By Captain Kevin Deerman
Over the last couple of decades there have been some great debates between tournament committees, competitors and conservationists on whether kill tournaments are good or bad for our sport. Although recreational anglers are legally allowed to harvest billfish, post a photo of your crew with a dead marlin on Instagram and get ready for the keyboard warriors to attack. The truth of the matter is that many of the teams you see bringing fish to the scales probably release over 99 percent of the billfish that they catch.
Step aboard the 72-foot Bayliss Old Reliable with a private tour from Nick Smith as he takes us around his new boat, which splashed in July of 2021. The custom-built craft was specifically designed for chasing billfish on fly and was recently prepped for a multi-year Pacific tour.
And the day before Old Reliable shipped out, Nick Smith and Capt. Chip Shafer provided InTheBite with a guided walk-through to talk about the boat’s personal touches and offshore capabilities. It is rare to see a boat so personally customized for one goal and that is chasing and catching billfish on fly.
Clay Shidler’s Hang ‘Em High Sportfishing fleet runs 1,400 charter days per year, taking anglers from across the U.S. and around the world out to enjoy the epic variety of fishing opportunities found off the Florida Gulf Coast. They fish inshore waters for popular species like snook, redfish, tarpon and speckled trout, hit offshore wrecks and reefs for big grouper, mutton snapper and cobia, and chase pelagic wahoo, dolphin and blackfin tuna offshore. During the months of August and September, they switch to fishing out of Marathon in the Florida Keys. Thousands of hours on the water, thousands of miles traveled and enough fishing action to keep hundreds of customers happy each year.
By Capt. Adam Peeples
My entire fishing career has revolved around fishing center consoles. One of my earliest memories of saltwater fishing was on the back of an old Mako 258 catching spanish and king mackerel with my granddad and uncle out of Mexico Beach, Florida.
Technological developments in the past 20 or so years, such as the realization of reliable 4-stroke motor technology and significant advances in marine electronics, have turned today’s center console fishing boats into efficient, fast, and reliable fishing platforms that far surpass the abilities of their predecessors.
By Dale Wills
I recently returned from a visit to Marsh Harbour, Bahamas for the Production vs. Custom Shootout run by legend Skip Smith. This was my first time returning to the islands since Dorian devastated the Abacos in September 2019. I stayed at the Abaco Beach Resort and the marina looks better today than it ever did. The new tournament scale is awesome and I’d bet a giant sea monster couldn’t tear it down as it is now made from steel beams. If only that precious ground under the scale could talk. I have fond memories of big marlin and boats backing under it to celebrate.
By Elliott Stark
You’ve heard them. You must have… After all, there are just so many… “How do you wind up with a little money in the fishing business? Start with a lot…” “BOAT – bust out another thousand.” “If you have to ask how much it costs, you probably can’t afford it.”
The ability of boats to eat money is legendary. It has spawned jokes, t-shirts, and bumper stickers of all kind. Rather than being simply fairy tales made up out of thin air, these sayings reflect a level of truth – boats can certainly be expensive.
There are, however, a select group of individuals who are able to consistently use their boats to generate income. The following is a look at several strategies used successfully by boat owners to make money with their boats.
With apologies to the owner/operator of the charter program, this view looks into a few less commonly practiced scenarios for boat-driven money-making.
Boat Economics 101 and the Case for Boat Management
One popular avenue to generate revenue with a boat is to leave the boat at a popular charter destination and enter into a yacht management agreement.
Under this scenario, the boat owner hires a third-party company to take care of the boat and book charters on it. The revenue made by chartering the boat can offset the cost of boat ownership, while allowing owners to fish aboard while they are in town. There are some definite advantages to this approach.
Before you can wrap your mind around how to use your boat to generate income, it helps to understand the expenses associated with keeping and operating a vessel. As owner of Maverick Yachts and a principal of Maverick Costa Rica, Larry Drivon understands the economic variables associated with boat ownership from three separate perspectives.
He is a boat owner, he owns a boat building operation and is involved in yacht management, as well.
“There are three operating expense categories. The first are fixed costs. You incur these even if you never leave the dock. These include insurance, crew, dockage, painting, etc. Next, there are daily costs that arise when you use the boat. These include fuel, ice, bait, food, drinks and everything related to running the boat.
Finally, there are hourly costs,” Drivon relates. For the hourly cost category, Maverick Costa Rica uses two inputs – hours between oil changes and an engine reserve. For a 36-foot Maverick walk around, the oil change figure comes out to $2.00 per hour. The engine reserve, which factors the average hourly cost between engine rebuilds, is $8.75. Therefore, the factored cost is $10.75 for every hour that the boat runs.
“People consistently forget reserves for maintenance,” Drivon says. Neglecting to include this into the balance sheet can artificially inflate the profit margin – until you get hit with an astronomical repair bill that eats all the money you thought you made by chartering the boat. From Maverick’s perspective, the maintenance reserves are a line item in the fixed expense category.
“The charter deal is not as simple as people think it might be,” Drivon continues. “First you need to determine whether you are trying to make money or trying to offset expenses. Before you decide on either perspective, you need to know what it’s going to cost. That’s the first thing.”
“Most people who own a charter boat don’t plan on being the hands-on manager. That leaves two options. You can work with a management company or can opt for captain and crew management,” Drivon says.
“At Maverick we charge $650 per month to manage the boat. That’s turn key. It includes all of the work with municipalities, taxes and fees, and proper licenses. Owners get a monthly profit and loss statement and a quarterly balance sheet. Management consists of a booking staff (for charters) and a representative on the dock every morning to make sure to get people on the right boats and to distribute food, etc. We also have a guy on the dock when the boat gets back in the afternoon.”
Once you understand what is included in a management agreement and get a handle on the costs of boat ownership, it is time to determine how much a boat needs to work in order to break even. To do this, you simply compute your fixed costs (slip, insurance, crew salary, management fee, fishing tackle expense, and maintenance reserves). Next, determine an average daily expense rate per day of boat use. Then, assign an average number of engine hours per day of charter fishing (generally 10 hours) and multiply it by the hourly expense rate.
This will give you the daily input for your hourly expense category. Finally, assign the rate that you charge clients for a day of charter fishing – this figure is money coming in (everything else measures money going out). Once you have the annual fixed cost number, inputs for the average daily cost and average hourly cost and the charter rate, you can begin multiplying everything by number of days chartered.
For simplicity’s sake, you can see what it would look like if you chartered 75 days, 100 days, 125 days and 150 days. Up until your breakeven point, the profit brought in by charter fishing is outweighed by the fixed costs of boat ownership.
At some point on the curve, there is a breakeven – at which time the money you bring in by chartering your boat equals the expenses you shell out paying for all the expenses. From that point on, each day chartered generates income. Once you’ve got a handle on all of the numbers, think about your objective – making money or offsetting costs.
The breakeven point for the Maverick 36, using the company’s management pro forma, is 112 days chartered per year. In 2017, the fleet managed by Maverick Costa Rica chartered an average of 180 trips – the low vessel was 177, the high was 183. Getting a grasp on the costs associated and revenue at different levels of charter activity are central to determining whether yacht management is the right course for you.
Using Your Boat to Exploit Economic Opportunity
Based in Surfside, Texas, Captain Anthony Lopez is experienced in many types of sportfishing operation. His next venture is one that is conceptualized to leverage the multiple layers of economic opportunity in the Gulf of Mexico. Lopez is currently building a 46-foot Mussel Ridge out of Maine. The Down East style boat has a large open deck and forward cabin. It is endowed with a 17-feet beams and the ability to cruise in the low 20s.
Lopez’ vision in bringing this beast from the Down East to Texas involves a hybrid model comprised of commercial and charter fishing activities. In many ways, Captain Johnny Walker and his 57-foot Blackwell, the Kitana, has blazed the trail for this type of endeavor. “It’s a hybrid model that incorporates a little bit of several things that the boat can do – charters, corporate type meetings and three to five-day long-range trips in the Gulf,” Lopez relates.
“Then there is the commercial fishing aspect. Ultimately, we’d like to be able to sell sustainably caught fish directly to restaurants. There is a diversity of opportunity in the Gulf – bottom fishing, reef fish, deepwater pelagics – the boat has a greenstick, day and night time swordfishing. We believe the hybrid model includes all the ingredients for a long term, successful family business.”
“A lot of the traditional commercial boats are older and can only do five to ten knots – they can only slow boat out. This is a converted lobster boat that can cruise at 20 knots, enabling us to take advantage of shorter weather windows,” Lopez describes. This is a serious advantage when fishing the spring, fall and winter months in the Gulf. “The boat will be a work horse that folds 1,000
gallons of diesel. With a range of 800-miles and a Seakeeper to provide comfort for charters and safety when commercial fishing, it is a great foundation.”
When it comes to making money, Captain Anthony plans for a diversified approach that is flexible enough to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. “We anticipate the revenue breakdown will likely be in the rage of 70/30 or 60/40 commercial to charter,” he says. “The boat will tournament fish, too – either chartered or privately funded entries. Texas and Louisiana tournaments, mainly.”
Selling Your Build Slot
There are some people wh o are able to make money on boats without ever splashing them. These days many builders are waitlisted for months or years. With more people looking for boats than boats available, those who are in the build process can turn their slot into cash. This scenario occurs most predictably when the demand for boats exceeds the supply and when people are spending money. It is as much a function of the economy as it is the quality and relative scarcity of high end sportfishers available.
Ritchie Howell has been building custom boats in North Carolina for a long time. He has seen a number of these scenarios first hand. “When things were booming, I had four boats going at once. I had a guy sell a slot for $50,000 just to jump back two slots,” Howell describes. “Another time we had just finished a boat and I begged the owner to put it in the boat show because I needed
something to show.
A guy from Texas came up to him and said he wanted to buy it. He said, ‘It’s in the boat show, it must be for sale. What will it take?’ He wrote a number on a piece of paper and gave it to the owner. It was a big number… and the guy was ready right there with a check. The owner got so mad, he got on a plane and left the boat show that afternoon.”
“Most guys that go through the build process could make out pretty good, but they’ve waited so long they don’t want to part with it. You can’t mass produce custom boats,” Howell says. There is another perhaps more popularly utilized method of turning boats into cash.
Rehabbing and Flipping
While the term flipping the hull is generally used to describe the step in the build process when the boat first emerges from the shed, there are those who consistently turn a buck (and have a good time) rehabbing boats and flipping them. “When I was charter fishing, I used to buy boats that had been run into the ground. I’d fix them up and turn around and sell them,” Howell says. “There is pretty good money in refurbing something if you do it right.”
Howell’s latest refit project is a major one. He purchased the hull of the Waste Knot, the Buddy Cannady-built boat that famously sank on the show “Wicked Tuna.” When the vessel hit something at speed, the collision knocked the rudders through the hull and it sank 11-miles offshore of Oregon Inlet. Howell purchased the hull after the boat washed up on the beach. Howell has the boat
at his shop and puts workers on it as he has time. While he has had offers to purchase the boat, once it is ready to go it will be a charter boat for his son.
While there are many tips and things to consider when actually fixing the boat, what should you look for in a prospective sportfish flipper?
“I always looked for boats that perform well any way. Building styles change over time, so a lot of times there are ways to tighten up a boat. I’d look for boats that shove easy and are dry but may have been built with old techniques. I’d do things like put in stiff knees and cut out old frames and just stiffen the boat up,” Howell describes.
“BC (Buddy Cannady) used to build a boat and then charter fish with it in the
summer and commercial fish with it in the winter. He’d then sell the boat in the spring,” Ritchie continues. “I’d do something similar. I’d buy an old boat and charter fish it. I’d fix it up over the winter and sell it. When I was doing it, I was about a boat every two years.”
In addition to his background in boat building, Howell’s position within the North Carolina charter fishing community helped with these projects. “Most of the time, I’d know the history of the boat. What it could do and how it could perform,” he says. “I’d look at some boats and they would have been too big of projects. You’ve really got to have a good foundation to work from.”
“With the Waste Knot, I knew its history and its performance, but also its weaknesses,” he says. “I’ve cut out seen busted frames, took out old knees and glassed things back into place.” The boat is progressing nicely. “I’ve actually had quite a few offers to buy it. If it were for anyone else but my son, I’d have sold it,” Howell says with a laugh. Curious to see how refitting an older, worn-out boat can revitalize a sportfisher?
Check out Captain William Howell, who will be fishing the boat formerly known as Waste Knot out of Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.
Have you ever wondered why so many sportfishing boats are named after owners’ wives? Perhaps this is another reflection of how expensive boats can be. “She can’t divorce me for buying the boat… Afterall, I
named it after her!” All jokes, sayings and bumper stickers aside, boats can certainly cost quite a bit of money, but they can also be used to offset the cost of ownership or even make a bit of money.
Do you have any comments or questions for us? We’d love to hear from you.
By Gary Caputi
Seakeeper gyrostabilizers have revolutionized the boating industry. The story of how beneficial Seakeepers can be for those who use them has been widely told. How they are made and exactly how they work, however, is as fascinating as the results they produce.
At its most basic level, a Seakeeper works by creating torque through rapidly spinning a flywheel inside of its housing. The force of the torque is then transferred to the hull of the boat. The force of this application keeps the boat steady, even as it would otherwise roll with wave action.
Here is the expert breakdown: How Seakeepers Work Andrew Semprevivo, Seakeeper’s President and CEO, provides some context as to how Seakeeper units reduce the roll of the boat on the ocean.
“A gyroscopic stabilizer is the most unintuitive technology you could imagine, but that is the magic of it. Something so small, quiet, and completely internal of the hull is creating such a great impact,” he said as we got into the operational dynamics of the system.
He explained that the concept was not new and showed me pictures of a ship with two massive ball-shaped gyros from way back in 1905. The systems fell in and out of favor in the shipping industry because they were so large and heavy, but the basic principles were the same.
A Seakeeper is composed of a heavy flywheel that spins horizontally at a high rate of speed inside of a ball-shaped housing. To achieve its desired result, a Seakeeper applies torque created by the rapid spin of the flywheel using the angular momentum. Angular momentum represents to gyroscopes the equivalent of what horsepower is for an engine.
Angular momentum is the product of the flywheel mass, flywheel diameter, and how fast the flywheel is spinning (angular velocity, technically speaking). It is the angular momentum of the unit that will determine the amount of torque available over time.
The faster the gyro tilts (precesses), the higher the peak torque that is available. Instantaneous peak torque, however, would not be the most effective use of the gyro’s angular momentum. To understand why requires a bit of a physics lesson. Ocean waves are not single bursts of energy. Rather, waves apply force to the boat sinusoidally (in a wave-like manner) over a period of three to seven seconds.
Seakeeper uses its active control system to apply the force of the gyro to the boat in the most effective way possible. Seakeepers precisely apply torque to counter the sinusoidal application
of the wave force over the course of this three to seven-second period. Simply stated, as waves try to force the boat to roll, Seakeepers apply torque precisely when it best impedes the movement.
The torque created by the flywheel tilting (precessing) fore and aft is then applied to the transverse axis of the boat to dampen movement caused by wave action. The effect of the torque applied precisely in line with the transverse axis of the boat results in the elimination of roll.
If you’ve ever played with one of those toy gyroscopes, you’ve experienced precession. When you hold the spinning toy still you don’t feel any pressure being applied to your hand, but as soon as you begin turning it you can feel it apply force dampening against the movement.
Seakeeper has developed a sophisticated, active control system that combines motion sensors with a computer module that gauges the roll rate of the hull. The Seakeeper then uses its hydraulic braking system to dampen the precession rate and inertia generated by the spinning gyro. The effect of this system is to match the precession (tilt) of the unit to the roll rate of the boat on the waves.
The active control of precession is why you can stop the effects of the unit by locking it in a standby position, even as the flywheel is still spinning at thousands of revolutions per minute. This active control system is also why the Seakeeper can be used in any sea state, at any speed, without the need for manual adjustments. The computer automatically senses any change in conditions and instantaneously adjusts the gyro’s precession with the hydraulic brakes to optimize the torque output with every roll cycle.
How a Seakeeper is Made
The technology that goes into manufacturing a Seakeeper is nothing short of remarkable. The equipment housed in their facility and the expertise of the machinists and technicians that operate the dozens of high-tech milling, balancing and testing machines is on a level commensurate with companies in the aerospace industry building components for fighter jets and the space shuttle.
The heart of the unit is the flywheel. To spin it at such high speeds, 9,750 RPM in some models, requires machining a single massive steel forging. The gyro’s components are ground to tolerances of 1/10,000th of an inch. To put this into perspective, that is roughly 1/3 the diameter of a strand of hair. This level of minute tolerances can only be achieved in a temperature-controlled environment.
Even a few degrees variance can cause expansion or contraction which could alter vital component fit. There are very few “off the shelf” parts available for such an intricate build. The ceramic bearings the flywheel spins on are purpose-built for Seakeeper. Even the lubricants require special properties, so they won’t disperse while operating in a vacuum. The balancing of the flywheel is critical, so the units run smoothly and do not impart vibrations to the boat.
The precision involved became evident when I placed my hand on the flywheel housing of a Seakeeper 26 spinning at 5,000 RPM on a test platform. The movement was almost imperceptible and it was so quiet I had to be told it was actually running. Now that’s precision!
When Seakeeper first went into production almost every component was machined in house. As unit production increased, the company has contracted specialty manufacturers to cast and perform initial machining of certain parts and subassemblies. Today, all of the finishing and assembly is carried out in house to maintain the critical tolerances required and assure overall quality control.
Once the flywheel and housing are complete, the assembly process begins with the installation of the ceramic bearings and the proprietary glycol cooling system components. The housing, consisting of two halves, is reassembled with the flywheel in place. The unit then moves to a test platform where the flywheel is spooled up for an initial run-in period. This ramp up period is critical to evenly dispersing the special bearing grease.
The entire assembly undergoes a second balancing process that uses laser measuring devices to detect even minute vibrations. The housing is then fully sealed and the air is removed, creating a vacuum. The unit is pumped down to zero torr, then backfilled to 10 torr of helium (a Torr is a unit of measure that describes pressure).
Seakeeper units are filled with helium because of its thermal conductivity properties. Together these processes—run-in, creating the vacuum, and baking out the excess grease—take upwards of ten
hours to complete on each unit. That doesn’t even include machining, assembly, or testing.
Upon assembly and testing, the flywheel enclosure is mated to the unit frame and the final assembly process is underway. This stage includes the assembly and integration of the hydraulic brake, motor drive, computer control box, cooling system and wiring harnesses.
The finished Seakeeper then undergoes a series of grueling quality control tests. These tests, designed to measure the unit’s response and effectiveness, include a five-hour stint on a hydraulic tilt table that simulates real world, on board operation. Only after satisfying all of these requirements is a finished Seakeeper crated and prepped for shipping.
The Line Up
With the introduction of the diminutive Seakeeper 1, Seakeeper now offers 10 models that cover the recreational boat market from 23-feet to greater than 85-feet with displacements up to 100 tons. Larger vessels, and those without space for one unit, can be accommodated with multi-unit installations.
Each unit is designed to provide the ideal amount of angular momentum at the rated RPM to impart the necessary torque required to arrest roll for the prescribed vessel size range. All Seakeeper units are designed to reduce vessel roll by up to 95 percent.
The Seakeeper 1, launched in February of 2020, is designed for boats from 20 to 23 feet in length with displacements of up to 5.5 tons. tons. At just 365 lbs., the new Seakeeper 1 features a flush
mount design for easier installation, runs exclusively on 12V DC power, and can be installed virtually anywhere on board.
Do you have any comments or questions for us? We’d love to hear from you.
By Elliott Stark
As the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat. In the fishing world, there is generally more than one way to say just about anything.
If someone wants to refer to a big fish the following, depending on where the person is from, would be perfectly acceptable means of expressing the size of the creature: hog, lunker, sow, mogan, tank, slob, gorilla, donkey, cow, monster, fatty, huge!, giant, pig, a full-grown one, a real one—and those are just the ones that are fit to print (there’s a certain Australian exclamation that is outstanding, too). The following is a breakdown of sportfishing slang.
People: Anglers, Charter Guests, and other Non-Captains
Googan – an inexperienced fisherman that doesn’t know what he is doing. When it is ascribed to a person, it is generally done so with a fair bit of contempt. It is the universal term.
Jack Bag – a googan in North Carolina.
Shmiiii – a crustier name for a googan. It is used by South Florida guys and comes from the Smeagol (pronounced Shmeegal), the awful little creature from Lord of the Rings who’s always after “my precious.” It was provided to us by Capt. Matthew Miller from Pensacola.
Slapper/ Squeezer – Australian terms for someone who is a tool bag or otherwise too much to deal with. The terms, which may be used interchangeably, refer to a male person who is known to either squeeze or slap a certain part of his body quite often. It may also be used to describe a googan.
Potlicker – A term used in the Gulf of Mexico to describe people with googan-like tendencies. According to Bryan Case, owner of Venice’s Honey Badger Fishing, if you…. Only fish for trout under birds…. Change your oil wearing gloves… Use live bait while bass fishing… Bring an AR-15 deer hunting… or, if your mom makes brownies and you get the dirty bowl out of the dishwasher and lick it…. You might be a potlicker.
Lump – a Hawaiian term for a charter guest who gets on the boat and shows no energy. A lump just sits there all day and doesn’t talk to the captain or crew. Helpful Harry – a Hawaiian term that describes the opposite of a lump. It is a charter guest who comes aboard and wants to do everything in the cockpit.
When we asked our New England contributor for fishing slang words used to describe someone that is generally unlikeable, he replied, “Up here we are pretty blunt. If some-one is an a_hole, we just call them an a_hole.“ Speaking of those who are generally described with contempt…
This scenario plays out in marinas all over the world, every day. A sailboater comes ashore and walks up to the marina office. “How much is your fuel?” he asks. Upon hearing the answer, he unleashes a loud, annoying whistle the kind that suggests he believes the price to be too high – and that because it requires no fuel, his manner of propulsion is superior.
Immediately after whistling he asks, “Where’s your pisser?” What do you call such a person? A Whistle Pisser! Other names for sailboaters include: WAFIs – wind-assisted f ’ing idiots, NAFs – Non Angling F___s, blow boaters and cruisers.
Captains: The Big Skipper, Inhabitant of the Big Chair
Gilligan – an older term used to describe a captain who is nice enough, but generally clueless with many goofball tendencies. Origin – Gilligan’s Island.
Big Fish Bert – a captain who claims that ever fish he sees, especially those he releases, is extralarge. If this person is a charter captain, he may be engaged in tip chasing.
Clam Lipper – a captain, who after locating a body of hungry fish, forgets how to use his radio, failing to inform his friends and dock mates of the action. Hot Shot – an older term for a captain that backs in very fast and carries himself arrogantly. High Hook – the captain who caught the most fish on a day, trip, or season.
Marlin and Other Billfish
Flopper (Costa Rica), Jumper – a free jumping sailfish or marlin.
Mud Dart – a billfish that dies upon release, sinking out and sticking nose-first in the mud on the bottom.
Window Shoppers – fish that appear in the spread, but do not produce a bite.
Rat – a little marlin or swordfish. Capt. Steve “Stymie” Epstein tells us that in Hawaii a rat might also be called a cheese eater. The term is sometimes used to describe male blue marlin. Beakies – Australian slang for billfish.
Diablo – Translated directly, diablo is the Spanish word for devil. In Panama, diablo is used to refer to marlin. This name makes quite a bit of sense, given the power of marlin fishing captivate and enamor fishermen. When considering this power of marlin and thinking about the legends of people who have sold their souls to the devil, the name suits quite well. Que venga el diablo!
Another fascinating term that relates to marlin fishing in Panama is Chupacabra. While you may think a Chupacabra is a goat-eating monster, the term also refers to live bait-eating porpoises. How, you may ask, do you know if the porpoise approaching the live bait is a Chupacabra or a regular porpoise? You have to wait to see if the damned thing eats your bonito!
Blue Marlin – Man in the Blue Suit, blue one, line burner (Australia). White Marlin – Skillie (east coast)/ whitey, white one. Striped Marlin – stripeys, spanglies (Australia – named after the Star Spangled Banner). A Fixed wing is a black marlin in Australia. Chucker – Hawaiian term for spearfish. According to Capt. Chris Donato the term originated many years ago when a fisherman who was in the movie business was covered up by spearfish. Referring to the large number of spearfish, he said they were like “spearchuckers” a term for movie extras.
Sailfish – The sailfish is an interesting creature, one which has spawned an interesting language of its own. In places where sailfish are the kings of the offshore world (South Florida, Guatemala and tournaments in Costa Rica, for instance) they are referred to in glowing terms.
Spindlebeaks and dredge finders come to mind. Interestingly, in places where marlin are the target of choice, there are quite a few derogatory terms for the sailfish. There are those, especially when not looking to complete a grand slam, who actually hate catching them. Bad terms for sailfish include the likes of: sea turd, garbage bag, sea rat, and dirty diaper.
Grander – a thousand pounder. Tonner – the mythical 2,000-pounder. Big Juli – Australian term for a very large marlin who has been hooked many times, but never actually caught. Big Moes – Hawaiian term for big marlin, provided by Captain Marlin Parker of Kona. Erville – an Australian term for the largest marlin anyone has ever seen. It is a mythical creature that has never been caught. It is named for a dinosaur-like marlin statue in a shopping center in Cairns.
Tutu – the Hawaiian term for grandmother. It is also used to describe a big marlin. Dozer – a big marlin.
Slang Related to Tackle, Hardware and Electronics
Streakers – marks on the sonar of a tuna or other fish rising (to eat a bait or lure). Chirping/Marking – marking fish on the sonar.Gaffs, etc – steel, axes, picks (Australia), the Poco Tag stick – in honor of the famous tournament in Texas, of course. Harpoon – the brass mullet (North Carolina), dart, poon. Once a fish is harpooned or gaffed, it is stuck. A flyer is a flying gaff. If you’re a flounder gigger, you may feed the fish the five-eyed shrimp. If you’re going to kill a fish, you may choose to grease it, whack ‘em, stroke ‘em, hang ‘em, or ice ‘em.
When it comes to fishing oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, Captain Jason Buck describes how captains refer to platforms and drill ships offshore in the same way they’d talk about deer camp. “I left the gate open for you,” is what a departing captain might say to one arriving when they have been catching a lot of fish at the rig recently. If the bite has stopped at the rig, he might say, “The gate is closed.”
Center rigger (and the bait that is fished out of it ) – stinger (Hawaii), WWFB – way, way f ’ing back (North Carolina). The backfield is another North Carolina term that refers to the long rigger and the shotgun.
Marlin lures – jigs (California), baits (Hawaii), plastics, or plugs. Fishing with lures is known as dragging and snagging or pulling plastics.
Gingerbread – an old school term for teak on a sportfisher.
Slang Related to Successful Fishing
Garring Out – A Florida panhandle term that is used to describe a day when you’re destroying your world. When you’ve killed a limit of everything possible and have blood pouring out of the bilges etc.
Shampooed – Capt. Daniel Spencer provided us with a North Carolina saying attributed to Capt. Billy Baum. When you have a blue marlin’s head and shoulders on the teaser you’re being shampooed. Baum also described
fishing on the Gulf Stream as being on I-95, because once you’re on it you’re moving northbound no matter what you do.
Covered up – a term for when there are lots of fish in the vicinity, when all of your lines are bit, and you’re having a hard time keeping bait in the water for very long. While covered up descries having a lot of fish in the area, a
rod that is hooked up (especially a chicken rig with multiple hooks) is loaded up. Ate up with it – the term used to describe someone (especially a boat owner or a member of his or her family) who is consumed with fishing and wants to do it every chance they get.
Gunnelled up – a term used on the east coast of Florida to describe what happens when you set the hook on a large grouper and it doubles the rod over and takes line. Dumping – a northeast term for a fish taking line. If a fish takes all the line on the reel, you have been spooled. Tight, Get tight – hooked up on a fish.
Once you get tight, when the rod loads up you are bent, bent over, or bendo. Una vaina bien – a term used in the Dominican Republic to describe something good.
Kurt – A North Carolina term that originated from fishing with a heavy-set guy… named Kurt. When you’re meat fishing and you ask the mate, “How are we doing?” in regards to keeping a fish, if he says “We’re Kurt.” It means you’re over the limit… and you’re heavy.
There are also a number practices and rituals that may induce fish to bite. The dunkaroo – with someone holding your feet, do a headstand and place your head in a bucket of ice water for 10-seconds. Then shotgun a beer. This of course, will make the marlin bite. The fish whistle – a medicinal practice involving the use of cannabis cigarettes to call in the marlin. Those who enjoy fish whistles commonly dream of catching square groupers.
Slang Related to Not-So-Successful Fishing, Going for a Boat Ride
San Cocho – the dreaded bodiless ballyhoo that comes back after you miss a bite. If the let down of missing a fish combined with the miserable sight of just a bait head flossed to a circle hook were not bad enough, now people make fun of you for having San Cocho’d the fish. Salado – a Spanish term used in Central America to describe a person who is unlucky or seemingly cursed. Translated directly it means “salted” or excessively salty. If you get 10 San Cochos in a row, maybe you are salado.
Palm Beach Release/Long Distance Release – dropping a fish quickly after hook up (but definitely before catching and releasing it). In some circles, missing a fish may also be known as practicing conservation. Knock down – when a fish knocks a bait or lure out of the rigger clip (usually associated with a bite that doesn’t result in a hook up). Skunked – what happens when you don’t catch a fish.
Douched out (Florida Keys)/Pea Soup – terms that describe green or cloudy water. When the waves are big and the water offshore is rough, terms such as nautical, sporty and rougher than shit may be used to describe the
situation. Zing pow! – what happens when you put too much pressure on a running fish and it breaks your line. The word comes from the sound made by the line breaking (right before all the curse words start).
Toothy critter – some fish with sharp teeth that either severs your line or your bait. It may be used to describe various types of mackeral, sharks, barracuda or other scourges of mono and flouro leaders. In South Florida, barracuda are sometimes known as the Abaco spotted seatrout. Sharks – the man in the grey suit (sometimes brown suit), the taxman – especially after it collects taxes by eating the cobia or tuna you’ve hooked. In the Northeast blue sharks are known as blue dogs.
Coryphaena hippurus – is the latin name of a colorful, good eating fish that goes by many names. In addition to the standard dolphinfish, dorado (Spanish) and mahi mahi (Hawaiian), the dolphinfish is known by a variety of slang terms. These include: dollies (Australia), dodos and a complicated size classification. As Islamorada, Florida’s Capt. Nick Stanzcyk relates, dolphin are known by the following classification.
An undersized dolphin (less than five-pounds or about 20inches) may be called a peanut, chicken, schoolie or a shaker (because you shake them off the hook at the side of the boat). A gaffer is approximately five to 15-pounds. A five pounder might also be a heavy lifter. A 20-plus pound dolphin is a slammer.
A super slammer is 40-plus pounds. Were that not enough, in the Keys wahoo are sometimes called zebras, queen snapper are known as goldfish. Sportfish captains who sailfish call kingfish slime (kingfish guys also hate sailfish).
Tuna likewise have various names in various parts. Rhode Island’s Capt. Jack Sprengel is a repository of Northeastern fishing slang – many of which relate to tuna. A yellow is a yellowfin tuna, a thunn or a Charlie is a bluefin, an eyeball is a bigeye and a penguin is an albacore.
Shearwaters, known as tuna birds in other parts, are called errrh! because of their obnoxious noise they make. Stormy petrels are known as butter chickens because of their habit of diving into chum slicks. On the west coast a yellowfin over 200-pounds is a cow. In Hawaii, a big tuna (over 200) may be a gorilla, though a fish over 100-pounds may be called an ahi as well.
Blue runners are a commonly used baitfish that are distributed widely. In Panama they make great tuna baits. In the Gulf they are livebaited for blues. Sailfish eat them, so do roosterfish and cubera snapper. Their variety of uses is matched only by the variety of names: hard tails (Gulf of Mexico), kujinua (Panama), runners, ghetto gogs (South Florida tournament kite fishermen who run out of goggle eyes). Making bait means catching live bait.
Marking bait, seeing a school of bait on the sonar. Run that dog refers to trolling a mullet down a seawall.
Acknowledgements: The following captains provided regionally-specific dock speak that made this article possible. Capt. Jack Sprengel (Rhode Island), Capt. Fin Gaddy (North Carolina), Capt. Glenn Cameron (Florida), Jarad “Dingo” Boshammar (Australia), Capt. Matthew Miller (Pensacola), Capt. Chris Donato (Hawaii), Capt. Marlin Parker (Hawaii), Capt. Stymie Epstein (Hawaii), Capt. Daniel Spencer (North Carolina), Capt. Nick Stanzcyk (Florida Keys), Capt. Tony Berkowitz (Cabo), Capt. Jason Buck (Gulf Coast), Bryan Case (Texas), and Capt. Dale Wills (Florida). Many others posted shared their favorite slang on social media. Thanks.
Do you know some fishing slang we haven’t mentioned? Comment below so we can add to our growing list.
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