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Getting the most out of your Charter Fishing Trip


Do get a good night’s sleep before the trip - being on a boat is tiring especially if you are unused to it.

Do take anti nausea tablets at least an hour before the trip if you are at all in doubt about getting seasick - it is better to take the drug and not need it than to not take it and then find you need it when it is too late.

Do eat a light breakfast - it is better to have something in your stomach (but not too much).

Do sit or stand where you can get some breeze (overheating is a major factor in seasickness), get fresh air and see the horizon which gives your body a fixed reference point to stabilise itself against.

Do apply high factor sunscreen lotion or cream (not oils since this can be a slip hazard) to all exposed skin even on over-cast days - at 12 degrees north of the equator the sun is very powerful.

Do drink plenty of fluids during the trip to avoid dehydration.

Do wear loose clothing that is able to dry quickly if it gets wet and still act as a sun block.
Do wear a hat to prevent sunburn on your scalp.

Do wear sunglasses to protect against glare from the water which can damage your eyes.

Don’t drink much alcohol the night before the trip - hangovers and boats are not a happy mix.

Don’t go inside the cabin unless absolutely necessary - this reduces your field of view to the boat (which will be moving with no fixed point of reference) and also the cabin can sometimes accumulate exhaust odours which can induce nausea.

Don’t wear dark colour clothing as this will make you feel hotter.


Do familiarise yourself with the location of the safety equipment (lifejackets/ flares/ fire extinguishers) - although even though it is extremely unlikely that you will need it.
Do always have at least one hand holding on to the boat when moving about - especially up on the Flybridge where the motion is greater.

Do ask the captains permission before going up to the bow - he will advise if it is safe to do so at that time (it is not permitted when the boat is travelling fast or in heavy seas).

Don’t use the port side to access the bow - the starboard side (right hand side as you look forward) is unobstructed and safer.

Do wear shoes with good grip - going bare foot is not a good idea because the deck may be hot and there may be sharp objects (hooks etc) - no black soles please as these can leave marks on the boat.

Do be very careful when a large fish is bought close to or into the boat - this can be a dangerous time with hooks, gaffs and fish with sharp fins and bills - allow room for the crew to deal with the fish - you will still be able to get photographs.

Do stow any empty glass drinks bottles inside the cabin so they do not break and cause injury - the crew can show you where.

Don’t all stand on one side of the boat when it is moving fast - this will unbalance it.

What to look for

You will get more from your trip if you know what to look for. Polarised glasses will give you a better chance of spotting fish and other marine life in the water - binoculars are also a good idea but take some practice to use on a moving boat.

Birds - feeding birds offshore means small baitfish are near the surface (flyingfish, sardines etc) and this in turn often means that larger fish (or dolphins/porpoises) are driving the baitfish up where the birds can dive for them. Common birds that you may see are the

Brown Boobie Brown booby (large gannet like bird with white and /or brown colouring) which can dive several feet down for bait, large flocks of boobies are commonly seen around feeding dolphins or schools of tuna - smaller groups may be feeding around dorado and sometimes sailfish.
Terns and petrels (smaller white or brown birds) pick mostly from the surface or a short distance down - small groups of terns can be feeding over sailfish or smaller shoals of tuna. Tern
Frigate Bird Frigate birds (very large black birds - up to 7ft wingspan, with forked tail) - they can only pick from the surface or rob other birds since they cannot dive or even land on the surface) - frigate birds are famous amongst fisherman as they are about the only bird that will follow a marlin waiting for it to feed.

Other birds include tropic birds (white bird - male has very long twin tail feathers) which dive into the water from a great height and are often seen around sailfish; seagulls (we only have one type - the laughing gull and Pelicans (mostly coastal).

Tropical Bird
Dolphin Dolphins/porpoises - we commonly see large pods of common & spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Fraser’s dolphins and many types of porpoises as well.

Sperm whales have a population that lives in the Caribbean year round and so they are probably the type we see most often - we sometimes encounter yellowfin tuna with sperm whales but not as often as we do around other fish eating whales like the Bryde’s & Sei whales - unfortunately we do not see the latter types very often but when we do it can be great sport. Humpback whales are winter visitors to the Caribbean and there are many other types of smaller whales that we often see as well - pilot whales, false killer whales, pygmy sperm whales, beaked whales and even (rarely) Orca - the true killer whales. With the larger whales you will often be able to spot the “blow” long before you can see the whale itself - this is the jet of water & air being pushed up as the whale breathes out from the blowhole on top of its head.

Whale Tail
Flying Fish photograph by Scott Kerrigan of Aquapaparazzi Fish - watch out for flying fish - most people think they are birds the first time they see one - they accelerate out of the water and then extend their over large pectoral fins and glide - sometimes for hundreds of yards - this is an escape tactic for them - if you see them close to the boat then it is just the boat scaring them but if you see them flying out well away from the boat then they are being chased by bigger fish. Jumping fish - we often see sailfish “free jumping” - i.e. jumping when not hooked on a fishing line - it may be a way of ridding themselves of skin parasites as they belly flop into the water. Dorado (dolphin fish), king mackerel, tuna, wahoo and even marlin sometimes jump as part of feeding activity and may do so just before or as they take the bait. Obviously jumping fish are quite easy to spot however seeing a fish following the bait from behind takes practice - polarised glasses can help since they remove the surface glare of the water but the higher you are above the water the easier it is to look down into it since refraction and reflection are reduced - this is why Sportfishing boats have a raised flybridge and some have towers above that level as well.
Billfish (marlin and sailfish) look chocolate brown in the water - however when they are excited / aggressive then they “light up” with electric blue colours along their flanks, dorsal & pectoral fins and tail. These colours have to be seen to be believed. Top of the list of the most colourful fish however goes to the Dorado (aka dolphin fish aka mahi mahi) - they are often emerald green and fluorescent blue but they are able to change their colour and sometimes may even be seen with vertical stripes. Their colours are so bright they can be seen in the water hundreds of yards away if the light is good. Blue Marlin lit up

Other Marine Life

We sometimes get to see things like turtles, Ocean Sun Fish, sharks, jellyfish etc - the crew will point these out to you when we see them - it pays to keep your eyes open!

Basic Fish Fighting Technique

If you have no experience of this type of fishing (trolling) it is usually better to let the crew deal with the strike and hooking of the fish - when he hooks the fish you:

Sit in the fighting chair and with the rod butt in the gimble hold the rod at about 45 degrees.

Maintain a good bend in the rod - a big fish will usually be running line off the reel and bending the rod substantially at this stage.

When the line starts to slow down or stop going out and the rod starts to straighten up then immediately start quickly winding the line in to keep tight to the fish - if you don’t the hook may fall out. The fish may change direction quickly so concentrate on what is happening.

A small fish may not run and can be simply wound in.

Always when winding in don’t forget to guide the line across the spool to avoid it building up on one side of the spool and eventually jamming the reel - (use the thumb on your left hand to do this).

If you cannot wind in because the pressure is too great - use the pump & wind technique - lift the rod slowly and smoothly (no jerking as this could jeopardise the hook hold or the line) to about 80 degrees - do not go to 90 degrees as this destroys the spring action of the rod. Once you get to 80 degrees drop the rod quickly and wind at the same time  - check that line is being gained as you do this (otherwise you are just wasting energy) - if not you are probably not synchronised - start winding as you drop the rod. If you get some line back keep repeating this - slow up fast down - you are now pulling the fish closer to the boat.

If you are struggling to hold the rod we will put you in the harness - it goes around your lower back and bottom and then clips onto the reel - this will take the pressure of the rod off of your left arm.

Often the captain will make your job easier by slowly backing the boat towards the fish - your job is to maintain the pressure on the fish as he does so - forget about pumping - just crank the line in as quickly as you are able without forgetting to guide the line on the spool evenly! The captain will try to match his reverse speed to what you can keep up with - if he’s going too fast shout!

Often you will gain line like this only for the fish to suddenly start running again and the same line go back out - don’t be disheartened! Welcome to the physical side of big game fishing!

When the fish finally comes to the boat the mate will grab the leader and try to control the fish - at this stage be vigilant - if the fish is not tired enough he may well have to let go again so be ready!

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