boat lunch

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One of the best ways to get the fish to bite: Dig out your lunch.

I like food. A lot. This is not shocking. A casual glance at my body shape will provide you with that information.

But, on the boat, I don’t eat much. Sometimes, I don’t eat anything. And oddly, I don’t miss it — not until I get back on land.

It started with a tendency toward getting seasick. Knowing that if the boat started rockin’ I was probably going to get queasy, I was careful about what I ate before trips and especially during trips. Nothing heavy, nothing greasy, nothing acidic — and nothing that would burn on the way back up. (Learned the hard way with a spicy breakfast burrito.)

I don’t get seasick any more, except in the special case of big rollers combined with diesel fumes and the smell of previously frozen whole squid baking in the sun. But the habit of avoiding food when I’m going on the boat has remained more or less intact.

Many people seem to find it odd. I’ve fished with some guys who start munching almost as soon as the mooring lines are in and don’t stop until we’re back at the dock. It seems like being on the water makes a lot of folks hungrier.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the guys I fish with seem to have a favorite fishing trip lunch. A Pub sub (that’s a hoagie or grinder from Publix, for the uninitiated) is a very popular choice. Hard to argue that one — Pub subs are the bomb diggity, although the mayo is too sweet.

One problem with Pub subs: The wrapper is paper. If the ice in your cooler melts, and your sandwich falls in, it’s gonna be soggy. This happens more often than you might think. A 12-inch sub won’t fit in a gallon zipper bag, but two halves will. It’s a wise precaution.

A wide variety of other sandwiches are common boat munchies. Some are homemade; some come from the gas station. Interestingly, I’ve never seen any of the other “brand name” sandwiches on a boat; just Publix.

I fished with a couple fellas last year who had what they called a fishing sandwich. Not a fish sandwich — a fishing sandwich. I made the dumb mistake of asking what was in it. It’s a peanut butter and jelly (strawberry, I think) and bologna and mayo. Either half would be fine, but the whole thing together? They offered me one. I declined as politely as I could through the retching noises.

Sides are best kept simple. Potato chips are popular. If you have sharp eyes, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of chip bags manage to escape overboard. Some folks like crackers. Wheat Thins are a good choice — very filling. Cheez-Its and Goldfish are great for the kids.

If you’re bringing fruit, plan ahead for how you’re going to eat it. Sliced apples are ideal and create no mess. Cut chunks of cantaloupe are less appropriate. Berries have a tendency to land on deck and leave impressive stains. Ever seen the mess one blueberry can make when an excitable five-year-old accidentally stomps it? And remember, no bananas if your captain is the superstitious sort.

Some folks live aboard their boats for extended periods of time. I suppose for them boat food is just regular food. But then again, if your boat is big enough to live on and has a galley, you probably have a table and plates and flatware aboard. Makes it easier. On most smaller boats, there’s no place to set a plate.

The ultimate boat food is freshly caught fish. If you enjoy sashimi, this is easily accomplished —all you need is a fish and a knife. For those who demand cooked fish, there are a couple manufacturers that specialize in making marine grills. Sure, you could make hot dogs and hamburgers on them, but to me it seems like a shame if the ocean’s bounty is available.

I know at least a couple of you are wondering about the legality of eating fish you’ve just caught. After all, many species have that pesky “landed ashore in whole condition” requirement.

Here’s the deal: The fish have to be legal (in season, correct size, within your bag limit). You need to eat the whole fish, since you don’t want to be out there with half a fish in the cooler. Choose the snapper, not the cobia (unless you’re really hungry). Discard the carcass over the side without feeding it to a bird or dolphin and you’re good to go.

On longer trips, I do eventually get hungry. For those days, I pack a couple of the wraps my wife makes: Whole wheat tortilla, low-sodium turkey, Swiss cheese, stone-ground mustard, Duke’s mayo and a little extra love.

What’s your favorite lunch on the boat?


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