One of the best parts of camping out on the boat is the food. I have been very lucky to have crews who could cook a really great meal. After a day of fishing—good or bad—and a few beers or cocktails, a nice dinner from your own galley can change the whole evening, and seldom for the worse.
We’re fortunate to have access to the freshest fish available. The most common story people tell is about catching a tuna and having the crew prepare the freshest sashimi most people have ever had on the way in. I have heard from some charter boats in Kona, Hawaii, where the clients are trying to cut up and eat the yellowfin and skipjack tunas as they come over the side—now that’s fresh fish. Then there is the amazing ceviche that the crews make from mahi, snapper and more. It’s hard to beat after a long, hot day in the cockpit.
When we head to the seamounts off Costa Rica on multiday trips, we order precooked meals such as lasagna or arroz con pollo from the local store right there in the marina. All we have to do is heat it up and we are done, except for the garlic bread and a salad if we want, and even those can be pre-made by our friends as well.
Most captains and crews are great on the grill, cooking steaks to your liking. Some of us can grill a good steak, bake a potato, throw some veggies in the microwave, and then the guy who makes the salad is the standout star of the meal. I know many captains and crews who start cooking brisket or ribs at 6 a.m. to have for lunch with the boat owner and their guests, rigging baits while watching the grill at the same time.
Many owners like to cook too. One of the most popular owner/chefs was Frank Rodriguez of Fa-La-Me. It’s incredible what he used to make for lunch and dinner for his guests and crew. Maybe that’s why they won so many tournaments back in the day—his anglers were always well-fed.
I was on one boat and the captain would make fried rice, along with many other great homemade dishes. Some guests would jump in the galley and make salad dressings from scratch on the boat as well. Don Tyson even made us fried chicken on The Madam while we were fishing off the Ivory Coast—that had to be the best fried chicken in Africa. One owner made prime rib while we were getting our butts kicked fishing the rough seas on the North Drop off the Virgin Islands. Tropic Star Lodge has a five-star chef at its resort in the middle of the rainforest in Panama to end a great day of fishing with a fantastic dinner, and I am sure there are many other fishing lodges that have great chefs as well. It’s all part of the experience.
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My rule always was: If the fishing is good, the food needs to be great; and if the fishing is poor, then the food needs to be really great! The open bar also helped. Jesus turned water into wine for a good reason.
This article originally appeared in the February 2022 print issue of Marlin.