Fishing off of terra firma can be a daunting prospect for the (as yet) uninitiated, however a boat can offer you access to fishing grounds that could never be reached from shore, and most modern fishing vessels are equipped with electronic equipment designed to locate and position you within range of your quarry. For those of you who have yet to venture out on your first offshore fishing trip, here are some tips to help you make the most out of your day at sea!
Pre-trip: Fuel, Hydrate, Rest
Your trip begins the day before you step aboard. One of the magical things about fishing is that you never know what each trip might bring, so it's a good habit to be physically well-prepared for the day ahead. Look for food that is easy on the stomach (we'll come to this again), be sure to drink up and last but not least, get sufficient rest the night before. This will allow you to hit the water alert and at the top of the very interesting game you are about to spend the day engaged in.
Sea-food, Sea-sickness & Sea-water
On the morning of the trip, have a moderately light breakfast that is, again, easy on the stomach (we'll come to this shortly), and pack something for lunch that is simple and quick to consume on board. Pancakes, sandwiches or bananas all make excellent choices. Avoid having food that is excessively oily or spicy, to reduce the likelihood of your meal surfacing later in the day to pay you a visit. (I recently had such an experience when my breakfast of curried fish met unexpectedly high waves off the east coast of Malaysia).
As the onset of seasickness can put a significant damper on your trip, I find that prevention is without doubt better than any cure. My suggestion is to sleep well and go easy on the curry, but if you prefer some added reassurance then go for something like Novomin (the active ingredient is dimenhydrinate), which is available at most pharmacies. Take the pill well in advance of any symptoms, and according to the directions on the label. Otherwise, hope that the fish start biting, as it seems that seasickness can, on occasion, be distracted away.
If the worst happens, bite the bullet and surrender your meal into the sea. You will usually feel an immediate improvement; depending on the situation you can either pick up your rod and resume fishing or head into the cabin to sleep off the last of the effects. To aid in recovery and prevent dehydration, remember to drink plenty of water, though in anticipation of less queasy times you may wish to prepare some other beverage to enjoy on board. Currently I am partial to ice-cold coconut water, which is a real treat in our tropical midday heat.
Prepare for the Elements
According to the Meteorological Service Singapore website, the mean daily maximum temperature for the month of June is 32°C (it exceeded 35°C on five days in May 2018), while it rains on a average of 12 days for a mean of 130 mm of rainfall in the month. As much as we try to plan our trips to coincide with perfect weather, sometimes nature can be fickle, and it is possible to be baking under the sun one moment, and caught in a downpour not an hour later. Sometimes when we wish aloud for cooler weather we may need to be careful what we wish for!
My top priority here would be sun protection. One painful sunburn is usually enough to convince someone that excessive UV exposure is not to be trifled with; I am no exception. I prefer the use of clothing to shield from the sun, so long sleeves, a bandana, a cap and a pair of sunglasses are standard whenever I head out to sea. If you opt for sunblock, apply liberally 10-15 minutes prior to exposure, though be mindful that the coating of sunblock on your hands can make any surface you touch slippery, and that sunblock and live bait typically mix with unfortunate consequences for the live bait.
Besides protection from the sun, rain gear that is both comfortable and functional can come in extremely handy. When facing an impending squall that we cannot avoid, we usually head towards sheltered waters to wait out the storm, and on occasion those anglers who have decided to drop their line have been handsomely rewarded for their persistence. While a simple poncho is convenient and disposable, a weather-proof jacket with a hood can also be very useful to help keep you warm and dry in the midst of the wind and rain.
Know the Plan
Before heading out, it is a good idea to ask the captain about the type of fishing you will be doing for the day, as well as the target species. If you manage to do this in advance, you may be able to do some research on the particular methods that work best for certain fish, and perhaps even procure some specialised gear. If you receive this information on the day itself, it will enable you to decide how to make the best use of any equipment you've brought along with you, as well as to what end you should focus your efforts on during the day.
Along the way, the crew may offer you advice to improve your chances of a catch. Take their advice, and trust them! What I've often seen is that an angler may try out the suggested method a couple of times, and after it fails to show any results, the angler reverts back to the original. Our captains and guides not only fish these waters many days a week, they also have very little reason not to want everyone on board to catch fish. That said, it is still very hard to propose something that works all the time, every time, but a few tweaks can be the ticket to you landing that prize catch over the course of a day's fishing. So keep the faith, and keep on keeping on.
Scale the Learning Curve
It appears, (much to my chagrin), that fishing is commonly perceived to be a dull, boring pastime that stimulates the stomach more than it does the mind. Well, it's not! Seldom does a trip go by without me finding out something new about the fish I seek, the water they live in, or the techniques that myself or other people employ to catch them. Imagine, then, what's in store for you on your maiden fishing trip offshore: a literal whole new world with its new fantastic point of view! In an earlier post, I attempted to distill the essence of angling skill, though in short inquisitiveness and perseverance are assets that will aid you greatly on your course towards mastery. In fishing, as in life, the faster you learn and the more you practice, the better you become.
Love Thy Toilet
The restroom is a beloved and indispensable part of any respectable fishing vessel. It should therefore be treated with due care towards certain particular aspects, chief among them the use of toilet paper. Marine toilets usually make use of sea water for their flushing, and the low water pressure necessitates the use of a macerator, which grinds up the contents of the toilet in order that they can be pumped away. The fibrous construction of toilet paper renders it rather macerator-unfriendly; long story short, it can get stuck in the pump and this will cause the toilet to jam. Moral of the story? Dispose of any toilet paper outside of the toilet bowl.
With that, you should be able to prepare suitably to make the most of your offshore adventure. Stay tuned for our next post where you'll get a glimpse behind the scenes at how our crew gets ready for a fishing trip!