Trolling on Passage

May 25, 2022 by Capt. Jeff Werner

Transatlantic magic begins when dinner is on the line.

There is a Zen to passage making under sail. It is a unique combination of wind, waves, and the rhythms of the watch bill. Whether the passage is three days or 30 days, it is the time spent off watch that is most important to crew members. That time off watch, once all maintenance tasks and other shipboard duties are done, is usually the most personally fulfilling while on board.

Fishing in the clear blue water offshore or mid-ocean floats my boat, so to speak. On a sailboat underway, fishing means trolling. And since sailboats average 5 to 7 knots, they sail along in the sweet spot of trolling speeds.

Selecting lures

The essential tool in trolling is the lure. The key then is selecting the proper lure, and no one sailor can agree on what is the best lure. It is a subject of great debate, superstition, strong opinions, and blind faith — and that is part of the joy of fishing. Whatever lures are chosen, bring a box load of them since losing lures is part of the trolling process. Lures are bitten off, slip off due to improper rigging, and may even remain hooked in the mouth of the big one that got away when there was no choice but to cut the line.

Fish on!

The rig can be as simple as a Cuban yoyo reel, or as classic as a saltwater open reel on a deep-sea fishing rod. When a fish strikes and the bungee cord stretches on the yoyo line or the clicking of the drag on an open reel is heard, the adrenaline begins pumping and it’s time to play the fish and reel it in. That can be triumph or heartbreak. Many fish are lost at the very end of the fight.

Why fish?

Over the past 30 years as a yacht captain, I have caught a wide variety of dorado, tuna and kingfish. Up until this past winter, the fish I caught would become a bonus dinner for that evening. Fresh fish, prepared whole, in steaks or filets, easily trumps the planned spaghetti Bolognese. But then, last December, during a 25-day transatlantic passage, an onboard freezer failed and pounds of defrosted steaks, shrimp, chicken, pork chops, and hamburger had to be tossed overboard because of spoilage. Fishing became the only source of protein available. Thankfully, Poseidon favored us, and we caught as many as two dorado (mahi-mahi) per day, just when we needed it the most.

JEFF WERNER HAS BEEN A YACHT CAPTAIN FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS. HE IS A CERTIFIED INSTRUCTOR FOR THE RYA, USCG, AND U.S. SAILING, AND OWNS DIESEL DOCTOR (MYDIESELDOCTOR.COM).

Topics: