Pros: fun afternoon with friends
Cons: if you don't like the smell of fish...
First and foremost, it is important to understand that I am, by no means, a fisherman. Like any kid growing up, I caught a couple of fish. I caught sunfish and pickerel on a lake near my house and flounder in the ocean. I even went crabbing one or two times. But, I haven't picked up or wanted to pick up any type of fishing equipment since I was twelve. The closest I have come to fishing is going to the local Bread & Circus and picking out a filet for the grill.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine at work suggested that we go deep sea fishing on the weekend. Like I said, I'm no fisherman, but the idea sounded pretty interested. He said he was no fisherman either, but he went the year before and it was a good time. So, we found two other people to go and looked for a fishing outfit that was deep-sea fishing.
We picked Yankee Fleet out of Gloucester and signed up for a night blue fishing trip. Bluefish was appealing because: 1) I love bluefish on the grill. If we were lucky enough to catch something, it would be a nice little treat to bring the fish home and grill it. 2) Night fishing sounded more fun. A couple of guys out on a boat, drinking, etc. 3) It was only a five-hour trip (1 hour out, 1 hour in, and 3 hours of fishing). We figured, worst case, if we didn't like it, at least we weren't stuck on a boat all day long.
As a bad omen, all the blue fishing trips for the rest of the season were cancelled by the outfit two days before we were scheduled to go. So, in a last minute scramble, we ended up going on an all day regular deep sea-fishing trip.
Instead of reporting to the docks at 7:00 PM, we had to report to the docks at 6:30 AM. Coming from Boston, the ride was extremely easy. It took about 1 hour and followed major routes. Once off 128, there were several signs clearly marking the route to the docks.
At the docks, you report in and pay $45 for the all day trip. The $45 dollars includes the boat (which you share with about 50 other people), rental equipment (a deep sea fishing pole that looks like it has taken a serious beating, but still does the job), bait, and an experienced crew. On board, you'll be asked to pay $1 for a sinker and $2 (optional) to be placed in a heaviest catch pool.
Once aboard, the boat takes about an hour to an hour and a half to get 24-26 miles away from shore. There the captain trolls the area looking for schools of fish. Once found, the order is given to drop the lines and start fishing. Throughout the day, the captain will make decisions to drop anchor when the winds are high or more to different locations when no one appears to be catching anything.
The Fishing: Deep-sea fishing is quite easy. You simply bait the hook (on this trip we were using clam), lower the line till it hits the bottom of the ocean (about 240 - 270 feet deep), and raise the lines a couple of inches from the bottom. Then you sit and wait for the fish to take the bait.
For the first 2 hours, the boat was drifting and/or the current was drifting. With 50 people dropping lines inches away from each other, lines got tangled constantly. In some cases the tangles are between a couple people standing next to each other and the fix is easy. In other cases, the tangles involved a multitude of people from all over the boat. The crew of four did a decent job untangled line or cutting and refitting lines when needed.
Luckily, the rest of the day was calm and tangles became less frequent. If the tangles had continues, I probably would have stopped fishing and played cards indoors for the rest of the day.
Deep-sea fishing appears to be 100% luck. You drop a line with 50 other people and one person just happens to catch the fish. At least, I thought that at first. But, three people on board caught 15+ fish, while the rest of the boat caught one of two. Our little group was lucky enough to catch two fish. One was too small to be legal. The second was a small cod that gave us two 1 pound filets (At the end of the trip, the crew will filet the fish. Although not required, a tip is expected for this service. On average, they were given a buck or two for every couple of fish.).
Food and Beverages:
Someone once told me that a fishing trip is 10% fishing and 90% alcohol and this trip was no exception. The boat left the docks at 7:00 AM and the first beer was sold at 7:15 AM. Our little group had a little restraint and didn't start drinking until 8:30 AM. The bar served Buds in a can ($2), Bud Lights in a can ($2), and Becks in a can ($3). Soda was also available in a can ($1).
The grill featured the basics: hamburgers ($2) and hotdogs ($1.50), and a handful of other snacks and chips.
You can also bring aboard any food or drinks that you want, with the exception of alcohol.
The bathrooms were as clean as you would expect from a boat full of drunken men. The only problem was the soap dispensers were emptied and looked like they hadn't been filled for quite some time.
It wouldn't have been so bad, but at lunchtime I really wanted to clean off the clam smell from my hands before I picked up my hotdog.
Advice from a beginner:
If you decide to go on a deep sea-fishing trip, I would suggest starting on a half-day trip first. The full day makes for an extremely long day (7:00 - 4:00).
Bring plenty of sunscreen. The boat offers very little shade while you are fishing.
Bring a deck of cards for the ride in and out. Once you are out on the open ocean, there isn't much to see.
Bring a rag to clean off your hands from the bait and the fish that you caught.
Bring a cooler. Stock it with plenty of water and soda. Even if you are drinking beers all day, you will need to re-hydrate your body. It also comes in handy if you catch anything.
Bring bags for any fish catch.
Bring appropriate clothing for a cold and a hot day. Your trip may start out cold and then turn into a very hot day.
Be prepared to stink to high heaven all day long. The smell starts earlier. The longer you sit in the hot sun, with hot bait, and rotting fish, the more you will smell.