You’ve found the perfect saltwater fishing boat for your needs, the fuel tanks are full, and it’s time to get out there and catch some fish. Before you leave the dock, however, you’ll want to make sure you’re fully equipped for every eventuality. No matter what species you plan to target or what method you intend to employ, this essential saltwater fishing gear belongs aboard every boat.
What Do You Need for Offshore Fishing?
- Rods and reels
- Landing nets
- A bucket
- Long-nose pliers
- Lures and/or bait
- Basic tool kit
- Braid scissors
Rods and Reels
Okay, we’ll admit that this one’s a bit obvious, but it’s also the most important. Who’s going to head out on the bay or ocean to try and catch fish without rods and reels aboard the boat? Not you, we hope.
Some fish can be swung right over the gunwale, but especially when it comes to large fish, you’ll lose a lot of them if you bring fish into the boat this way. Scooping them up in a landing net is much safer and more effective. As you choose a landing net, be sure to get one with a handle long enough to easily reach the water from your boat’s deck level, ensure that the hoop is large enough to fit the biggest fish you plan to catch, and get one with a rubber mesh or rubberized coating because the roughness of regular knotted nylon can injure fish that you may decide to release.
Why should every saltwater angler have a bucket aboard their boat? Let us count the ways: to hold loose gear; to flip over and use as a seat; to fill with water and keep baitfish alive; to fill with pre-cut bait chunks; to fill with soap and water for a washdown at the day’s end – this list could go on and on.
Every fish you catch will have a hook in its mouth, so you’d better have a way to get that hook out. Dedicated hook removers work well but long-nose pliers are also great for removing hooks. Plus, then you get the added advantage of always having a pair of pliers close at hand for tasks like bending hooks or trimming leaders.
Lures and/or Bait
Here’s another that’s on the obvious side, but of course we can’t leave lures and/or bait (as well as hooks and basic tackle like swivels and sinkers) off the list. Which types you’ll need varies radically depending on what type of fishing you do and which species you plan to chase after. Often, consulting local fishing reports or getting advice from your nearby tackle shop will provide all the insight you need to make the right choices.
Most anglers know that diving sea gulls usually mean there are fish nearby, and with a good pair of marine binoculars you can see them from much farther away. But binoculars can also come in handy for spotting flotsam and weedlines fish may be hiding under. And when you see other anglers in the distance you can use binoculars to see if they’re having any action. Special bonus points go to gyroscopically-stabilized binoculars with more magnification, which let you see for miles and miles.
Every responsible angler will want to make sure they adhere to the rules and regulations regarding keeping their catch, and for this, a ruler is an imperative item. You want to make darn sure those fish make the minimum length requirement before you drop them into the cooler, right?
Basic Tool Kit
Like any mechanical items, reels and other essential saltwater fishing gear can break. Screws can come loose, springs can get sprung, and pieces-parts can come apart. But in many cases a quick fix is possible, if you have a basic tool kit aboard.
There was a time when an angler could easily clip his or her fishing line with the side cutters on their pliers, or even a bait knife. But with the popularity of modern braid fishing line, special snippers are necessary. Braid can be very difficult to cut, so those sharp, dedicated scissors are a must-have.
Many saltwater fish have sharp teeth, and if you attempt to grab them by the jaw as you would a bass, you’ll end up with a perforated thumb. That’s where lip-grippers come into play. This tool clamps down on a fish’s jaw and locks into place, so you can hold and control a fish no matter how razor-sharp its teeth may be.
There are, of course, a number of more specialized items that may or may not also be needed aboard your boat. If you plan on pursuing large pelagics like tunas and wahoo, you’ll need to carry a gaff. If bait fishing is in the cards you may need a cutting board and bait knife. And if you plan to try kite fishing, you won’t have too much luck without a kite. Then, there are specific lures, rigs, and weights that will be needed depending on where and how you fish. No matter who you are or how you plan to pursue your quarry, however, these 10 items belong on your fishing boat—and on you list of essential saltwater fishing gear.
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Editor's Note: This article was originally published in July 2014 and updated in October 2019.