Of course 150 years ago EVERYBODY fished from sailboats, so don’t let anybody tell you “it can’t be done.” We catch all the fish we can eat, and have for the last several years. When we visit friends or family, dinner doesn’t start with a trip to the grocery store, but with a raid on Harmonie‘s frezeers!
While we fish from a sailboat, and some of our advice is focused to people doing the same, those of you who fish from a humble skiff or a high powered sportfish will learn a technique or two that will be helpful.
Of course, there are some types of fishing that a sailboat is not going to be able to participate in. For example: High speed trolling for wahoo. Not many sailboats can do the sustained 15 to 17 knots needed for this style of fishing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t catch wahoo.
We fish two different styles from our boat: Trolling while we are out on the ocean passagemaking from one place to another, or going out on the boat specifically to catch fish.
Fish we catch while trolling on passage are our “bonus fish”. Normally, we are moving ahead of weather, and trying to get to our destination as quickly as possible. Although we work at trolling and take it seriously, it is not what I would call really serious fishing. It also represents a tiny fraction of the time we have available for fishing. For most people on sailboats, this is the only kind of fishing that they ever do. I’ll try to help you catch more fish while you are trolling and hopefully, for those of you who are interested I can open up another whole world to you!
One of the big changes I made in moving onto the sailboat and making it my primary fishing platform, is I am not longer looking to catch the biggest fish that swims. We are catching fish for food. Our limitation is the amount of room we have in our two chest freezers onboard Harmonie. As exciting and fun as catching a 350lb tuna would be, we just have no use for that much tuna meat, and we REALLY love tuna! I have had to recalibrate my fishing style to target smaller fish. Anything over 100lbs is just not of interest to us. This also means we almost always stop fishing when our freezer is full!
We do have some limitations in the way we fish that can reduce our catch. Mostly because we are slow, so running off to chase down a school of fish feeding under a flock of birds out on the horizon is unrealistic. On the other hand, we can run our boat all year and cover 15,000 miles using less fuel than a 72 foot battlewagon sportfisher needs for a single day of trolling. Seriously. We do all our sailing for a year, cover 10,000 to 15,000 miles and use 400 to 600 gallons of diesel. When we were at the Palm Beach Boat Show there was a 40 foot center cockpit fishing boat with four 350HP engines that used a total of 150 gallons of fuel an HOUR!
Because we have essentially unlimited range, and are more seaworthy than most powerboats, we fish in places most recreational fisherman just can’t ever get to. How many people have had the chance to troll lures over a seamount half way between California and Hawaii?
Pretty much ANY ocean-going sailboat can be used as a platform to catch as many fish as the crew can eat. A little bit of time, and some investment in knowledge and gear, and you’ll never be visiting the fish market again!