How To Stay Safe On A Deep Water Fishing Trip
There’s nothing quite like a deep water fishing trip on a summer’s day. The feeling of being out on the ocean with only your fishing mates and whatever creatures are in the sea around you is an exhilarating experience, and one that relatively few people ever get to experience.
But once you are out of sight of land, that isolation from other people also means you are on your own as far as immediate support facilities are concerned. Therefore to ensure that a fishing trip is a happy and memorable one, it’s essential to be aware of the seven key safety precautions that should be taken.
1. Check Weather Forecasts
The most common causes of things going wrong at sea are weather related. Therefore it’s vital to be constantly monitoring weather forecasts and warnings not only prior to departure, but whilst you are out on the ocean.
Always have contingency plans for places to head to for shelter in the event of storms developing, and always err on the side of caution if you are not sure how much a storm forecast might affect you.
Having a backup marine radio system is a good idea to ensure that you can always contact family or friends back onshore to get up-to-date information on weather developments. These radio systems are not expensive – they are often cheaper than many smartphones. Check out a website like MO Tackle & Outdoors to see what is available these days.
2. Get Motors Serviced Regularly
The second most common cause of problems out on the ocean is motors breaking down. It’s an absolute given that you don’t go deep sea fishing without two outboard motors, so if one breaks down, you can still make it back to shore with the other.
For boats with inboard motors, carrying a spare outboard is a sensible precaution, but in all cases it’s essential to have motors serviced regularly to minimize the risk of motors breaking down whether they be outboards or inboards.
And having a skilled mechanic onboard is another advisable practice. If the skipper doesn’t already perform that function, it’s foolish to travel out to sea without someone on board who can perform at least basic repairs to a motor.
3. Check Safety Equipment
Ensuring that the boat is properly equipped with the required safety equipment such as life vests and flares is a required responsibility of the boat owner. A stock take against a checklist is wise to do before every trip.
In many countries there are legal requirements as to what type of safety equipment should be carried, so boat owners and skippers should ensure that they are familiar with those requirements.
Straps and stitching should be regularly checked on life vests, and radios tested before leaving. The expiry dates on flares should be confirmed as well, and the boat itself should be looked over before each trip for loose fittings and structural integrity.
4. Take Extra Food and Drink
As a rule of thumb, it’s wise to take at least 50 percent more food and drink than you think you will need on any deep sea fishing trip. This will ensure that you don’t go hungry or thirsty whilst waiting for help should you run into trouble whilst out at sea, or have to divert because of stormy weather.
The extra food you take should be the type that trekkers take on overland trips such as high energy bars, dried fruits and nuts, and trail mixes because they are light, nutritious and are easy to store.
As far as drinking water is concerned, many experienced skippers would recommend that you take twice what you think you may need. You can ration food without too many ill effects if help is a long time coming, but it’s not good to be rationing water because that can lead to dehydration.
5. Don’t Strain the Back
If using a fighting chair to haul in large fish, try to establish a rhythm and avoid pulling against the waves. When you are fighting a large fish, it’s important to keep the back straight and swivel the chair to keep a straight line between the rod and the fish.
Use your legs to counter the action of the fish pulling away, rather than bending the back. Then pull back by straightening the legs whenever you feel any lessening in pressure, ensuring that you avoid twisting the back.
If using a leaning post on a smaller boat, this is more difficult to achieve, but maintaining good posture is key to avoiding back injury when hauling in a fighting fish.
Injuring your back whilst out on the water is not a pleasant thing to do as it can take many hours to get to chiropractor or physiotherapist. Heading back to shore with an injured back on a choppy ocean can be excruciatingly painful and result in permanent back damage.
6. Stay Safe from the Sun
When out on the water, the likelihood of getting sunburnt is greater than it is on land. That’s because you are not only getting the direct sun, but also the reflection of the ultraviolet rays from the surface of the ocean.
Whilst wearing shorts and t-shirts feels comfortable when boating on a hot summer’s day, even with a canopy it may not be possible to stay out of the sun when hauling in fish.
Therefore it’s a good idea to don long pants and long sleeved shirts if you are going to be any length of time in the sun. And for the rest of the time, ensure that you use a 50+ or 70+ sunblock on exposed skin. Remember to reapply every few hours, especially if the skin gets splashed with seawater.
7. Lodge a Float Plan
Finally, whenever you are heading out on a deep water fishing trip, you should leave a float plan with your marina or someone responsible at the location where you normally moor your boat.
A float plan (the terminology may vary in different countries) is simply a sheet which lists the details of your boat, a list of the navigation and safety equipment you have on board, the names, gender and ages of those on the trip, your proposed route, and your estimated departure and return times.
Then if you do not return within a reasonable period of your estimated return time, the person with whom you have left the float plan can make efforts to contact you either by cell phone or marine radio to confirm that you are on your way back and all is well.
In the event that they cannot make contact, they can then make a decision as to whether to inform the Coast Guard or whatever other marine agency may be responsible for search and rescue missions in other countries.
Therefore it is important that if your return is delayed for unforeseen circumstances, but otherwise all is well, you should endeavor to contact the person with whom you left the float plan so that they do not unnecessarily call out the Coast Guard or initiate a search mission that is not required.
Follow these seven basic safety precautions and you’ll be assured of a trouble-free trip that is a memorable experience for you and your fishing mates.
John O. Brooks
He loves to introduce himself as a passionate blogger. Apart from writing John loves new adventures, discover new places around the world. And yes, fishing, boating, camping in disguise of travelling been his hobby along the decades.