Sea fishing from both shore and boat is a very popular leisure pursuit. A huge amount of fun is to be had from this hobby but there are a great many hazards associated particularly with boat fishing on the sea or ocean which make it equally one of the most dangerous pastimes in which anyone can engage. In order to maximize the enjoyment of sea fishing - as well as go so far as possible towards ensuring safety at sea - there are a number of do's and don’ts which should be adhered to, both before and during each trip.

Heading Out to Sea
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Heading out to sea on a boat fishing trip

The Importance of Forward Planning

There are certain aspects of a deep sea fishing trip which have to be planned in advance. Tide times will have to be checked, especially if intending sailing from and returning to a closed harbor. This is a harbor which is inaccessible at lower stages of the tide due to the water becoming too shallow. Weather conditions should be checked on an ongoing basis in the lead up to the trip as well as monitored throughout. The trip should be cancelled altogether where any doubt exists as to their suitability during your time at sea, or an early return made where conditions turn - or even significantly threaten to turn - unexpectedly foul while the trip is in progress.

Good Weather at Sea
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Clement and favorable weather like this is never guaranteed on the sea or ocean

It is prudent also to investigate the species of fish you are likely to catch during your trip and any fishing hot spots. The tide times may also be very relevant in this respect, especially in inshore waters, as certain marks fish better at different stages of the tide. This allows you to chart your course and plan your schedule beforehand as a means of hopefully optimizing your time and potentially increasing your catch.

Purchase or Order Bait

Assorted Fishing Bait
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Fresh sea fishing bait of different types

It is possible that you may intend using only artificial lures on your fishing trip but it is more likely that you will want to use some form of fresh bait at least some of the time. Where you are going out on a charter boat and the skipper has undertaken to provide the bait you clearly have no further action to take but where you need to obtain the bait yourself, you should never leave this to the last minute. Turning up unannounced at a local tackle shop on the day of your trip to find their stocks depleted could lead to a largely wasted day. Instead, you should obtain the bait in advance, freezing it where applicable and if necessary, or place a very definite order for collection.

Fishing Boat and Departure

Fishing Charter Boat
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Typical fishing charter boat ready for departure

If you are going out to sea in your own boat, or are the skipper of the boat, you personally have to ensure that your boat is fully seaworthy immediately prior to departure. This potentially involves everything from inspecting for hull damage, to ensuring your radio is in full working order and all safety equipment is on board, to checking that your fuel tank is full and sufficient fuel reserves are in place. A prepared checklist in this respect is an excellent idea as the task list can be quite lengthy and one small point inadvertently being overlooked can lead to all sorts of problems. Be sure also that someone on land knows when you are setting out, approximately where you are headed and, very importantly, when you intend returning.

Suitable Clothing and Associated Equipment

It can get cold when out on the sea at any time of year, especially where a big blow gets up. You can also get very wet from spray, even when it isn't raining. Make sure that you have plenty of warm and waterproof clothing with you, which can be put on or removed as required. Be sure also that your clothing is appropriate for deep water fishing. Heavy, laced boots are a bad idea, while freshwater waders are a definite no-no. Items like these can weigh you down, especially where they fill with water, should you end up in the sea. Deck shoes are a good idea in better conditions or loose fitting footwear which can be kicked off in an emergency. Consider investing in a flotation suit, an item which is available in one or two pieces. These suits can not only help keep you afloat but also warm and thus alive in the water. Life vests or jackets should also be worn at all times while at sea. without exception.

Food and Drink Provisions

Premade and Plastic Wrapped Pie
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Plastic wrapped meat pie is perfect for taking on a fishing trip

It is important to ensure that you take not only plenty of food to sea with you but also plenty of fresh drinking water. Deep sea fishing can be hungry work but there are good food ideas for fishing trips and not so good ideas. Try to take food items which are easy and practical to eat when your hands are covered in bait or fish blood, rather than dainty sandwiches or fanciful cakes or pastries. The biggest don’t of all in relation to food and drink is alcohol. Sipping a cocktail on the deck of a giant cruise liner is one thing - choking back beer after beer on the deck of a small fishing boat is quite another. Leave the social drinking part of your fishing trip completely out of the equation until you are safely back on dry land.

Fishing Tackle and Equipment

Neatly Stowed Tackle Boxes
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Tackle boxes neatly stowed on deck

Serious fishermen always ensure that their tackle is stored away clean and in some semblance of order after each and every trip. It is always worth checking beforehand, however, for line damage on reels, eye damage on rods and that you have enough lead weights and traces to be likely to last your trip. Rocky ground especially can make for heavy tackle losses so try to over-estimate if anything what you are likely to need in this respect. Being forced to tie up rigs or make minor repairs while at sea is not only awkward, it represents a huge waste of valuable fishing time. Make full use of split rings and snap swivels, allowing traces to be changed when required in seconds. As you finish using any piece of equipment, put it back in your tackle bag or box and keep the deck of the boat tidy. An untidy deck at sea is a dangerous deck, potentially causing someone to trip and suffer a nasty accident or even topple overboard.

Sustainable Fishing

Sustainable Fish
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Pollack or pollock are both delicious and presently sustainable

Deep sea fishing and fishing of any type is mostly about the fish you hope to catch. It is imperative to the future of fishing, however, that everyone be sensible with what they keep when at sea. Size limits should be determined and adhered to, as should details of any fish species in the waters which you are fishing which are endangered. A tasty fish or two for the pot is the icing on the cake of any sea fishing trip but dead fish scattered over the deck, or bagged only to go to waste later, does no one any favors.


All sea fishing trips should be a pleasure, from the stage of planning your trip right through to cooking and eating your catch on your safe return. The do's and don’ts of fishing at sea are not designed to in any way hamper your enjoyment of the special event but rather quite the opposite. There is also the strong possibility that following these tips may just some day save your life...