everything you need to know about the TACKLE...


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Introduction: Most of the additional equipment for a boat will be supplied by the skipper- most of the boats in Ireland offer rods, tackle, the lot, a complete service... however it might help if you knew what it is, what is is used for, and how not to abuse it!  Equally if you are planning some dinghy angling yourself, some of these pieces of kit may be worth investing in - they help catch fish and they may also save your life some day.

The Gaff: It should go without saying that if you can release any fish without gaffing it, then responsible anglers will do this.  This said, a big fish may need to be gaffed aboard ship - this is true of the more dangerous species like sharks, large stingrays, valuable eating fish like cod and tuna, and possibly for photographs of large specimens of awkward species like common skate.  A sharp, well placed gaff or (pair of gaffs for big ray and skate) will not do a large fish irreperable damage.  A large landing net is a better option as is a tailer (see below).  Some American charter boats are now using a sling hoist!  Again if you can avoid using a gaff, then good for you and the fish.  The ideal solution is to unhook the fish, whilst it is still swimming about the boat or shore. Avoid handling fish as the natural oils and chemicals on your hands can burn their skin and in many cases eventually kill them.  Use a wet towel to hold smaller fish or simply shake them off the hook over the gunnel. Use a pike fisherman's long nosed snipe or pliers to remove hooks.  Their mouth brace is also useful when dealing wqith large conger eels!  You can also use a swizzle stick, or T-bar, somtimes also known as disgorgers, although I have yet to see any swizzle sticks in Ireland.  Weren't they a sweet in times past?

The Tailer: The tailer is a popular alternative to a gaff, especially for medium sized sharks and other round fish.  It is basically a long closed loop of wide soft (old) rope - ideally not nylon or a similar tough material which will damage the fish - run through a long aluminium or galvanised tube.  The loop protrudes out both ends of the tube.  You 'lasso' the tail of a shark or tope with one loop, and trap the tail against the buffered tube end by pulling up on the other loop.  Most sharks have tough skin and rely on their tails for all forward motion so it is quick and easy.  Once the tail is out of the water, any sized shark is going nowhere fast, and you have avoided a lot of handling or gaffing etc.  Tailing can be done by hand, but this is for the experienced and skilled professional only - bear in mind these fish have teeth and will happily use them too!  

E.P.I.R.B. All licenced Irish sea angling charter boats are equipped with EPIRB and their skippers will have undergone training in the use of EPIRB and SART - always nice to know...  BIM, Bord Iascaight Mhara (The Irish Sea Fisheries Board, a National Government Agency) run training courses on all aspects of fishing for anyone albeit it is mainly for crews on the commercial boats.  EPIRB - the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon - does just that - it sends a distress call to the Irish Coastguard Service indicating your exact GPS plotted position.  You can buy EPIRB units in marine supplier centres, however the inappropriate or even accidental use of an EPIRB carries heavy fines, even possible criminal prosecution.  Some EPIRB units can have a hydroscopic trigger - i.e. if they come into contact with salt water they trigger - a great idea but make sure to position it in the right spot, away from spray!  I know a guy who keeps one in his pocket rock fishing!

S.A.R.T. The Search And Rescue Transponder is the next step up from an EPIRB, and we would not expect to see it used by inshore day anglers but if you are planning overnight trips on a larger boat out to the tuna marks... then both the equipment and training in how to use SART, lifejackets, immersion-cum-survivial and flotation suits, inflatable life rafts, and emergency flares (pyrotechnics) is strongly recommended.  Such a course will have been completed by all licenced sea angling charter skippers under Irish Law.  Given that the full commercial sea fishing training is made available by BIM to all comers, relatively inexpensively and over short periods (1 to 5 days typically) for the shorter basic courses, anyone launching a dingy to go sea fishing needs their head examined if they have not taken the full compliment of training in safety at sea.  They are risking their own lives, and worse still those of others, all needlessly.  Always keep yourself safe at sea.

Mobile or Cellular Telephone: There are three mobile networks - Vodafone, O2 and Meteor.  Certain inshore locations are covered by one or more of the services, and as such you can send and receive text messages and telephone calls.  Be sure to check the coverage and do not rely on a single mobile phone - the battery can die, it can fall over the side (!) or get wet and sizzle. You can be locked out accidentally - bring a backup!

VHF Radio-Telephone: If you want to be able to communicate ship to shore, a VHF Radio Telephone is the ideal kit, and at EUR 250 for a small portable set and charger, it is within most sea anglers' reach.  Whilst most sailing clubs could refer you to local courses, the course to attend is at a BIM centre - Castletownberehaven in Cork or Greencastle in Donegal - and whilst they are remote, both ports offer good fishing as compensation!

Lifejackets: Things that are called 'lifejackets' are not necessarily lifejackets - it may seem remarkable but it is sadly true.  A proper lifejacket will keep any full grown adult upright in the water with their head out of the water.  It should be inflatable by gas cannister (get them checked annually) and also by lung power.  It should include a light and whistle, and most modern designs are not the cumbersome horrors of years gone by...  Warning: a life-preserver is not a lifejacket.  Check the labelling.  A mistake here could kill you or a friend.

Survival or Floatation Suits: In recent years, thanks to all the oil work in the North Sea and similar hostile cold sea environments, survival and floatation suits have become available to sea anglers.  These one or two piece suits keep you afloat and reasonably comfortable if you end up in the sea.  They are not cheap but they can mean the difference between your life and death, especially if you are fishing in cold waters... Without doubt full survival suits are superior, and will keep you alive in awful conditions.  Better to avoid relying on one.

Radio, Covers & Rations: Bring along a good battery operated radio (and spare batteries) to get broadcast weather forecast updates every hour - and don't look for the right station or frequency after you go to sea!  If you are venturing out in a small dinghy for a summer day's mackerel fishing or the like, make sure to bring the right covers with you.  The weather can change in an hour, especially in Ireland.   You may need strong sun block/creams and oilskins within an hour the same day.  Food and sufficient fresh water are very important.  If anyone is on medication, check they have a few day's supply with them, including any equipment like inhalers.

First Aid Kit: Most small boat first aid kits are inadequate, and akin to spare fuel tanks with no fuel, a first aid kit is only as good as the person applying the first aid - you.  Before you buy the 'kit', get the training.  Most small accidents at sea relate to cuts, rope or line burns, bumps from wildly swinging leads, and the inevitable hook-in-my-finger-not-the-fish! More serious accidents or illness will require warm blankets to counteract shock, and ideally a reflective emergency heat blanket to minimise heat loss if someone has gone overboard.  To be at sea is to be isolated - you must be able to cope with all possible eventualities.  Just ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen out there, then look at your kit box and your knowledge - see why I call them 'woefully inadequate'? And if you are knocked unconscious, who else has the first aid training, because at that stage, your life is in their hands.

Fish-finders:  It really is getting too easy!  These neat little packages can now be fitted onto small inshore craft.  They use sonar to detect the bottom and any fish in the water beneath the boat and display this on small screens.  They can range from simple blank and white units to highly sophisticated colour screen plotters that will show your GPS position, track your drifts over a mark, and practically brew up a cup of tea as well!  The other handy bit about a fish finder is that most units now display your battery condition, useful on boats where you are dependant on electric start outboards!  Knowing how fast the bottom is rising (and what it is made of) when fishing on a new mark is also rather useful from a safety at sea perspective.

Radar: Once the preserve of commercial fishermen, ocean going yachts and large pleasure cruisers, smaller effective radar systems can be fitted to relatively small boats.  These will scan the area around your boat for other boats and similar obsctructions so that you do not mow down that oil tanker in the mist some morning!

Spare Engine: God bless the seagulls!  Not the bird, the engine manufacturers.  Unless you fancy rowing your boat and crew home, at sea, perhaps in deterioriating conditions with the light fading ... bring a second engine with you.  All it has to be able to do is get you into the nearest harbour.  Always rig it up and let it run for a few minutes in the harbour before you head out!  Differently engines may need different fuel mixes so try to match the engines if you can, as this will minimise confusion!  If you do not have matching outboards, say a two-stroke and a newer four stroke, then check to see if your two engines have the same fuel to oil ratio requirement.  If they are not, read the piece on spare tanks and hose.  It will be an eye-opener!

Spare Fuel Tank & Hose: A spare fuel tank is important for several reasons - accidents happen or you find the first has a leak or the fuel is contaminated.  Have a second hose for the second tank, one that you know will attach to both outboard motors is important.  Two tanks and one hose is no good if that hose is cut! A hose is no good if it does not connect either! A second fuel tank is only as good as the fuel in it, and the oil in it, and the correct balance required by the engine.  If your engines require different oil to petrol mixes, never pre-mix the second fuel tank for the main engine, in case the main engine fails.  Mixing fuel at sea is not ideal but it can be the safer option, so only put petrol in the second fuel tank and bring along the appropriate oil(s).

The following additional suggestions, courtesy of Luke Scully of the 'Durty Fecker'...

GPS (Global Positioning System): A commonplace piece of kit now, a GPS is a satellite driven system for establishing your location on earth, down to the nearest metre.  Similar in size to a mobile phone, it is extremely useful in boat fishing, both from a safety perspective - where exactly am I? - and in terms of positioning your boat over a wreck or similar mark - assuming you have the GPS co-ordinates already!

Compass: If you can't stretch to a GPS, then always carry a compass!

Long Boat Hook: Most "man overboard" calls are caused by people trying to fish something out of the water and over-extending themselves right into the deep blue sea.  A long boat hook is the answer. It can be used to extract most objects out of the water, from the safety of the boat, and can double up as a punting stick in shallow waters where the outboard can not be started or safely used. Although I have seen it some times, a gaff is ridiculously dangerous to use in such circumstances.

Oars: At the risk of appearing stupid, let's state the obvious.  Never leave home without your oars, and for heaven's sake make sure you have the two row-locks too!

Bung: For small self draining boats, always have a spare bung in your pocket otherwise sod's law will have you and you will arrive at the slipway without any!

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