Monday, April 4, 2016

Teach A Man To Fish

How does the saying go....give a man a fish and he can eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will go out and buy a funny hat, lots of expensive equipment, and sit in a boat on the water drinking beer all day.  Well, I'm sure it goes something like that anyway.

One of the things I've wanted to do since I moved onto the boat was have some gear so I could fish while on passage.  It kinda makes sense, right?  You are moving along at trolling speeds, might as well throw out a line or two and see if you can get some fresh fish for dinner.

The problem is, I don't know much about ocean fishing.  Ok, I don't know a whole lot about fishing at all.  Most of my fishing was done when I was a child in Colorado streams that you could pretty much jump across.  I don't think putting a couple of brightly colored salmon eggs on a hook the size of my pinky finger nail will work here. So, over the past months (ok, years), I've been talking with friends and acquaintances about what it would take to fish from the boat.

I'm not really interested in the "sport" of fishing where someone tries to land some huge trophy fish using a bunch of expensive equipment and line that will break if you sneeze on it. Or having to maneuver the boat to chase the fish all around the ocean for that matter.  Fishing under sail isn't so much the sport of fishing as it is the act of  replenishing food stores.  I imagine it is more akin to commercial fishing on a much smaller scale than fishing for sport.  Slowing the boat down or changing course just won't be in the cards. Getting the fish on board quickly without  increasing our time to destination is the name of the game.

After doing a lot of research on gear, I finally decided the best option would not be a conventional rod and reel, but instead to create a couple of simple hand-lines on large spindles known as Cuban yo-yos. I looked at Penn Senator reels and short rods that might be workable on the boat, but in the end the ease of use and storage of a hand line seemed like the best option.  It also doesn't hurt that it is a pretty inexpensive fishing rig.

My just put together Cuban yo-yo
handline fishing setup.

The Cuban yo-yo is a rather simple plastic spindle.  They have a U shape to hold line, with one side of the U tapered to allow the line to cast off (kind of like a spinning reel) The ones I'm using are about 9" in diameter. There are no cranks or clutches, you simply wind the line around it by hand. The big advantage on a boat is that this device is very easy to store, even rigged and ready to go.  You can stuff it in just about any bag or locker on the boat (try that with a 6 foot long rod). At under $5, just about anyone can afford to have several of these on board.

The down side of this approach is that you do have to reel in the line by hand.  Traditional monofilament line that you would use on a normal fishing rod would be pretty rough on the hands.  So, for hand lines, much more stout line is typically used (along with gloves).  The recommendations I found were to use 300 to 400 pound test monofilament line. During my research I even found a commercially made hand line and a fellow blogger that used a combination of monofilament and 1/8 inch double braided nylon line (commonly referred to as paracord). This sounded like the best option for ease in handling so I decided to go with this approach.

The next question was how much line. The sport fishing folks often use several hundred yards (400 feet or more) of line to allow the fish to run without breaking the line before they can turn the boat to follow a fish that is trying to run away. The people trolling for Dolphin (A.K.A. Dorado or Mahi Mahi) and smaller Tuna claim that you just need enough line to clear the wake of the boat. I guess the theory here is that the wake itself kinda looks like the disturbance of a school of bait fish to these species and this length will make your lures look like the stragglers in the group. The general consensus was that 100 feet should do the trick. This length is also easier to pull in by hand than several hundred feet of line.

I rigged my two yo-yo's with about 75 feet of 1/8 inch nylon chord (roughly 550 pound test) and 25 feet of 400 pound test monofilament, making sure that one rig is a little shorter than the other so we can troll both of them. I started by drilling a hole in each of the yo-yo's so I could pass the nylon line through it.  I then tied a loop on the end of the line and a stopper knot on the other side of the spool.  I can use the loop to attach the line to a bungee cord and then to the boat.  The purpose of the bungee (or a length of surgical tubing) is to provide a shock absorber when the fish first chomps down on the lure. I'll also add a safety line a bit longer than the bungee just in case the bungee fails. If that is a little confusing, what I've got thus far is a bungee to attach to the boat, the bungee then attaches to a loop in the nylon chord.  The chord passes through a hole in the yo-yo near the loop and a stopper knot that will prevent the yo-yo from deploying itself down the line.  My hope is this setup will allow for some shock absorption and will allow me to grab the yo-yo and start winding in the catch.

Theory on attaching this thing to a stanchion on the boat

Connecting the other end of the nylon line to the monofilament is another trick.  The nylon chord is pretty easy since you can use any of a number of rope knots.  I decided to tie the nylon to a heavy duty over-sized snap swivel using a Buntline hitch followed by an overhand knot as a safety for the bitter end. I then added 25 foot section of monofilament to the end of the nylon line. Since you can't really tie knots with the thick 400 pound test line, I used crimping sleeves and a crimping tool to make a loop on one end. A loop was added to the other end as well, but this time with a snap swivel to allow for attachment of the lure and leader. I used a nylon thimble to reinforce the loops and minimize chafe on both ends.

The result is a very strong line with the weakest link thus far being the 200 pound test swivel at the very end.  On that swivel I will be adding lures rigged on leaders with lower breaking strength, so if some very large fish comes along and tries to take the bait...or my catch hooked on the should break there saving most of the rest of the setup.

I got lots of advice on what pre-rigged lures to try.  Many of them had names indicating they were designed to specifically target Dolphin (Dolphin Delight, Dolphin Candy, Tuna Tango, Ahi Slayer, etc.) and several recommendations on colors.  I've tried looking for these various lures for quite some time now, and had virtually no luck finding them in stores from Florida to Virginia. I did pick up a couple similarly named lures in similar colors to the recommendations.  At one shop I ended up buying some supplies to make my own rigs and will likely give that a try as well.  Got to keep yourself entertained on passage anyway, right?

Hopefully some of this will appeal to some fish

So, I don't know how all this is going to work out, but hopefully we will be able to augment our provisions with some fresh fish.  Now if I can only figure out all of the fishing license issues in the various states...and where I actually need licenses...where is that beer anyway?


  1. Let's see, the last time I fished, I used a Ronco Pocket I know less about the sport than you!

    1. LOL...maybe. But only by a week or so I bet. ;-)

  2. I will be eagerly watching for updates on your fishing results!

    1. I will let you know. And thanks again for your input on the subject (yeah, I was quite a while ago).

  3. While sailing on a cat in 2005, and also under power in passages, we let out about 100 feet or so of line with a lure, then used a clothespin (also on a line) to hold the line to a cable. When a fish struck, it popped the clothespin, and you hauled in the fish. We caught several out in the gulfstream on the way to the Bahamas. Tasty. I figure we caught 3 a day with 6 hours of sailing.



    1. I recall you mentioning using a clothespin as a "fish on" indicator. Will likely give that a try if the stretch of the bungee isn't obvious.