On each and every trip I do I pick up something new from a client, and I’d like to think they learn something new from me. A new knot, or a trick that makes private boat life, just a little easier. Some tricks are even more amazing, and help solve major problems. The most common thing I run into is when a client has been misled in some way, and I can set the record straight with some common sense explaining.
Bait do not need lights to live. In fact, the light in your bait tank is for your enjoyment, just as the window is. The bait receivers in San Diego that cure sardines for the long range boats use boxes with lids to cure the bait. Slots in the tops of the boxes are so the bird shit can be washed off, (and maybe even for feeding the bait), not to let the light in. Really serious private boat guys paint the insides of their bait tanks black or dark blue, and keep a cover on the tank when traveling. Fin bait will take on that darker color, and swim hard when hooked and cast out to hungry gamefish.
To feed your bait, either when kept in the bait tank of your boat for a long time or in your private receiver, you can use corn meal. Blood works great as well, so a cutting board bait tank lid can do wonders for your bait while you are filleting your catch throughout the day. The blood of the fish you are cutting will drip into the tank, and your bait will eat it. Cool huh? If the bait in your receiver is so strong that you can’t catch it with the dip net, try throwing a handfull of cornmeal and net them as they come up to feed. Works every time.
Squid do not need to be fed, and can not be kept in the tank or a receiver for long periods of time. Why? Because when they spawn, they start to die like salmon. You can prolong the life of your tank of squid (and prevent some of the eggs that clog the drain) by placing a live bass in with the squid. I personally have not seen a bass eat bait while in my tank, but don’t tell the squid that. The amount of eggs in the tank will be far less if you put a bass in the tank, but I honestly don’t know if other fish work. Mix sardines and squid, and the squid will eat the sardines.
A dropper loop is a type of rig where you have a sinker at the end of your line, and a hook dangling a ways up. Its very common and used for everything from rockfish to yellowtail. The problem is, a traditional dropper loop knot is a 50% knot at best. Try tying a spider hitch to double your line (you’ll end up with a big loop.) Simply cut the loop so you have a long line, and a short one. TIe the sinker on the long line for dropping straight down, or tie the sinker on the short line for what is called a “reverse dropper loop” for drifting. The spider hitch is a very good knot, much better that the traditional dropper loop knot.
Speaking of dropper loops, they are also killer for seabass. At Catalina the perch, mackerel and other grabbers may frequently steal the squid off your hook. Instead of a torpedo sinker, try tying on a white iron (jig) in place of the sinker. Seabass will eat the jig without bait on it, especially when they decide to really bite. Yellows too. This way, you can fish two rods and if you get tired of changing the bait on the dropper loop, you can feel better about being less attentive with that rod. I have caught many a seabass and yellowtail at Catalina with an iron with no bait on it, dangling near the bottom with the rod in the rod holder. Another tip, it works great for rockfish too!
Another handy tip is the green stretch wrap from Home Depot. You’ll find it where the moving and packaging supplies are. This stuff works great to wrap your rods for traveling, or to keep that crowder net from blowing in the wind on the way back from a trip. I love this stuff, and it never ceases to amaze me how often I use it. Things on the boat that “tap” or “rattle” in the night can be secured with a couple wraps of this miracle plastic. It replaces duct tape, if that’s even possible.
When its cleanup time a pump sprayer will save you time, and your clothes from bleach spots. Again, at Home Depot you can find these small plastic pump bottles in the garden department. Fill it with straight bleach (or your favorite squid ink dissolving solution) and pump the handle. Simply spray it around the cockpit where needed and give things a minute to work their magic. Scrub the tough stains then rinse. At least you’ll ruin a few less shirts this way, as regular spray bottles will send a mist into the air and onto your clothes. I’m sure you know what I am talking about.
Releasing rockfish and black seabass is discussed endlessly but the answer is so simple. Lifesavers. Yes, the candy slash breath freshener can actually save a life. They dissolve in a short amount of time in the water, so all you have to do is tie a hook that will rust away onto a rig with a heavy sinker and place the hook in the fish’s mouth, and drop it down to the bottom. When the Lifesaver dissolves, the fish is free, and back to the depths it came from alive and well.
I could go on and on now that I’m on a roll. Ever set up on a small wreck and miss by just a little bit? Next time this happens, try turning the rudders so the current will swing the boat into position. I swear, it works. The more current you have, the more dramatic it is. Works with outboards and outdrives just fine too. No more resetting for little misses.
I have many, many more. I will write another article about different tips and tricks when its time appropriate. Just remember to be open minded, and willing to learn something new. I love learning new, easier ways to do things almost as much as showing someone a new easier ways I was shown or figured out on my own. Operating a private boat is hard work, so why not try something new that makes things quicker, easier and more enjoyable.