Inshore: The Solitary Angler - The Fisherman

Inshore: The Solitary Angler

New Jersey & Delaware Bay managing editor Jim Hutchinson works some backwaters solo on his 19-foot Angler.

Fishing alone requires a game plan.

For most of us, among the checklist of items to bring along on your next fishing adventure is your fishing buddy. Tackle, gear, bait, food, fuel, ice and a buddy are the basic needs for a fun filled day.  For some of us the buddy is not always available, and it’s either stay home or dream of a day full of tight lines or go fly solo.

For the past several years I have developed an appreciation for those buddy-free solo adventures. I have found them to be incredibly cathartic as the stress of life on land drains away like an ebb tide. If you have never had that opportunity to spend a day alone fishing, you may want to give it a try.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a sociable guy and I enjoy company. Having a fishing buddy with you provides so much. They are an extra deckhand for everything, from handling dock lines to netting that doormat, they are there. You quickly learn how much of a help they can be when you’re faced with handling it all on your own.

When I fly solo my first challenge is at the boat ramp. As a trailer boater it takes confidence and skill to launch and recover your vessel when there is no one to lend you a hand. As you pull away from the dock you come to realize that even the most simplistic of chores requires modifying your routine. Even pulling in those fenders and lines requires leaving the helm.

As you throttle off to your favorite fishing hole is when you first come to appreciate the solitude of the sea. You are not distracted by your buddy and their well-being, nah, it’s all about the scream of the engine and the wind in your hair.

Now there are some serious safety concerns that are less of a problem when fishing with a friend at your side. When you are alone, who is going to throw you that floatable to grab onto after falling in? Who is going to call for help if you’re suffering a medical emergency? Who is going to drive the boat home if you’re injured or incapacitated? These are all legitimate questions and disaster can be avoided with some basic mitigation techniques.

When you fish solo, unless you’re fishing from a dock, always wear a personal floatation device. I wear a lightweight slim model that inflates upon making contact with the water. After a while I hardly notice it’s there. I also carry a handheld VHF radio that gets clipped to the vest. Most of these modern radios are waterproof and float. I also keep my cell phone in my pocket. If I’m going into the drink, I want to be able to contact help and survive the experience. In water temperatures of 50-60 degrees during spring and fall months, death from hypothermia is just a few hours away and a loss of dexterity in just 10-15 minutes. Lastly, always use your engine cut-off safety lanyard and inform friends or family of your float plan before you depart.

Now assuming all is going well and the tip of your rod gives that familiar shutter, it’s time to land your target all on your own. You can yell for net all you want, but you need to become proficient at multitasking. It adds another dimension to the challenge, a task the yakkers make look easy. When I’m really in the mood to push my limits, I have trolled on my own for bass and blues. When you’re doing battle on the reel, there is no one to maintain the vessel’s forward movement making dropping a linebacker all the more likely. And just wait until you need to solo boat a beast, then the real fun begins. Have a game plan in effect for this scenario. Know where your net is and always have a pair of plier in reach. Also know what’s around you in the water before attempting such.

All in all, it’s great to know that when I can’t find an available friend, or the one I found has a last minute conflict, I can still put together a great day. The silence, peace and challenge of being out there alone is like nothing else I have ever experienced. I’m not sure how to explain it, but when I’m on my own the hours tick by like minutes. I’ll be out there for seven hours and it will feel like it flew right by. They say time flies when you’re having fun, well make no mistake, I’m having fun.



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