What should I do when I catch my first fish on a saltwater charter?

I’m new to saltwater fishing and am going to be going on my first charter trip. If I get something on my line – what should I do first?

If you’re going on a charter, you should have a few guides available to help you out but I can give you few tips to get you started.  When you get a bite, the first rule of thumb is don’t panic.  Many first time fishermen get extremely nervous as soon as they get a strike and it goes downhill from there.  Assuming that you’re using a rod holder, the first thing you’ll need to do is pick up the rod.  If you’re nervous, you actually might find this difficult.  I know it sounds silly but the pressure of the fish on the tip of the rod might actually make it seem as if it’s jammed in the holder.  If you grab the fore-grip in front of the reel and pull it backwards a little, it should slide out easily.  Once you’ve got the rod in hand, the second most important thing is going to be setting your position on the boat.  If you’ve got a fighting fish, you just might be holding that rod for awhile so it’s important that you’ve got a good grasp.  The preferred position is going to with your left hand up on the fore-grip and the end or butt of the rod resting on your hip.  You’ll need your right hand for the reel.  The rod should be about a 45 degree angle.  If you need more leverage, simply move your hand higher up on the rod.  Most charters should supply a butt pad that hangs from your waist and is used to hold the butt of the rod.  Your best position is going to be either in the corner or at least up to the side of the boat.  By bending your knees a little you can wedge them under the padded edge for a little more leverage.  The most important thing to remember here on out is to keep the tip of your rod bent.  If you don’t keep the line tight, odds are the fish will slip right off the hook.  If the fish starts to head towards the boat, start winding your reel and don’t stop until the line is tight again and the tip is bent once more.  At this point, if the line still running, you’re going to have to wait until the fish stops it’s run.  When that happens, you will simply raise the tip of your rod and start winding in your line.  You’ll want to lower the tip as you continue to wind.  The trick is not to get the rod tip either too high or too low. From here on out – you simply bring the fish to the boat.

Daniel Eggertsen
Dan Eggertsen is a fellow saltwater fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on saltwater fishing since 2004.

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