So you’ve been fishing for a while, from the banks of the river, a wharf or the beach. And you’ve been catching fish, but you want access to more fish.. What’s the natural progression? Your very own portable fishing platform, otherwise known as a boat! Whether you hire, buy or borrow a boat there are a few things you should know so that you (and your catch) make it back to shore safely.
1. Check the Licencing requirements. Like driving a car, there are rules that apply to driving a boat, and these vary from place to place. In NSW If your boat goes faster than 10 knots you will need a boat licence. This involves a seminar (to learn the rules) a test, and some practical skills. Check with your local authority for the requirements in your area
2. Check the boat before you leave home – Nothing ruins your fishing trip faster than discovering that you forgot the bungs, or the keys, the battery is flat, you are out of fuel or the boat simply won’t start. Also check the rego is current and you have all the required safety gear for your trip.
3. PFD’s are compulsory – you must carry an appropriately sized PFD (life jacket) for every person on board, you must wear one in particular circumstances. Again check with your local authority. Consider investing in the new inflatable style jackets, which are comfortable enough to wear all day. It won’t save your life if you are not wearing it!
4. Step, don’t jump. You should never have to jump from a wharf to a boat (or vice versa), if the gap is too wide wait till the boat gets closer or shorten the lines. Tie the lines to the boat, not the wharf, so you can release it from inside the boat.
5. One hand for you, one hand for the boat. Boats move about, sometimes unpredictably so take care when moving about in them, the smaller the boat the more careful you need to be. Keep your centre of gravity low, hold on and go gently. If you need both hands for handling your fishing rod, sit down.
6. Keep your boat ship shape. Anything not being used should be securely stowed. Fishing gear lying on the deck could move around with the motion of the boat. Clean up any spilled bait/burley or mess from fish cleaning. These simple precautions can avoid injury and damage to your gear
7. Find an effective seasickness remedy. You might not get sick while travelling or trawling, but sitting at anchor can be a different story. Certain sea conditions can be more sickness inducing than others, even for the most seasoned boaties. Talk your local pharmacist or natural therapist about what options are available, and try them out until you find one that works for you.
8. Check the weather forecast before you leave, and periodically while you are out. Weather can change radically in a short period of time when you are boating. Go prepared with sun protection and wet weather gear. Don’t forget to look at the tide times as well, so you don’t get stranded up river.
9. Talk to the locals. They know the area, they know the good fishing spots, and they know the hazards. If you can’t talk to someone, watch and learn. If the locals are doing (or not doing) something there is usually a good reason. Conditions change, sandbars move, fishing spots vary with season and weather, Local knowledge is also much more up to date than printed charts and other publications. .
10. Get to know your boat, This knowledge could save your life! Learn how it handles in various conditions. Get someone who knows what they are doing to teach you if you are not confident. Make sure your crew and passengers are aware of their duties and emergency procedures. If you and/or your boat cannot handle the conditions, don’t go out.
Lastly, fishing from a boat should be fun and relaxing but it is also is a continual learning experience, and it takes time on the water to gain that learning. Even after spending most of my life on boats I still learn something new every time I go out and I hope you will too! So take the boat out, be safe and happy fishing.
Lindsay Smith is the General Manager at EXCITE SAFETY TRAINING, providing quality practical training in Boating and PWC (Jetski) handling as well as Workplace Health and Safety and First Aid training. Lindsay has also spent time as NSW Boat licence instructor, is a keen diver and is always looking for ways to make boating more accessible and safe. Lindsay founded Excite Safety training in 2011 with her husband Jayme, which has given Lindsay the means to continue educating the boating public by providing private, practical lessons for a range of boat and PWC owners.