Rigging For The Salt
Published: Friday, May 11, 2018
By: Dan Armitage, Buckeye Sportsman Radio
Whether going on vacation or as part of the boat testing I do for fishing magazines, a couple of times each year I equip a boat for temporary saltwater angling. It may be the family boat, a pleasure craft designed for use in freshwater, a freshwater fishing boat, or a watercraft designed for use in saltwater but a stock model that has yet to be rigged with any angling options. Over the years, I’ve become efficient at assembling what I need to make any boat ready for marine fishing action, and now keep a kit ready for DIY rigging for saltwater. Here’s what it contains:
Portable VHF Radio - For everything from current weather reports and sea conditions to listening in on local anglers to learn where the fishing action is taking place — let alone being able to summon assistance in the event of an emergency — a VHF radio and spare batteries is essential.
Current charts, both electronic and paper, of the waters you will be boating - The reasons are obvious, and I like Waterproof brand charts because they hold-up well despite being rolled and folded and unrolled and unfolded and getting wet, and they float.
Portable GPS - A GPS will allow you to find fishing spots recommended by friendly bait shop owners and fellow anglers, make a beeline back to the boat ramp regardless of visibility, and, if it has chart capabilities, complement (and hopefully confirm) your paper charts and compass information. Get the accessory plug that allows you to power the unit off the boat’s electrical system, via the accessory receptacle, and keep an extra set of internal batteries handy.
Portable Bait Container - Much of the fishing done in saltwater includes the use of live bait, most commonly shrimp or minnows or crabs, and you need to be able to keep the critters alive and kicking over the course of a fishing day (and night). I’ve taken delivery on too many fishing boats that came equipped with baitwells — but no pumps or plumbing — to leave home without a bait bucket or portable bait container. I like the Frabill Flow Troll bucket because its design allows me to drag it slowly behind the boat to keep water flowing through holes in the bucket to the bait, and bring the pail and its contents aboard without having to place it in a separate bucket or well. Make sure you have a line attached to the handle of any bucket so that it can be tethered to the boat or dock. You can also consider portable battery-powered baitwells, several models and styles of which are available that use everything from small buckets to oversized coolers as their bait basins.
Cutting Board and Knife - Saltwater fishing often involves cutting fish for chum and bait. I learned the hard way that composite hatch covers show every slice of a knife used to dice a fish positioned atop one, so I take along a common cutting board of wood or nylon. Recently, I found nylon cutting boards fitted with suction cups, allowing them to hold onto flat surfaces, that work well. As for a knife, my wife prefers that we take two when heading to the ocean: one for cutting bait and one for filleting the catch for dinner.
Needle-Nosed Pliers - Lots of saltwater gamefish have teeth, and because you may be using live or cut bait that fish tend to swallow, teeth or no teeth, you’ll need the extra reach offered by the slender jaws of these pliers. The wire-cutting capability will come in handy when you have to twist wire leaders, cut heavy mono or superbraids, or to clip off a hook barb before removing it from your hide.
Boga Grip - These lip-locking devices allow you to land even the toothiest fish without a net, or to control a fish in the water boat-side while removing the hook when practicing catch and release. I like the original, stainless-steel Boga brand, which are very well made, stand up to the salt, and have a scale built into the handle to allow you to weigh your catch without touching the fish.
Extra Anchor and Line - I have a five-gallon bucket filled with 75 feet of ½-inch diameter Dacron line attached to five feet of chain and a grapple-style anchor that goes aboard every boat I rig and test for saltwater. I take along a ten-pound Danforth as well, until I confirm with my own eyes that the boat has a traditional anchor of adequate size and enough line to hold the boat. I take the extra line and the grapple anchor aboard regardless, and use the hook to hold me on wrecks and rocks and have the line as a back-up to extend the rode that comes with the boat in the event I need the extra scope.
Cell Phone - Take your cell phone in a waterproof pouch and program into the speed dial function the numbers of the local US Coast Guard, the harbor- or dockmaster at your host marina, and anyone else you may want to contact if you need assistance on the water.
Mooring Lines - I have four, 10-foot lines of ½ inch Dacron that go in the anchor line bucket. They are looped at one end, so that I can quickly attach them together to have 40 feet of line if I need it, or keep them separate as dock lines, bait bucket tethers, or swim lines.
Landing Net - There are several brands of folding or telescoping landing nets on the market that break down to make transporting and stowing simpler than traveling with traditional nets. You’ll want one with a handle at least three feet long to reach over the side of the boat, and with a hoop diameter of at least 24 inches to handle the catch.
Engine Flush Kit - You’ll want to flush your lower unit free of saltwater after each use, so take a short length of hose with the proper connection for your engine or, as I do, bring along an “ear muff”-style flusher that is adaptable to most lower units. Most car washes at popular coastal boating destinations offer outlets for flushing boat motors, but you may have to supply your own hose.
Extra Deep-Cycle Battery and Portable Charger - An extra deep-cycle battery aboard serves as a back-up to the starting battery and offers more juice as needed to power accessories that you may not be accustomed to operating, including sonar, GPS, baitwells, and livewells that may drain their primary cell before you are aware of their draw. The charger can replenish spent boat batteries overnight.
Anti-Corrosion Spray - I spray down the trailer and lower unit before and after every trip to the coast, the latter following a thorough rinse with freshwater ASAP after pulling the rig from the brine for the final time.
Sunscreen - Chances are that you will spend more than your usual amount of time out under the sun after trailering your boat to the coast (it’s vacation time, right?) and, doubled with the fact that the sun’s rays may be stronger than those you experience back home, make it imperative that you protect yourself with a good sunscreen.
If you’re not including the family boat in your vacations or fishing trips to the coast, you’re missing out on part of the fun of boat ownership. Properly prepared for use in the brine and with a few basic accessories, any boat can serve as an angling platform for saltwater fishing action.
This article first appeared in the Launch Issue (May/Jun) 2018 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.