I write this with a foggy mind, and a sore body – the night before last, I took my sons on their first overnighter on the ocean. If you’ve never tried an overnight fishing trip on the ocean, trust me, it’s unlike anything else you’ll ever do. The stars are shockingly bright, the fish are usually snapping, and the experience is like being in a different universe.
If, that is, you have a good trip. A bad overnighter, on the other hand, can be really, really bad. As usual, weather is what makes the difference. You really need a perfect weather-window to enjoy a trip like this. Otherwise it can be an absolute misery. When the seas kick up merely trying to stand up and let out a line can be tough in the inky darkness. People prone to seasickness usually end up curled in a ball, heaving. And landing big fish goes from difficult to being nearly impossible. So choose your timing carefully. All of that said, here are a few secrets that make overnighting on the ocean a rewarding experience.
1. Bring a headlamp. Even if the boat’s well-lighted, there are always compartments and corners that remain dark. And if you’ve ever tried tying a palomar knot in low light, you know how important that illumination is going to be.
2. Unless you’re on a giant sportfish with a climate-controlled cabin, bring a couple of towels, sealed up in separate plastic bags. Everything gets wet at night on the ocean because of the ever-present dew. From the time the sun goes down to several hours after sunup you’ll be wet, everything you sit on will be wet, and everything you touch will be wet. Sealing up those towels will get you a couple of “dry breaks,” which greatly increase the comfort level.
3. Leave the boat’s spreader lights off, until you’re trying to land a fish. If you leave them on all the time the glare blinds you, and you can’t see anything beyond the gunwales.
4. Hang a green fishing light over the side. The more powerful it is, the better. These things attract hordes of fish and other sea critters which not only improves the fishing, but is also is quite entertaining.
5. Bring lots of extra food – about double the norm. Everyone will stay up late or not go to sleep at all, and as a result, you need plenty of extra “fuel” for your body.