our job!) But we can't be there every second when there is a full boat load of passengers.

One of the finest examples of wonderful "dad behavior" I have ever witnessed was a kid that had hooked a bluefin tuna on light gear. The dad followed the kid up and down the rail, coaching him quietly in a low even tone of voice the whole time, never raising his voice or hollering at the kid. One of our crew was also there to help keep the young angler out of trouble. The fight was going on for a while and we all knew that the kid's chances were slim, but he stuck with it until the line finally parted. The look on the youngster's face showed how crestfallen he was at losing the fish. It was his first big fish and he badly wanted it in the boat. But when he looked up his dad was smiling broadly and said "You did everything right, that just happens some times". The look on the boy's face eased as his dad told him that his outfit was too light for the beast he'd hooked since the kelp we'd been fishing was loaded with firecracker yellowtail and the tuna wasn't expected. He also told his son that he was proud of the way he'd fought that fish, doing everything right and giving it all he had. The dad said there would be other opportunities in the future and that he'd get the big fish next time. Then he asked his young son "Was it fun"? The boy looked up beaming and said "Heck yeah it was"!

The real capper was when the kid walked down the rail to go tie on another hook. Two of the regular old salts had watched most of the battle and as they boy walked by they patted him on the shoulder and said "You done good kid! Good job! You'll get 'em next time"! Judging by the look on his face, I think the young man could could have walked on water right then.

April 07, 2013

Ever Been Seasick?

by The Anonymous Deckhand

Call it what you will. Mal de mer, motion sickness, seasick; it has got to be one of the most miserable feelings on earth for those so afflicted. It keeps many people from enjoying the part of our passion for fishing that takes place on the water. Once a person has been hit with a case of seasickness they never forget it, and thinking about it can make them even more prone to it in the future. Even though they may venture out on a boat to fish from time to time and not get sick, the thought that they might get seasick always detracts from their enjoyment of the experience.

Over the years working on boats I've seen a great many people who struggled with this. The thing they all had in common was of course not feeling good, but the causes often varied from person to person. For many it was the smell of the diesel exhaust from the engines. For others it was the sometimes rough ride. Still more would be adversely affected by food tastes or smells. Some of the worst cases I've witnessed were apparently accompanying a bad hangover. Whatever the cause was, most would do almost anything up to and possibly including sacrificing small animals to make that awful queasy feeling and worse go away!

The cures for this condition seem to be even more varied than the causes. When a person finds something that works for them they will swear by it and stick with it 'til death do they part. Most commonly seen are the over the counter pills like Dramamine and Bonine. For those with only a mild case these seem to work pretty well. Many people find that the scopolamine patch is their preferred cure. These folks were absolutely frantic when the patches were taken off the market several years back due to dosage delivery problems in some users. The patches were eventually brought out again with their problem having been solved and you could almost hear the sigh of relief from the users! Then there are those wrist band things with the little bead on them that is supposed to be something to do with "acupressure". I'm pretty well convinced that they are more psychosomatic in effect, but hey, whatever works for you! Right?

One of the stranger things I've seen was an electronic wrist band. It worked by delivering a small electric shock to the nerve bundle on the inside of the wrist as that was supposed to somehow affect the user's equilibrium in a positive way and alleviate seasickness. There were five different power settings on the thing that were everywhere from a barely noticeable low setting to a high setting that would make you jump! I was skeptical of these at first, but to date it is still about the only thing I've seen that will often cure seasickness after the person in need is already affected.

Overall though, the single most effective thing I've seen used was the pill Scopace. I was a bit shocked to find that it had been discontinued in the U.S. back in 2011. After doing a little research I found out that it is still available......sort of. If you want or need this, you will have to get a prescription from your doctor and have it filled at a "compound" pharmacy. (The dosage in the old Scopace pills was 0.4mg.) The pharmacist will have to make up your prescription and put it into capsules, but from what I've been able to find out it is the same stuff that used to be available in pill form and at the same dosage. If anyone has further information regarding this please feel free to chime in.

Many things will ease the symptoms a little and most boats I've worked on had something available to help their passengers. Ginger has long been a remedy and ginger ale or various ginger drinks can help some. Often just keeping something relatively neutral in the stomach like bread or crackers will help too. But once in a while you find someone that nothing at all seems to work on or provide them any comfort. I really have sympathy for folks like this, especially the first timers who find out that the boat doesn't return to the dock because they just lost their lunch over the side. I also have a great deal of respect for those who know they'll likely get sick and go fishing anyway. You just have to admire such perseverance. However the ones who may feel a little queasy but still manage to keep everything down sometimes become targets of opportunity for a merciless buddy or two. The well meaning friends will begin to offer advice of all sorts and strangely, even as twisted as some of it sounds to the casual observer, the victims of this malady will often try some of it out of desperation. More so if they are already flipping their chips! I once overheard an angler tell his sick friend who was hanging his head over the rail at the time, "You know, I heard that chocolate covered cockroaches will cure that"! The sorely afflicted guy immediately looked up at his pal and asked "Ya' got any handy"?

It never ceases to amaze me how many people think that beer is a cure all, and will actually try it when they are seasick. As funny as this sounds it seems to work for some! People are willing to try almost anything to feel better. I had one passenger on a trip who was just miserable. What he'd taken before boarding hadn't worked, and nothing he tried on the boat worked. He'd been sick since we'd left the bait receiver. I asked if I could maybe get him a bottle of water or anything. He looked at me, pointed to his temple and said "Yeah, a bullet. Right here". That's how bad it feels for some folks.

Even worse off are those who are already getting sick and whose "friends" keep trying to reload them.That's just cruel! I saw a group of friends on a trip once where one of them was pretty bad off. We hadn't had a jig strike on the troll for an hour and a half until one of the lost it and started talking to the fish. This was immediately followed by the cry of "HOOKUP!" and we had about a 20 fish stop on nice albacore. When the bite was over we were on our way and just then the same poor soul barfed again and once more we heard "HOOKUP!" and had a stop for another 12 fish. When the bite was done and we were on our way again, one of the group went into the galley and came back with a breakfast burrito for his sick friend. The guy looked at his buddy and said "Man, I won't be able to keep that down. Take it away". His buddy said "Yeah, but if you eat sumthin' you'll feel better. Besides, every time you puke we get bit"! This caused peels of laughter from the rest of the group as the sick one made commentary on his friend's ancestry that involved barnyard animals. The laughter had barely stopped when the sad fellow lost it again guessed it. "HOOKUP!"

If you have a favorite story or better yet a remedy, please feel free to share it!

Good fishing to you all,

The Anonymous Deckhand

March 08, 2013

Have Tackle, Will Travel!!!

by The Anonymous Deckhand

We've all seen this guy getting on the boat on a trip we're gonna fish. He's the one with two deckhands helping him to load his gear aboard. Twelve or more rods of all sizes and lengths, the milk crate with his rod belt, harness, boots, and tools, and rod holders, which will have to be placed exactly where he wants it so he can easily access his arsenal. Then comes a suitcase sized reel bag with more reels that he brought rods, so that in case one reel should fail he'll have a backup reel to slap on the rod. Next is the jig bucket with enough of his favorite irons to outfit every passenger on the boat three times over and then some, followed by a large tackle box weighing as much as he does. Both of these items will have to be placed along the boat's center line to keep it from listing to one side! Finally, there is his military sized duffle bag with his personal gear. All of this............for a 2 day trip! The dreaded "tackle 'ho" has arrived!

Even worse, sometimes there are more than one on a trip! Every boat has a finite amount of space to stow tackle in racks, a limited number of rod holders, and limited space in the bunks or cabins for personal gear. But this is not a problem for the experienced and well outfitted tackle aficionado equipped with the latest and shiniest toys. He's well versed in how to shove other folk's lesser tackle aside, knowing that they won't mind at all basking in the light of his excess! Not enough rod holders along the sides? Not to worry! He carries along cute little bungee cords and velcro straps in the event of such emergency situations!

Sound familiar? I'll just bet it does, particularly during a good tuna season. Even when the passengers know that the fish are only averaging 15 to 40 lbs., I've seen big gold two speed reels and rods you could lift a truck with come out on overnight trips. When asked about why they brought along the heavy artillery, the true tackle ho's all know the mantra "You can't use it if you don't bring it"! Somehow they never seemed to get the part in the fine print where it also says "If you most likely won't need it then don't bring it". The thought that all the extra stuff does is take up space that others could use just as well never seems to enter their mind.

This sort of thing actually happens on trips of all lengths from half day boats to 18 day long range trips. Now to be fair, at one time or another we've all been guilty of this sort of thing. C'mon now, admit it! When you started fishing and gradually got better at it, your personal collection of all types of tackle grew. At some point in time you were finally past asking yourself what to bring along, so you just brought it all, and for a while this worked OK. Back when it was only 4 or 5 outfits no one really gave you a second look when you boarded. There was variety in what you brought, and it all applied to where you were going and what you expected to fish for. You had a couple of bait sticks with different size line, a jig stick for yo yo and one for surface iron, and maybe one to throw plastic with. You got to where you could see the changing conditions and quickly adjust your game to them. Then the occasional jackpot came your way because you were getting to where you were the hot stick on many trips. Suddenly your old reliable rods and reels that had worked well for you began to show their age. But now you were older and had a good job which provided you with extra cash, and those shiny new reels and graphite rods in the tackle shops, (And later online.), looked so good that you almost got the shakes thinking about them.

Like everyone else you thought "It's just one. What could it hurt"? But now you were on that slippery slope, setting aside money every payday for more gear. You'd been bitten by the bug and now you were a goner! Oh you didn't know it yet, but every time you looked at a manufacturer's website or catalog your eyes would glaze over and you'd unconsciously mumble things like "Faster retrieve" and "Casts farther". Even on something as simple as line you could be seen thinking "Stronger with less stretch". Soon your garage began to look like a small forest, and there was enough aluminum in your reels to build a small aircraft! Sure, you could justify every purchase by quoting chapter and verse on the virtues of every new addition. When that didn't deter your friends from questioning your reasons, if not you sanity! You'd simply turn away muttering about "My precious!" in an almost unintelligible tongue. I had a buddy who bragged that he had so many rods that the little woman never noticed when he purchased another or had one built!

In the nick of time your salvation came. You may have boarded a boat for a trip, say a 3 day summer trip, dragging along so much stuff that when you loaded it in your truck the weight made it bottom out like a low rider going over a parking lot speed bump. People silently stared at you and shook their heads knowing of your affliction. They knew you'd get hardly any sleep because you'd be up most of the night putting rods on reels, stringing them up, and getting them all rigged after agonizing over what size of this and what color of that. In the morning when the fishing started, you noticed first the youngster who had maybe 4 good outfits to his name. You noticed him because he was the first one hooked up in the gray light. He made quick work of that fish and hooked another while you were still contemplating what outfit to use and why. Obviously he was the "hot stick" on this trip, and from misty memories you recalled there had been a time when you had been too. But there was another who also caught your eye, not so much by catching fish, but by what he was catching them with.

It was the "old pro" in the corner. His tackle wasn't new or even close to it. His few rods were battle scared classics that had seen better days and at least one was on it's third set of guides. The reels he used had been taken loving care of as well, and most had seen more new sets of drag washers than you'd had birthdays. The surface iron he was tossing at the yellowtail busting bait on top didn't even have any paint on it anymore. (Conversely most of yours didn't have a scratch.) He wasn't as fast as the hot stick kid who was quickly racking up a count, but he had all the skill just the same. The old gent was more interested in having fun than anything else.

After you finally wet a line and boated a fish, you asked him why he was using his "antique" tackle. He smiled and said "I used to be like you and had most all the latest gear. I think I actually got stronger from just lugging it around. But then I realized I was getting more concerned about collecting all the gear than actually using it"! He said he still had a lot of it and still used it on various trips, even still bought the occasional new outfit, but he only brought along what he really needed for a given trip now. Partly this was out of consideration to others who also needed space for their gear, and partly it was because he got really tired of carrying it all with him when he went fishing. His thinking was that if he wasn't on a long range trip, why should he bring long range gear? He said he applied that thinking to all his trips now. I slowly nodded, a small light of understanding forming in the back of my mind.

Then he said he gave a few older outfits away to neighborhood kids who didn't have any, and some to family as well. This gave him a feeling of giving back to something that had given him so much pleasure and good eats over the years. I asked him if it was still fun doing it "old school" as he did. "Oh sure it is" he replied, "I still catch my share, but I don't need to fish as hard as I used to". I asked him why not and he smiled and said "It's because of one of the kids I gave some of my tackle away to. You see that kid over there with the hot hand"?

I looked and said "Yes, I see him".

The old man looked at me and with a wink said "He's my grandson"!

Lesson learned. It isn't about how much stuff you have. It's about what it's all for. It's about having fun. After all, it's fishing.

The only one who really cares if you have all the latest and greatest stuff is you. To the rest of those on the boat who bring a more reasonable amount of gear, all your ginormous collection does for them is take up space that they could use just as well. Please be considerate of those who don't have or need as much gear as you seem to for a given trip. For those of you who want to but can't, I hear the Betty Ford Clinic is working on a 12 step program for tackle ho'ism. ;-)

Good fishing to you all,

The Anonymous Deckhand

February 02, 2013

Too Much Fun

by The Anonymous Deckhand

I didn't really want to bring this up but I can't let it lay any longer. It's the issue of drinking and and getting stoned on boats. Now I don't want anyone to misunderstand me here at all. When I'm not working I like to fish and I will usually have a couple of beers while doing so. I enjoy a glass or two of wine with a good meal, and a cocktail when I'm home and relaxing is appreciated too. In that respect I'm really no different than many of you.

I don't know, maybe it's because I've been doing this for a while. Maybe I just had to clean up the heads one too many times this season after someone puked in them, or in the galley, or below decks on the floor, or even worse in their bunk. It's easy enough to get sick on a boat for some folks, and I have sympathy and respect for anyone who knows they might get sick and goes fishing anyway because they love it that much. It just seems that a few of you really need to think about easing up a little. And it's not just while you're on the boat, it's also before you have even boarded. Seeing and dealing with people who get on the boat "fully loaded" is never a good way to start a trip. The skipper doesn't like it, the crew doesn't like it, and especially on an open party trip, the rest of the passengers don't like it much either.

Sure, we all like to have a little fun. But how much is really too much? There are a lot of tailgate gatherings in the parking lots before trips of all lengths. It's always good to greet old friends in anticipation of a trip and have a cold one or two with them as well. When it gets to the point though that people can't walk down to the boat without falling down and getting hurt, well, that's a bit much. On top of that the thing no one really wants to mention is that drinking in the parking lot isn't even legal. Yeah, we all know the local PD as a rule doesn't do or say much about drinking in public unless things get a little extreme. Lately that has been getting to be the case, particularly during the high part of the season.

When fishing is good and the parking lot is filled, tempers can get a little short and adding too many adult beverages to the mix doesn't help at all. Then there are the broken beer bottles that are seen littering the parking lot and sometimes even the sidewalk after someone commits a major party foul. Not good at all! It's more than just unsightly, it can quickly become a safety issue with all the folks around wearing flip flops or sandals or even bare feet. Yes, using cans instead of bottles would help with this, but we all know that is not the point. The point is that you are getting ready to get on a boat. A moving platform that is travelling on an often unstable surface making staying on your feet difficult at times for even those who haven't touched a drop. On top of that you are also using a lot of sharp objects which don't care if you're just having fun or not. If you make a mistake with them they are unforgiving, and we don't enjoy digging hooks out of you or the other passenger you may have stuck with one.

Yes, most every boat I know of sells beer on board, and some will even let you bring your own or even a bottle. Heck on charter trips, if there is a special request most boats will even stock a desired brand of beer for you! But we also hope that you'll use a little personal restraint in the amount consumed. We can of course cut you off if needed, but we'd rather not unless it is absolutely necessary. To be honest that's because we know that if we mess with your good time you likely won't leave a tip and not want to come back. Even worse, you might have an online fit and tell everyone what a bad time you had on a particular boat and do it's reputation harm for no good reason. Maybe we as crew need to have a little more guts about this, I don't know. I do know that I'm tired of wondering if people are OK to drive home after a trip. I also got really tired of saving people from themselves a long time ago. There have even been incidents of people going over the side at night because they were too drunk to stand on deck. This needs to stop before anyone is lost. It almost happened on a couple of boats this past season. A good time simply isn't worth almost dying over.

Then there are those who need to smoke their "seasick medicine". Some of you just can't seem to get on a boat without it. You appear to think that you're fooling everyone by going in the head for a hit or two, but that old familiar smell is always there afterwards. While we don't appreciate it going on, most of the time little or nothing is said by the crew or the skipper for the same reasons we don't usually say much about the drinking, and because we don't really enjoy stepping on anyone's good time. However we do hear about it from other passengers who don't appreciate it either. As with the excess drinking, this is a "damned if we do and damned if we don't" situation. If we say or do something about it, word gets around and some will have hard feelings about it and not want to fish with us. On the other hand if we do take action, a different crowd will likely feel the same way. We just can't win here at all.

The thing is that there are other considerations regarding smoking weed on the boat. To begin with it is illegal, even more so that drinking in public! Most of you have been fishing enough by now to have heard the "zero tolerance" speeches given before a trip leaves. You're also made aware that although you may have a medical scrip for it from the state, that doesn't mean anything at all to the Coast Guard if a boat is boarded for any reason. On any boats fishing south of the border your medicinal scrip means even less! All the Mexican navy has to do is find your stash and decide that everyone needs to be towed into Ensenada and the skipper or owner could even have their boat confiscated over this! To me, your needing to get stoned while you fish is not worth that kind of trouble at all for anyone concerned! Please leave the weed at home.

If this started to sound like a rant, well maybe it was. But I had to get it off my chest and it needed said anyway. Let's all try to have a little more responsible good time fishing this coming season. It will be a lot more enjoyable all the way around.

Good fishing to you all,

The Anonymous Deckhand