Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Fishing Safety Tips: Good & Bad Slack

Grandmother Pat and her grandson Brett with a beautiful speckled sea trout. PHOTO BY MARY FINK

Grandmother Pat and her grandson Brett with a beautiful speckled sea trout. PHOTO BY MARY FINK

Captain Mary A. Fink

We’ve all heard the phrase “safety first.” Safety should be of primary importance for all who enjoy a day of fishing from a boat. Fishing tackle can pose many safety hazards when utilized carelessly and without caution. Rod tips and hooks can be dangerous for obvious reasons. In this article, I will address some basic tackle handling tips so that you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable day on your boat with family and friends. Keep in mind that although you may have experience handling tackle properly, your guests and friends may not. Be sure to educate them on your way out to your fishing destination as to the proper way to handle fishing rods and hooks.

One thing I consistently share with all parties on my boat is the importance of understanding slack in the line. Whenever your hook is in the boat, your line should have plenty of slack in it. I refer to this as “good slack” because slack is forgiving. Examples of when your line should be slack include removing a hook from a fish, tying knots or changing tackle. When the line is slack, the risk of someone getting hooked is greatly reduced. On more than one occasion I have witnessed a person hooking a fish and flipping it into the boat keeping the rod “loaded.” When the fish is still on the hook, the rod tip is bent or loaded, increasing the potential of the fish possibly coming off the hook and the bare hook going into an angler on the boat. When possible, it’s best to have someone netting or landing the fish with a net to prevent this accident from occurring. Alternatively, as soon as a fish comes into the boat, an angler should open the bail, release the line and provide immediate slack and ultimately, safety. It is safe to say that when your line is in the water while you are fishing, you should eliminate or reduce slack (bad slack) so that sensitivity to a strike is increased and more hook-ups with fish can be enjoyed. However, when your line and hook is in the boat, slack line (good slack) is your best friend.

When storing your tackle, secure the hook on the small eye located at the bottom of your fishing rod, nearest the handle, and reel until the line is taut, not tight. By doing this, you will avoid loading your rod tip, which is what leads to many accidents experienced with fishing hooks.

Refrain from leaving hooks and lures on the bottom of your boat. Be sure to properly store your tackle in a box or any number of handy hook holding storage bins which can be secured on your console. During the excitement of catching fish, it can be easy to forget where hooks and lures may be present, which is why proper storage is important.

Fishing rods should be handled safely as well as hooks. When fishing, keep your rod tip outside the boat whenever possible. Use rod holders for boat storage rather than laying them down on your boat. Keep the rod upright most all of the time when moving around on the boat and always be cognizant of the location of the rod tip.

When casting, be sure to look behind you prior to making your intended cast. Additionally, be mindful when others are casting so that you may avoid getting “hooked” if they are not paying attention. When fishing from a boat, flipping and pitching casting techniques are much safer than over arm casting.

When a fish is hooked, keep your rod tip up and use it to help steer and leverage your fish away from the boat propeller, power pole or anchor. When retrieving your fish, keep the line tight and eliminate all slack. Once the fish is netted, release your bail and provide slack so that safe hook removal can be preformed.

In short, remember to keep plenty of slack in your line when your hook is in the boat (good slack) and eliminate slack (bad slack) when your hook is in the water. Keep your rod tip up when fishing and store in rod holders when not in use. Be mindful of the presence of other anglers whenever casting and keep your tackle properly stored. Doing basic tackle handling procedures such as these on a consistent basis will result in these habits becoming routine, ensuring many safe days of fishing from your boat!

Tight Lines!


Captain Mary specializes in fishing the beautiful Ten Thousand Islands. She holds a “six pack” captains license and has a knack for finding fish. A passionate angler possessing over 35 years of extensive experience in both back country and offshore fishing, Mary offers fishing expeditions through her Island Girls Charters company. When fishing with Captain Mary, you will be exposed to a variety of successful techniques including cast and retrieve, drift fishing, bottom fishing and sight fishing.  Visit www.islandgirlscharters.com to learn about fishing with Capt. Mary. Or reach her at 239-571-2947.

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