QUICK GUIDE TO BOAT FISHING AT NIGHT: LESSONS LEARNT
Six years ago, I landed a job out west working two weeks on with two weeks off. It was great while it lasted, because it gave me two weeks off every month for a few years, to do whatever I wanted, which always included a couple of games of golf, and a day or two in the boat, fishing.
What I found more and more, depending on the weather, of course, was the desire to sleep over on the boat to extend my fishing time significantly, and therefore my catch, my enjoyment, and reduce the hassles associated with boat ramps and the like.
I have a 5.02m fibreglass Savage Cuddy Cabin, with a 90hp Evinrude E-tec. Several of my mates also said they were interested in doing the same thing, but obviously did not have the same amount of free time that I enjoyed.
So I set myself the task of doing the homework and going out at nights.
ASKING ONESELF THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
With that, however, comes a whole new set of disciplines. Here are some of the questions that I had to ask myself right away:
#1. Was my boat ideally set up for 24 hours a day?
#2. Was I serious about the quality of sleep I would need?
#3. Was I properly prepared with food and beverages?
#4. Did I have all the right safety and navigational gear?
#5. Did anyone know where I would be and how to contact me?
So for the next couple of months, I stayed out for two nights every time I went fishing just to refine my ideas for what I would need to improve on my boat, which ended up being just about everything.
2-NIGHT BOATING TRIP CAMPAIGN OVER SEVERAL MONTHS TO LEARN
Firstly, one of the things I have to mention is that no boating is “cheap” but that doesn’t mean it has expensive either. You can spend money wisely to have the quality gear you need. Look for genuine bargains and don’t ever scrimp on safety. We often scrimp on the wrong things and spend out big we shouldn’t have either.
One night I was out by myself, anchored up near Moreton Island, just 50 metres away from a large beacon. During the day I had caught my anchor on a bit of reef or something and it had taken a while to free it, I thought nothing of it. The rope looked fine, the chain looked fine and the anchor appeared to be okay. I ended up anchored near the beacon for the night.
With my little white anchor light on, I laid back in the bunk around 10pm and dozed off. About 1am, I was woken by the heaving of rough seas and a loud noise that I could not place. It was so dark, I couldn’t see a thing. What was really confusing was the fact that there was no wind, no clouds or storm brewing, and when I looked around for that beacon to get my bearings, I couldn’t see it. I grabbed a large torch and tried to look around, but nothing. Panic started to set in.
Eventually, my eyes adjusted to the dark and I realised that a massive container ship was passing within 50 metres of my boat and I was adrift. I quickly started the motor and headed away from the ship but was mindful of my anchor rope. When I felt I was safe, I pulled up the anchor rope, only to find that the D-shackle on the end of the chain was gone along with my anchor.
LESSONS LEARNT FROM JUST THE FIRST 2-NIGHT BOATING TRIP
#1. Double check everything, particularly if you intend to anchor close to shipping lanes.
#2. Improve the brightness of the anchor light and elevate it.
#3. Upgrade the GPS/fishfinder so it has a drift alarm.
#4. Invest in an anchor winch for fast retrieval and drop (when I can afford it).
#5. Replace the old 2-way with a new VHF that actually works.
#6. Join as a member of a volunteer coast guard or similar. This is just like RACQ but on the water. It only costs about $75 per year – so just do it.
The other things I learnt over the next few months were just as important.
INVEST IN DECENT BEDDING
Get a decent mattress to lie on, particularly as you get older, your back will appreciate it. You spend hours standing around, bending over a bait board, in and out of the esky and doing everything else that goes along with fishing, all while the boat is rocking. When you lie down at night, you will really feel that you’ve been working hard at counterbalancing all day long. It’s very obvious in a very tired back, which means you’ll need a good rest to feel any good again in the morning. Without decent bedding, you just won’t get the recovery you need.
DON’T MESS WITH OUTBOARD MOTORS YOU CAN’T RELY ON
If you don’t have 100% confidence in your outboard motor to start the first time, every time, run efficiently and get you back safely, get rid of it!
KIT YOURSELF WITH A GOOD LED LIGHT INSTALL AND DUAL BATTERIES
Invest in good quality LED lighting and get more fitted up than you think you will probably need. It’s also a good idea to run a dual battery system with voltage meters, particularly if you operate an anchor winch, a heap of accessories and lights, and leave the stereo and fishfinder on constantly.
So there you have it, some of the basics with more lessons to come soon. Sometimes, you will find that by doing something properly on your boat, you also end up enjoying your boat lifestyle a whole lot more than you expected – see my next article on the reasons to choose a professional boat electrician, coming soon.
That’s really great advice from Rusty, and there’s nothing like getting the first-hand experience to learn hard way, but why do we always have to do that? There are some great points raised here, especially when it comes to thinking ahead. Is there anything that you can add to help?