Call For a Tow

14. Rum to the Fish

By Tom Neale, 10/21/2004

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.

We’ve had several cases of fish bite when we’ve landed big fish while cruising. Once, a large blue fish clamped onto Mel’s thumb while she was trying to get the hook out of its mouth. It took another guy and me, using two sets of pliers, to free Mel’s hand. Barracuda can really get you, as can shark. Often a fish will appear to be out but will “snap” back unexpectedly when you get too close. Don’t hesitate to use a pair of wire cutters and snip the hook rather than take a chance with being caught in reverse. And be patient, pour on the rum first.

If a fish bites you, consider it to be potentially very serious. There are many organisms in the water that will infect wounds, joints, and which can cause other serious health problems. Some of these, such as the Vibrio Vulnificus and the Mycobacteria Marinum, are a little exotic and may not be readily discerned by some health care providers who may be more accustomed to the run of the mill infections.

Obviously, anytime you have a fish or underwater related wound, especially in tropical areas, you should see a doc and tell him the nature of the wound. But often if you’re out cruising, you may not have the opportunity. After washing the wound with distilled water, we usually prefer to pour dose after dose of hydrogen peroxide into any fish related wound (or conch or coral ) to hopefully bubble out and/or kill any thing that shouldn’t be there. We seldom, if ever, apply a product such as Neosporin or Polysporin or anything else that will cause the wound to heal over until we’re fairly sure there’s nothing left inside. I’m not a doctor and I’m not giving medical advice, so always ask a doc. But I can say that you need to be extra careful when out cruising and you get a wound such as these.

If you ever accidentally step on a conch or small piece of coral while wading in the tropics, consider the likelihood that a small piece of the shell or other creature may be left inside the wound. I’ve seen people almost loose limbs from infections after accidentally stepping on a baby conch.

If you’re out in the boondocks of paradise where there are no clinics, hospitals, or pharmacies or clinics and a health problem develops, you can frequently find a doctor or nurse on another cruising boat if you put out the word among fellow cruisers or on the VHF.

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Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale