Sport Fish Dreaming

By Tom Neale, 12/2/2004


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I went fishing on a 48 foot sport fish boat last weekend. I had no idea that fishing could be so good. I’m used to pulling them aboard and watching them flop all over my deck slewing slime and sludge, and then flipping down the hatch into my bunk. I knew one guy who landed a 5 foot Wahoo in his sailboat cockpit. It promptly got off the hook, flopped down the companionway, catapulted forward through the salon, and ended up thrashing and throwing up in a pile of freshly washed laundry up on the V bunks. A sport boat uses almost half the boat to land the catch, and it’s like a huge back porch. When you get the fish aboard, all you’ve gotta do is open a trap door and push it down so that it can die peacefully in something they call a “live well.” I heard that some boats even have refrigerated wells. They say it’s easier to fillet the fish when he’s cold and stiff. If I want a stiff fish on my boat, I just leave him on the deck in the sun for a few hours.

On that sport fish they had a hose and nozzle to wash off the mess so you wouldn’t slip up when the next one came aboard. On my boat I have to try to wash the fish stuff off the decks by throwing sea water with buckets. I know that I’ve gotten the job done when I finally look around and don’t see any more scales on deck, which is about the time I realize I forgot to close the portholes. With this hose, you can also spray off your feet and hands before you push the big sliding doors aside and step onto the plush carpeting in the air conditioned great room, to get a cold one. (And that’s only if you’ve forgotten to stock the extra frig on the back porch.) On my boat I try to walk on my heels when I go below, to keep the fishy smell up topsides. Of course, with slime and scale up to my eyeballs, I also have to avoid touching anything when I go below, which leaves me standing around looking down and wondering how I’m going to do what I came down to do in the first place.

On my boat I tie my fishing pole to the stanchions so that I can get it back when I drop it overboard. On this boat all you had to do was grab another pole—there were about 24 of them—each stuck in its own special pole hole. Which brings up another thing: I was pretty quickly told that these were not poles, they were rods and reels. OK, that’s fine. So I just grabbed for another rod and reel. Until I was asked not to, because the one I’d just dropped cost a thousand dollars. All it took was a little multiplying to figure that they probably had more money in their poles and reels than I had in my whole boat. And that’s before they add in the cost of the live bait.

If I had that much money for live bait, I’d be buying filet mignons and eating them myself. Not only was the bait live, they had another trap door with a little Jacuzzi under it for keeping it alive. I came away from that fishing trip with one thought in mind: These guys really know how to fish, not to mention live. Not only that, they were very nice. They asked me if I wanted to sit in that huge chair they had in the back. I told them that every time I sat in a chair like that, someone pulled out one of my teeth. They’re skillful too. They drive standing backwards when the fish are hitting and when they’re docking. I guess that the first is so they don’t run over the fish, and the second is so they don’t run over the dock. I think they drive backwards when they’re going out inlets too.

Rum to the Fish

We use rum to hasten the demise of large fish which we've just landed. If you don't do something, subduing that fish can be a big deal---especially if it's a cruising boat without a big live well to slide the fish into. If you pour a little rum onto the fish's gills, it becomes very peaceful very fast, and passes on to fish heaven. Some people hit the fish with a gaff or club. I was never able to do this. I think sharing my rum with the guy who's going to make my meal is a lot better.

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I checked into the cost of fishing like this, assuming of course, that I could use a pole instead of a rod. It didn’t take much checking to learn that I could afford to fish like this about as well as I could afford to pay a thousand bucks for a six pack. There was absolutely no aspect about it that I could afford.

So, as much as I hate to give up my dream of fishing on the high side, I think I’m going to just have to suffer through this life dragging a line from the deck of old “Chez Nous” while we’re cruising along and sometimes, when I can afford the gas, from my little Mako. But I can’t help dreaming.

I’d love to fish every day on a sport fish. I’d love to cruise on a sport fish, even if I wasn’t catching anything. If I could just cruise on a boat like that, I’d never again have to worry about a sport fish rolling me beam to beam in the inlets. Heck, I’d even be happy if all I could do was to just occasionally sit on the flybridge of a sport fish tied up at the marina. There are few better experiences in the world than sitting up there and looking down. (I’ve stopped doing half the things I used to do while walking along the dock since that weekend when I sat up there looking down at other people walking along the dock.) But the truth is dawning that even if I did have the money to fish from a sport fish, I’m just not classy enough. I’m not even close. But I’ve been working on the concept, in case I win the lottery, and I’ve come up with one idea, to be classy and to save money.

If I had a sport fish I wouldn’t have all those thousand dollar rods and reels sticking out all over the place. I’d use my cheap poles. With all the money I’d save, I could buy a lot of very expensive bottles of wine. I’d stick the bottles in all those rod holes, turned upside down—kinda like they do in the fancy restaurants. I would drink a bottle of wine every time I caught one of the ten thousand dollar fish that you catch on sport boats. With enough wine, those fish might taste almost as good as the fish I catch with my pole.

Copyright 2004-2008 Tom Neale