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When I retired from running The Madam and The Hooker for the Dunaways, I was suddenly sought after to speak at many fishing clubs. The attendees were always interested in hearing everything from angling and being a deckhand to the captain’s job, and especially how we managed to catch all those billfish on light tackle.
Where most of us cut our teeth on charter boats, it is usually the captain’s responsibility to teach the crew how to teach the anglers. With the present demand for experienced mates, some charter deckhands do not last as long as they used to before they jump to private jobs.
I am still amazed at what these crews all do every day as the boats just keep getting bigger. In the Bahamas during our tournaments, these crews are up early—usually around 5 or 6 in the morning—rigging baits and teasers. With the number of baits they rig each morning, who knows when they have time to reload the drink boxes and clean the interior of the boat. Then you get to go fishing all day, with no breaks from changing baits, shagging weed, and catching everything from mahimahi and barracudas to marlin and sailfish. It’s quite a busy day, especially with the sun burning down on you. And if there isn’t any sun, then it’s probably raining and you’re wet all day. Whether it’s calm or rough, you’re on your feet every minute as well. Then with lines out of the water at the end of the day, you have to check the tackle on the way home and start cleaning the boat. Once you get close to the marina, they start rinsing that giant sport-fisher from bow to stern—a quick soaping of the cockpit and transom, and then it’s time to chamois the entire thing. Amazingly, these boats are immaculate during their entire stay in the Bahamas, which is no easy feat.
After you get all that done, you might have time to crack open a beer or make a cocktail while you fillet fish and rig a few more baits while sharing some stories with your friends and dock neighbors. Then it’s off to find some dinner and maybe even make a pass through the bar to share a few more stories, and hopefully get some info on where the fish were biting that day. Back to the boat by 11 p.m. or so for a few hours of sleep, and then get up to do it all over again tomorrow.
The same for the captain too. Up early to check the engines, maybe move the boat to get fuel if you need it for the day. Some captains and crews like to cook breakfast and lunch before they leave the dock. And then you have to plan for the fishing, depending on the weather and the water conditions, which means studying all the information you have available.
Sport-fishing job descriptions might vary from boat to boat, but the hard work and long hours never seem to change. We do it because we love it, not because it’s easy.