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Always keep a sharp knife, wire cutters on board

By Staff | Nov 6, 2020

Capt. George Tunison

An item missing from many boats is a basic toolbox containing a handful of essentials and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.

A few years back I was travelling at night when I hit a crab float. In an instant the prop wrapped the float rope stopping the motor. Knife in teeth I slid over the side into the black water to cut away the tightly wrapped rope from the prop and hopefully get back in the boat without being eaten. Unfortunately, the rope was the least of my problems. The crab trap had completely encased the prop in a tightly mangled wire cage. Without the wire cutters that were safely back home in my garage toolbox, I wasn’t going anywhere. Always carry wire cutters, a sharp knife and on-the-water tow insurance.

Ever share a treble hooked lure with a thrashing fish and your hand, arm or more delicate body part? I have and over the years have seen many others in the same painful predicament. The latest episode featured an old friend that enjoys going barefoot in the boat, a Rapala topwater plug, and one of the largest ladyfish I’ve ever seen in Florida. The ladyfish caught and now on the deck of the boat was attached to the rear treble. Suddenly it flipped up off the deck then landed somehow deeply hooking my partner to the front treble between his big and second toe. It was easy to tell that this was an unusually painful spot to be hooked by the way he screamed and danced around the deck in response to the panicked, flying, flipping,  giant ladyfish now attached to his foot. Never fish barefoot, keep ladyfish out of the boat and, always carry wire cutters to cut hooks to free yourself and others. Always remember that laughing uncontrollably at the wrong time can potentially ruin friendships.

This true tale is worth repeating and perfectly illustrates the need for wire/hook cutters to always be onboard. The last time I deeply hooked myself with a surgically sharp hook that I couldn’t remove I ended up at a Cape ER. While there a man came in wearing a bloody cap, shirt, lure and holding his head. He had been alone offshore casting plugs in a strong crosswind and had driven a treble hook deeply into his scalp near the neck. The nurse asked him to remove his hand and hat so she could exam him. Unfortunately he couldn’t. After hooking his head through his hat he had instinctively reached up to investigate deeply hooking his hand on the lures other treble hook.

Calling a friend to meet him at the dock to trailer his boat, he then singlehandedly motored the 35 miles back to port and finally to the ER, bloody hat, head and lure in hand.

One question often asked by outboard motor captains from all over the planet is, “Is the motor peeing?” Or, is there a strong stream of water coming from the tell-tale hole that indicates cooling water is being picked up and being pumped though the motor. If there is no water coming out, immediately stop and investigate. If your water pump has failed, hopefully you would have gotten an audible alarm before the motor overheated causing catastrophic damage.

If the pump is fine, no alarms or overheating, then the tube is likely just clogged usually and hopefully near the opening.  If the boat sits for long periods insect debris can clog the tube. I had ants in mine last time. Hitting bottom in shallow water can block the tube with sand or mud. I carry a thin nail, a long piece of thin plastic-coated wire, and a hard plastic tube like the red plastic nozzle that comes with cans of WD-40 to poke in and unblock the tube. Go gently so you don’t poke a hole in the rubber tubing.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.