fishing practical boat cook

Fishing from a Yacht

(beach, Kayak, dingy, where ever...)

If you want to eat really fresh fish, then you've got to learn to fish.  In some places, this could just be a case of dangling a line in the water, with a hook and a piece of bread, and hey presto, other times a little more thought, skill knowledge, and investment is needed.

Fishing from the back of a boat whilst sailing, is pretty easy, once you have the correct gear.  The tricky bit can be getting you potential lunch landed; killing it, cleaning it, and then knowing how to correctly cut it up. 

Getting Started

You've decided to go fishing and have enough tackle and knowledge to get started. Where do you go first?  Your local tackle shop is the best place to find out where the fish are biting and how to catch them. Tell the shop employees what you want to catch, and they will set you up with tackle and point you toward the best fishing spots.

Conservation and Regulations

It is up to individual anglers to follow local fishing regulations and participate in conservation efforts.  Fishing clubs and Web sites are good places to learn about environmental and management issues facing local anglers. To be good stewards of fishing resources, each angler has the responsibility to follow regulations and participate in fisheries management.

Freeing snagged lures and rigs

Losing tackle to snags is frustrating, time consuming and expensive. With a little patience and finesse, the rig can usually be freed from the structure. When you detect your lure or rig has become snagged, set the reel in free-spool to prevent digging the hook deeper into the snag. Then, run the boat past the structure in the opposite direction the hook was snagged. Tighten the line and jerk the rod tip to free the hook. Bottom fishermen will often use a lighter leader to their sinkers so they can easily break off a snagged weight without losing their whole rig.

Where to fish

You can fish from a boat either going along, (trolling), drifting engine off (jigging), at anchor (jigging or bottom fishing) or on a mooring.  Fishing in a marina is usually not allowed.

Fishing at Anchor

Here is a simple way to catch supper while you eat lunch. Tie your jigging tackle to fish mid water and let the rocking of the boat do the jigging for you. 

If you fish on the bottom you will catch a much greater variety of fish but you will need bait, which could get messy. A simple bottom rig is the same as the Jigging rig but you must use either  feathers or an old set with the feathers cut off leaving bare hooks. Some  "feathers" are hard mini-lures which don't work as well when baited.

To fish on the bottom simply bait the hooks and lower the weight until it touches the bottom. Either keep hold of it or tie the line to something because a fish can easily make off with the whole lot. If something tugs at the line, haul it up! It is that simple.

If using a hand line, try winding the line the 'wrong' way round a winch, then slipping the reel over the top of the winch, if you catch something the winch will turn, and you wont loose your reel.

Choosing how to fish mostly depends on what fish species you are targeting. If you are targeting a particular species, there are often a few fishing methods that local fishermen prefer, some of which will vary with the season. But that doesn’t mean a fish will always bite your hook; fish can be fickle. You may need to try several fishing techniques to find one that produces bites. Check the local fishing reports before you head to the water for insights on what is working well at the time you plan go fishing.

Before You Begin

Before you choose how to fish, remember you first need to know how to cast. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to toss your bait or lure to the necessary spot or distance in order to catch a fish. Once you have cast your line, or dropped it in the water, you can try one of the below fishing techniques to entice a bite. 

What's the best technique for you?

There can be a lot more to fishing than the classic worm and bobber presentation. Though that is a great way to start with kids or beginners who are just learning to fish.

Your main goal is to pick a fishing technique that matches the behavior of the fish you’re after. Ideally you want to ‘mimic’ something a fish would eat. Some fish feed on the bottom, others only in the shallows, so pick a style of fishing that is appropriate to each condition. Some fish feed on other fish, while others prefer insects, and some will eat just about anything on the bottom.

Fishing techniques are best described or named by the action of the bait or lure, or its presentation. For example, topwater fishing describes using a popper or other floating artificial lure to excite predatory saltwater fish such as speckled trout into biting in shallow water near the surface. It also describes hopping a rubber frog imitation between lily pads of a freshwater pond in hopes of drawing a strike from a large mouth bass.

Fishing Techniques for Live Bait

Fishing with live bait allows you to catch a wide variety of fish. Store bought live baits might include minnows, eels, night crawlers, bloodworms, leeches, crickets or maggots. The size and type of bait will also help determine which species you catch. Your local tackle shop will likely only stock live baits to suit the species common to the local waters.

Live Lining and Trolling

Live lining is a very popular method for teaching new anglers to fish. To live line, drop your live bait from a boat or pier into the water, allowing it to swim freely at the end of your line. Or if you are in a boat, drop your live baits, then pull,or troll them, slowly behind your boat, perhaps with a weight on the line to keep them down.

Live lining is a classic example of fishing with a worm on a hook suspended under a bobber. The bobber or cork keeps the bait at a preset depth and alerts you to a fish bite by disappearing under the water. This is also one of the best fishing techniques to teach children as it is easy to do with a spin caster reel.

Bottom Fishing

In some instances, fish can be found on the bottom, so the best way to catch them is to put your bait down there as well. You’ll need a weight or sinker on your line, rigged below your hook to get your bait down to the bottom and hold it there (try using a 3-way rig). If there is a lot of current, you’ll need a heavier weight. If you rig your weight above your bait in strong current the bait will drift back the distance between the two. Once you have dropped your lure or bait, let the bait rest and float along until you get a bite. Check your bait periodically to ensure its still on your hook.

Drifting a Bait

Both live or cut baits can be drifted with a weight on your line to keep it near the bottom, or suspended beneath a bobber or popping cork. The difference between this fishing method and bottom fishing is motion. Drift fishing requires some weight to get the bait down, but the motion of the boat moves the bait through the water slowly. You can also drift a bait under a bobber or popping cork.


Chumming or chunking is an effective addition to the bait fishing techniques you use. By releasing tiny bits of ground up bait called chum into the water, you create a scent trail that the fish can follow to your boat, and your baits. Chum can be ground fish, creamed corn, cat food, or just about anything that creates a fish-like scent. Simply throw pieces of bait into the water around where you are fishing to bring feeding fish close to your boat.  Remember this can also bring unwanted guests to the party - sharks, swimming after throwing chum into the water could be a life limiting exercise!

Fishing Methods for Artificial Lures and Soft Plastics


So, you don't like the idea of live bait, not everyone does, happily there is a whole world of artificial lures out there, and the methods for fishing with them are relatively similar. Remember that artificial fishing lures are meant to mimic baitfish, so the way in which you fish with them should do the same. Consider the fishing techniques below. 

Cast and Retrieve

Use whatever lure you want, a swimbait, a crankbait, a spinner — they all are designed to be tossed out, and reeled back in using a particular motion, this is called cast and retrieve. This fishing technique can cover a lot of water quickly as the motion is mostly horizontal. The speed at which you reel to retrieve the lure, the angle at which you hold the rod and the design of the lure all impact the depth of the lure on the way back. Many hard swimming lures have a lip at the front that helps dive the lure to a particular depth. Many are available in deep, or shallow running versions. Soft plastic minnows, or curly-tailed worms can also be used. Here are the steps on how to fish using the cast and retrieve technique:

  • Cast your lure to your target – remember fish love structure or cover
  • Let the lure fall to your desired depth
  • Retrieve the lure by reeling in, using your line to pull the lure to mimic a swimming fish. You may wish to vary the speed of your retrieve to find a speed that entices a bite
  • Wait a couple seconds, then cast again
  • Repeat the retrieval

Topwater Fishing

Topwater fishing is a variation on cast and retrieve that uses a floating lure. Cast the lure to your desired location, then reel in using a retrieval motion that mimics a fish’s meal. Some topwater lures such as poppers, have a concave face that makes a big splash when you jerk the lure sharply on the surface. Or they can be “walk the dog” type lures that shake their head back and forth when you just twitch the tip of your rod in a rhythm. This shaking head action mimics a dying baitfish on the surface.


Jigging is one of the best fishing methods when teaching someone new how to fish. It is also one of the most active methods, requiring you to snap or pop the rod tip up quickly to move the lure vertically in the water column. You can jig straight up and down as you drift, or cast the lure out and jig it back towards you horizontally while reeling. Jigging a lure or bait creates the look of an injured baitfish that a game fish would want to bite.

Many spoons are designed for jigging — they flutter as they fall enticing a fish. Soft plastic worms are also used for jigging as are painted lead-headed hook and feather combo jigs called buck tails. If you are learning how to fish by jigging, here are some simple steps:

  • Cast or drop your lure straight down
  • Count a few seconds or wait until you feel the spoon hit the bottom
  • Snap or pop your wrist and rod tip up quickly a short distance
  • Let the lure fall again
  • Reel down a little bit to keep the line tight in case of a strike
  • Repeat

If you are casting a jig out and retrieving while jigging, you’ll need to reel in slowly to keep the jig near the bottom.

Trolling with Lures

One of the more popular fishing methods while boating, trolling, drags lures behind, usually a good ways back, while the boat moves forward slowly. The motion of the boat imparts action on the lures, whether they are spoons, swimming lures, or live baits. The depth of the lure depends on their weight, how much line has been let out, the diameter and type of fishing line being used, and the speed at which you are trolling. In addition, some lures have a lip which makes them dive when pulled through the water. The names of such lures might reference the designed depth.

Bottom Bouncing

Bottom bouncing is done from a drifting or trolling boat, and it’s a great way to attract or locate fish. Use a buck tail jig or natural bait and drag it along the bottom. The dragging motion causes the lure to bounce along stirring up small clouds of sand or mud.

All the Gear - and lots of Ideas!

Rods, Reels and more...

It's all about the gear, rods, reels, nets, gaffs, electronics - this could turn out to be an expensive hobby.  Buy the best you can, look after it, and it will look after you.  The marine environment is hard on gear, however modern equipment is made to withstand the rigors of saltwater fishing.  Always rinse your gear in fresh water after use and lubricate as to the manufacturers instructions.



trolling rods

A good saltwater rod and reel are the foundation for successful saltwater fishing. Today’s saltwater rods and reels are high-tech tools that use space-age materials and precision workmanship to handle tough elements and tough fish.

rod action

When purchasing a saltwater rod, consider the length, power and action you need. Longer rods cast farther, while shorter rods provide more power for fighting fish. Action is rated from "fast" for a rod that is stiff to "slow" for a rod that bends all the way to the handle. "Power" is the weight that the rod can lift from light to extra heavy. Rods are also categorized by the pound-test line or lure weight that they are designed to work with.

Most saltwater fishing rods are made of graphite or fiberglass. Graphite rods are stiffer and more sensitive, while fiberglass fishing rods are tougher and more powerful.


fishing reel

Saltwater fishing reels are classified as high-speed or low-speed. High-speed reels use a gear ratio greater than 6:1 to retrieve baits at breakneck speed. Low-speed reels, with a ratio less than 4:1, offer more power for fighting big fish. Some reels allow anglers to switch from high speed to low speed with the push of a button.

Another quality to consider when picking out a reel is line capacity, which will usually be marked on the body of the reel in feet or yards per pound test of line. Drag pressure is measured in pounds and should be adjusted to one-third the breaking strength of the line.


spinning reel

Spinning gear uses a spinning reel with a fixed spool that is mounted below the spinning rod. Because the spool of the spinning reel is stationary, it is more difficult for the angler to tangle the line when casting. A spinning rod will have wider guides to catch the large loops of line leaving the spool on the cast.

Many anglers prefer spinning reels for working lures such as top-water poppers and high-speed plugs. Also, spinning reels can cast lighter saltwater lures and baits than conventional reels.

To fish with a spinning reel, hold the rod and reel in your dominant hand and crank the handle with the other hand. Most spinning reels have handles that are easy to change from left handed to right handed.

Spinning reels suffer from loops in the line called "wind knots" when the line becomes twisted or is not retrieved under pressure. This problem can usually be solved by adding a small swivel between the line and the leader.

When spooling line on a spinning rod, lay the spool on the floor so that the line is leaving the spool in the same direction that it is going onto the reel. To test if the line is going on correctly, pinch the line between your thumb and forefinger and make a dozen cranks of the reel handle. Then, stop winding line and drop the rod tip to put slack in the line. If the line starts to spin and twist, then you’re putting it on in the wrong direction. Simply flip the spool over and continue to fill the reel.

Saltwater Bait casting Rods and Reels

saltwater casting
Bait castingBaitcasting reels hold more line, cast  and produce smoother drag than spinning reels; however, baitcasting reels are more difficult to cast.

A baitcasting reel has a revolving spool and sits on top of the baitcasting rod, which has smaller eyes than a spinning rod.

Bait casting reels work well where long casts or big baits are necessary. Also, baitcasting reels are better for bottom fishing and jigging.

Reels with a closed face and line guide are used for working lighter lures and baits. Open-face reels without a line guide work better for casting or jigging because the line can be let out and retrieved more quickly.

One potential problem with baitcasting rods and reels comes when casting. If the spool is turning faster than the line is leaving the rod, the line gets backed up and explodes into a tangled mess called a "bird’s nest." If the backlash isn’t too severe, it can usually be picked out by pulling line off the reel.

To slow your cast, most baitcasting reels have either a magnetic, centrifugal or electronic cast control. But even with the best cast control, you still need to learn to use your thumb to slow the speed of the spool.

Saltwater Trolling

saltwater trolling rod

A saltwater trolling rod is a beefed-up version of its baitcasting cousin with a revolving spool reel that sits on top of the rod.

Saltwater trolling reels typically use a lever drag system instead of a star drag. This allows you to set the maximum drag, then adjust the amount of pressure with a lever on the side of the saltwater trolling reel. These reels also carry a lot of line and have large bodies to handle the extreme pressure of fighting a big fish.

Saltwater trolling rods are shorter and stouter than casting rods with a notched butt that fits into the gimbals on a fighting belt or chair. Saltwater trolling rods either use high-strength round eyes or roller guides to support the line.

Saltwater trolling rods and reels are categorized by the line-test that they are intended to support. A 20-pound combo will tackle smaller fish including sailfish, dolphin and white marlin; while a 130-pound outfit will subdue monster billfish and bluefin tuna.

Saltwater trolling rods used for stand-up fishing will usually be shorter with a longer butt, while rods made to be used in a fighting chair will be longer with a shorter butt. Lighter action trolling combos also make good heavy-duty bottom fishing and bait fishing rods.

Saltwater Jigging Rods and Reels

jigging reel

Fishing with metal jigs is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but in recent years the method has taken on a new life with the invention of vertical and rubber jigs.

Vertical jigging uses high-speed rods and reels to retrieve a streamlined metal lure at top speeds. On the other hand, rubber jigs are designed to bounce slowly and hover off the bottom. These techniques require specialized tackle to either work a lure very quickly or very slowly.

For vertical jigging, use a medium-fast spinning or casting rod with a whippy tip that will quickly retrieve the jig. Vertical jigs require high-speed reels with a retrieve ratio of 6:1 or faster that can hold hundreds of yards of braided line.

Rubber jigs, on the other hand, are designed to move slowly and hover over their target. These jigs require an 8-foot, light-action rod that allows the fish to nibble its way to the hook without feeling any resistance. A reel with a slow retrieve ratio (below 5:1) will apply steady pressure to set the hook. Braided line and a highly sensitive rod will allow the angler to feel the slightest tap of a fish.

Tools of the Trade

fishing pliers

Having got the rod and the reel, perhaps invest a little more in a good tackle box, proper pliers, gaff and a decent selection of lures, hooks and line.  Nothing can be more frustrating than hooking a good sized Mahi Mahi, only to loose it due to cheap tackle, you get back what you put in.  Consider investing in a fish finder, no longer do you have to go to the expense of lifting your boat to have one installed, there are now many independent devices on the market, many with accompanying apps for the technology minded.

Saltwater Fishing Tips

Catch-and-Release Fishing

Many anglers choose to release the fish they catch. However, sometimes fish are so injured by the catch that their odds of surviving back in the water are poor. Here are some tips to improve a fish's chances of living to fight another day:

  • Keep the fight short by using heavier tackle.
  • Use a circle hook or crush the barb on a J-hook to avoid injuring the fish.
  • Never keep a fish out of the water longer than you can hold your breath.
  • The slime that covers a fish protects it from infection, so use wet hands or gloves when you handle the fish. A dehooker lets you remove the hook without touching the fish.
  • Never dangle a fish by its jaw, and always support its body with your hands.
  • When releasing a deep-sea bottomfish, use a venting tool to relieve the air from the fish's air bladder.

Using good catch-and-release practices will help ensure the fish survives after being released.

Keep a Fishing Log

With so many factors affecting whether or not fish bite, recording details about the conditions after each trip will help you recognize patterns in fish behavior. Note the moon phase, tide phase, cloud cover, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, air and water temperature, and precipitation. Also record what baits worked, how the fish responded and the most productive locations.

At the beginning of each fishing season, review your notes from previous years to look for conditions or tackle that were productive. Getting in the habit of keeping a fishing journal will get you in the habit of catching more fish.

Cleaning and Cutting

Properly storing and cleaning your fish is the first step to preparing it for the table. As soon as you land a fish chill it. To improve the quality of the meat, drain the blood by cutting the fish across a major artery. Sharks and salmon should be gutted as soon as they are landed and immediately packed with ice. 

Follow these basic rules and you will soon be an expert fish cleaner!  Unless you are going to fillet the fish or remove the skin, the scales must be removed from the fish first thing.
fish scaler

  1. Start by giving the fish a good rinse under cold running water, as the water will loosen the scales.
  2. Then, lay the fish on top of several sheets of newspaper. This is so that the scales fall directly onto the paper, which can then be thrown away.
  3. Grasp the fish firmly by the tail and with the blunt edge of a knife, start to scrape away the scales, moving from the tail end to the head.
  4. Rinse the fish under running water to get rid of any scales that have not fallen onto the paper.
  5. Turn the fish over and repeat on the other side.
  6. Check that all the scales have been removed by running a finger against the grain of the fish. It is important to remove all of the scales, as you won't want them appearing on your dinner plate.
  7. Alternatively, you can cook the fish by your chosen method and then remove the skin before serving, which would also mean that the scales are removed.
For a moist, juicy fish, remove the scales but leave the skin on through cooking, as most of the moisture and flavor is contained within the skin of the fish. If you remove the skin, you may find that your fish dries out quite a lot and becomes somewhat flavorless, particularly when grilling or baking it.

So, scaling the fish wasn't too bad and the job could be avoided if you cook the fish first and then remove the skin afterwards. Removing the guts though, if cooking the fish whole, cannot be avoided. It is not a job for the squeamish either.

The guts and entrails must be removed from the fish in the same way that the giblets must be removed from a chicken. If the entrails are left inside the fish, it will spoil the taste and flavor and could leave you feeling quite ill.

This process is what is known as cleaning the fish and the methods are different according to the type of fish you are cleaning.

Cleaning round fish

In round fish types such as cod, herring or haddock, the guts are found in the belly of the fish. Therefore to gut and clean a round fish you need to carry out the following steps:

  1. With a sharp knife cut along the abdomen of the fish into the flesh to open it up. Start just behind the gills to just above the tail.
  2. Scrape out the guts and discard. Wrap them up in paper first.
  3. Rinse under cold water to clean and remove any traces of blood.
  4. Rub the cavity with rock salt in order to remove any black skin.
  5. The inside of the fish should now be empty.
You may choose to leave the head and tail in place if you are cooking the fish whole but the eyes and gills must be removed. Alternatively, you can cut the head off just below the gills, through the backbone and cut the tail off too or the tail can be left in place.

In some cases the gills can be removed just by pulling them out, whilst in others you may have to cut them out with scissors. Use the scissors to trim off the fish's fins also.

Cleaning flat fish

The entrails of flat fish such as plaice, sole or skate are located in a cavity that is situated behind the head of the fish. To remove them, a semicircular cut must be made behind the head and just under the gills. Open the cavity with your fingers and remove the entrails with your hands or with a spoon. Rinse the fish thoroughly under cold running water. Lay the fish on a board and open the gills. The gills may be either pulled out or severed at the bone and cut off.

How to skin the fish

Not all fish need to be skinned. Leaving the skin on during cooking will help to retain moisture and flavor, which is particularly useful for delicate white fish such as cod. If you leave the skin in tact, remember that you must scale the fish instead.

Skinning a whole round fish

Most round fish are cooked with the skin on, although the skin can be removed after cooking but before serving.

To skin a round fish such as cod or herring, make a cut with a sharp knife across the skin of the fish, just below the head.

Loosen the skin with your fingers and then pull it down towards the tail in one big strip. Cut the skin off with the knife. Repeat on the other side.

Skinning a whole flat fish

The darker top side of the fish must be removed before cooking, but the white side of skin may be left on.
  1. Lay the fish down on a board and cut gently into the skin, just above the tail.
  2. Place your thumb into the slit and carefully loosen the skin around the sides.
  3. Grasp and hold the fish up by the tail and pull the skin down towards the head.
  4. Cut the skin with scissors.

Skinning fillets of fish

The skin may easily be removed from a fillet of flat fish by carrying out the following steps:
  1. Lay the fillet on a clean board skin-side down and with the tail pointing towards you.
  2. Make an incision into the flesh, at the tail end of the fish. Hold the knife at an angle and cut the flesh away from the skin.
  3. Keep the knife almost flat against the skin of the fish the whole time whilst cutting.
  4. In one big cut, separate the skin from the flesh by slowly and gently cutting from side to side and tearing the flesh from the skin. Hold the tail in one hand and cut the skin off by cutting away from your body.

See, that wasn't too bad!  Now that you have your cleaned fish, take a look at a few ideas of how to cook it.  FISH RECIPES...


Where would we be today without a handful of electronics to help us in our endeavors.  From digital weighing scales to fish finders.  You name it, it's out there, something for every fishing occasion. 

Some fishermen like to carry ice on-board to immediately ice/chill their catch, alternatively you could invest in an icer.  No matter how you keep your fish after landing it, always ensure that it is kept cold to avoid spoilage, and possibly food poisoning.

Always insure that you have the right to fish where you are fishing, and that you are not disturbing a reef, or natural reserve.  Never discard old gear, especially fishing line and lures.

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