Remember the Mates - The Fisherman

Remember the Mates

Deena Lippman, mate on the Shinnecock Star, puts the fillet knife to a nice fluke.
Fish cleaning is just one of a mate’s many duties. Here, Deena Lippman, mate on the Shinnecock Star, puts the fillet knife to a nice fluke.

Good mates are worth their weight in gold and have a lot to do with your trip being an enjoyable one.

The day begins well before the rooster crows. You comb your hair, brush your teeth and head for the dock. You unlock the cabin doors, climb down the engine room, start up the twin diesels to get them warmed and ready by the time the captain comes aboard. You get the coffee brewing and breakout the rental rods giving them a once over to make sure there are no bird nests in the spool of line, tie on leaders, hooks and sinkers. You inspect the entire deck and rails, scrubbing clean any bait spat that may have been missed from wash down the day before. You head for the bait freezer below deck in the stern and bring up what you hope will be enough bait for the day, slowly defrosting packages of clams, spearing, squid or whatever else is needed depending on the quarry that day. You separate the 5-gallon buckets, so they slide apart easily when the bite begins. Finally, you grab a cup of Joe, and head for the bow to greet the early arrivals, help bring aboard their gear, rig their rods, while respectfully chatting or cracking jokes with the regulars.

Once the sun rises, you make sure everyone is aboard, you untie the lines and warn both sides of the deck to watch their hands and rods on the pilings as the captain backs the boat away from the dock and heads for open water. You head for the wheelhouse to grab the logbook and collect the fares and pool money. You count the cash to make sure it all adds up, separating the pool and handing over the fare money to the captain. You come out of the wheelhouse, take a deep breath of fresh salt air, get back on deck and begin the day.

Welcome to the life of a party boat mate. As a mate myself in my younger years, I can humbly attest that a party boat mate must be one of the most exhausting and frustrating jobs in fishing. If you think about it, party boats are one of the easiest ways for non-anglers to try their hand at the game. Many people who patronize party boats don’t own or need their own tackle, don’t unhook their own fish, don’t take out their own tangles and don’t clean their catch. Those tasks are often left for the mates, who go out of their way to make sure your day is enjoyable. A good mate is worth their weight in gold. Most party boat mates spend almost every day, (especially in tourist areas during the summer) dealing with a good percentage of the day’s fares not knowing a clinch knot from a pair of pantyhose. So, how do you quantify the value of excellence, or compensate a person for unwavering dedication, extensive fish knowledge and a first-rate attitude? Mates must earn most of their pay from gratuities, which just as any job that relies on tips, the better the service, the better the tips. Keep in mind that throughout the day, mates are there to instruct novices and kids on the fundamentals, remove tangles, net and unhook, measure and keep your catch fresh, fileted and bagged. The mates keep your bait pails replenished and the deck washed down so no one slips and slides on fish slime.

So, the next time you go to tip the mates, a fair starting point would be 20 percent of the cost of the fare per person. Of course, you can slide the scale either way should you find exceptional or poor service. It is also customary for winners of the boat pool to shell out an additional 20 percent of the pot. Please note that most party boats that fish for porgies do charge a set fee for each bucket of porgies the mates clean, therefore I strongly suggest checking with the captain before heading out so there are no surprises.

So, as you head home after a great day on the water, the mates are soaping and scrubbing down the boat, removing trash, cleaning buckets and preforming other chores that go with the job only to do it all over again in the morning. Remember the next time you head for the party boats, your enjoyable day would not be possible without the mates. Therefore, whether the fish are biting or not, it should not reflect on the tip.




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