Deep-sea fishing sure sounds like an intense adventure to endure. And for those people who were not raised within a tradition of coastal subsistence, the learning curve around deep water can be a steep dive into the unknown. But with these deeper waters comes big fish. Plus there are buckets of fun and funds in the form of a booming tourist industry for ocean communities and beach visitors alike.
If you’re just getting into the waters of sportfishing and charter boat day trips, there’s a lot you’ll want to know about the origins, techniques, and impacts around this form of fishing. And while we may not have time to cover everything you want to know about deep-sea fishing today, we’ll definitely troll our way to a snapping good start.
Thanks to the clues remaining in the fossil record, archeologists estimate that humans have been fishing for subsistence for at least 500,000 years. The first evidence we have found (so far) of deep-sea fishing is a bit more recent, however, dating back to 42,000 years ago in the area of East Timor.
For many various areas of the globe, fishing practices were (and are) integral communal practices that shaped culture and tradition through generations, shifting with technology of course, but still part of an expansive lineage of hungry and enterprising humans.
What started with hands and rudimentary tools evolved into various techniques. Today we have whole multi-million dollar industries around lures and rods. Plus, there are government agencies that regulate most individuals with fishing licenses. There are strict guidelines on what, when, and where we are permitted to fish. We’ve come a long way from where we started. You’ll want to do plenty of research on the laws and practices of whatever location you plan to fish, as areas will differ.
You might love deep sea fishing so much, you wish it could be your full-time job. But before you hand in the resignation papers to your desk job, it’s important to note: even in our more modern era, these practices of offshore fishing are a far seagull-cry away from a relaxing sail in the bay. This is especially true when it comes to making a livelihood in these industries. Ever heard of the reality TV show “The Deadliest Catch“?
According to a study published by BMJ Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, data from the 19th century indicates high mortality rates of fishermen of the deep sea – at least double that of coal miners and 20 times the rate of workers in industrial manufacturing around the same time. These strikingly high numbers are still a reality due to the dangerous conditions of the sea, compounded by weak or failing vessels, negligent navigation, and excessive fatigue. Often, these fishermen worked incredibly long hours – a detriment to their boats and their lives in many cases.
However, making a living as an industrial deep-sea fisher is pretty different than deep-sea fishing for fun on a private charter or party boat fishing thanks to a gift certificate from a supportive family member.
Deep-sea fishing is a booming aspect of some coastal tourist industries. Sportfishing for a full day or half-day is a common vacation for passionate fishers from any area. Charter boats accommodate day fishing trips for groups or individuals. With the right amount of research, resources, and know-how, people can time their trips to be able to fish year-round.
Deep-sea fishing charters might troll with live bait, chum, pop, or jig. There are all sorts of terms and techniques. Various charters and fishing boats will utilize depending on the area and the intended fish to catch.
So, where to go to deep sea fish?
That all depends on what you hope to catch, the season you’re in, and the money you have to get there.
The west coast of North America is known for yellowtail, sturgeon, albacore tuna, rockfish, sea bass, and barracuda. On the other side of the continent, popular finned catches include bluefin and yellowfin tuna, cod, striped bass, and mackerel. The Gulf of Mexico pulls tons of tourists to the deep waters each year – where parties troll for dorado, shark, king mackerel, red snapper, and more. Hawaii is another popular destination for avid fisherpeople. There, lures sink in the water in hopes of snagging sea creatures such as yellowfin ahi tuna, giant blue marlin, dorado, sailfish, swordfish, and wahoo.
It’s not all fun and games, however. And our climate arrogance is catching up to us the same way we hope to catch a delicious meal.
The deep-sea is one of our planet’s last great wildernesses. It covers 62% of the planet and drops to over 1000 meters deep in some locations. These areas are still largely unexplored. New technology reveals unknown habitats and species almost as fast as we can search. However, with this technology, comes industry and economic interest. With some much still unknown, these conflicting human impulses of curiosity and extraction are laid bare – with some devastating consequences.
For example, when deep-sea fishing commenced in the Northeast Atlantic in the 1970s, there has been a marked decline of commercial fish species. This includes species such as bluefin tuna, sturgeon, and salmon. Many fisheries in the deep sea have a pathetic track record in regard to sustainable practices. Even as individuals organize for change and governing bodies pass protective legislation, there are issues. We struggle to maintain the enforcement of fishing regulations and willing compliance by those working within the industry. Limits to trolling depths as well as greater incentives for sustainable practices within the industry are a good starting point.
The deep-sea is our largest ecosystem. It’s impossible to know everything about fishing there. We’re learning new things about the depths of these saltwater bodies every day. We do know that many species that live in the open waters and deep seas exhibit characteristics and life patterns that are vulnerable to disruption and exploitation.
As you continue to learn and explore the world of deep-sea fishing, it is critical to keep the longevity of these ecosystems in mind. We have to remember that our actions impact these amazing places. Unless we hold ourselves to a more sustainable standard, there won’t be fun deep sea fishing trips – or a livable planet – in future years to come.
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