Thoughts on Fighting Fish (Part Two)

In part one of this two part series we talked about the importance in getting the rod to a vertical position while fighting a fish. We also talked a bit about when and when not to set the hook depending upon the type of set-up that received the bite. The one thing that all set-ups have in common is that they all need to be brought to a vertical position. As my good friend Stan Pierce likes to say “Keep a good bend in the rod at all times.”

The rod is now vertical with a good bend in it! So what are we supposed to do next? The answer is simple. Hold on and do what Stan says. When the fish is pulling and the drag is going out, the rod will have a good bend it if you keep it vertical. The fish will usually run several hundred feet of line out on its initial run after the hook up; so when the fish pulls, you don’t. The fish is doing the work and putting a bend in the rod for you. Eventually, the fish will tire and begin to slow down. This is especially true of mature Lake Ontario king salmon. Once the fish slows down enough, it is your turn to put the pressure on the fish. By reeling down to keep a good bend in the rod, the fish’s head will turn back towards the boat. This is where a lot of fish can get off. If slack is allowed to get into the line by NOT keeping a good bend in the rod, the fish has an excellent chance to spit the hook.

Once the fish is turned we recommend a pumping and reeling technique to keep the pressure on the fish while keeping the line tight. It is a lift up and reel down action. The trick is to reel down fast enough on the down stroke so that the rod stays bent. This works well for rigger rod bites. But, what about the long line bites like the coppers and the dipseys? Pumping and reeling for 20 minutes or more can be very tiring. What if there was a way to use the strongest muscles in your body to fight the fish with? Well, there is! We call it “power pumping”.

The strongest muscles in the human body are your leg muscles. I first observed this method of using your legs to fight Lake Ontario king salmon aboard the “Sea Devil” boat several years ago. I watched Jeff Hunter, one of the crew members; fight a king salmon using this “power pumping” method. What he did was to walk backwards while keeping a good bend in the rod, and then reel down on the reel as he walked forward towards the stern of the boat. He would simply walk back and reel as he went forward. It was ingenious! We have employed this method on our charters especially with women and children. You can check out youngster Cody Brown fighting a king salmon while fishing on one of our Lake Ontario charters using this method. We have modified it just a little bit. What we recommend is to hold the rod with your reeling hand as you walk back and then switch hands as you reel going forward. On your next walk back you switch to the reel hand to hold the rod and shake out the other loose arm as your walking back to get the feeling back in your arm.

One of the great things about our charter boat the “Ace” is that it has over 80ft of cockpit space. This allows you to walk back almost eight feet if you so choose. It is a great feature and compliments the “power pumping” technique that we like our clients to employ. We also utilize this technique while tournament fishing on Lake Ontario. It allows an angler to efficiently combat mature Lake Ontario kings in short order.

If all goes well the moment of truth will soon be near. This is the final part of the end game where there is still one more pitfall to watch out for. As the fish nears the back of the boat the final move is to net the fish. What should happen is that the fish is brought to within three feet or so to the transom of the boat and the net man “scoops up” the fish. He dips the net under the fish as its coming in and lifts up in a scooping motion. The pitfall is this. During the excitement of it all it is not uncommon for the client fighting the fish to want to see it get netted. The problem is that as he leans forward to watch the action he lets the fish drop backwards away from the net. What then usually happens is that the hooks in the fish’s mouth get caught in the net with half of the fish hanging on the outside of the net instead of the inside of it. We have a couple of tricks to rectify this situation, but it’s best to not have to use them.

There you have it! Thousands of king salmon are brought into the back of boats and successfully scooped by employing these methods of fighting fish from start to finish. Clients of all ages, especially women and children have enjoyed many successful Lake Ontario fishing trips aboard Ace Charters by keeping an open mind and following our suggestions during the heat of battle. So the next time someone yells “fish on, fish on” just try to remember what my buddy Stan likes to say, “Keep a good bend in the rod at all times”.

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