Floating in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico aboard a charter boat with your friends, you don’t have the luxury of finding a secluded spot to fish.
“You can’t really cast; there’s too many people to cast,” says Life Scout Zachary Bartling, 15. “You can drop your bait right in. You let the line out until you hit the bottom — that’s normally 40 or 50 feet.”
Then you wait. Who knows what will strike your piece of squid at the end of your line: A giant grouper? A red snapper? A shark?
“It’s pretty much wait-and-see if you get a bite,” says Life Scout Lauryn Cotton, 14.
Whatever did bite, the Scouts in boys and girls Troops 610 of Riverview, Florida, would get to reel in, clean, cook and eat.
HEADED OUT TO SEA
Last spring, both troops headed to a fishing charter company in Clearwater, Fla. There, they boarded a 90-foot boat destined for fishing spots several miles from shore.
“A lot of Scouts enjoy deep-sea fishing,” says Life Scout Aiden Reed, 16.
Though you’re simply dropping your bait off the side of the boat, ocean fishing still requires some strategy.
The water’s depth often determines what fish you’ll find. The deeper the water, the bigger the fish.
Bait also plays a factor. Fish find their food by detecting scent, sound and movement. Using live bait would alert all these senses. But the charter boat had frozen squid, which is the next best thing.
They also had everything else anglers need: heavy-duty rods and reels, and line capable of hauling in a 50-pound animal. The Scouts wouldn’t need anything that strong, though.
REEL ‘EM IN
Soon after the Scouts at the front of the boat dropped their lines in, they began pulling up fish.
“They caught almost immediately,” says Eagle Scout Sam Herzberg, 16. “I changed places a lot more. There wasn’t much you could change.”
Many Scouts had luck during the three-hour outing. Mostly, they were landing grunts, a common fish off the Florida coast; however, they caught some red snapper, too. In all, the troops reeled in nearly 40 fish.
With the fish on ice, the boat headed back to shore. Scouts working on the Fishing merit badge fulfilled the requirements by gutting and filleting their fish.
The troops went to Camp Soule, a Greater Tampa Bay Area Council camp, to cook fish dinners and spend the night. For two weeks, each patrol had been figuring out how they’d prepare their meal.
“My patrol planned to deep-fry,” Zachary says. “We brought our own spices.”
Another patrol chose to pan-fry their catch over a campfire, which proved tricky as it started to rain.
“The rain didn’t help, but it was cool to watch,” Aiden says. “Not a lot of us had tried it that way, on the fire.”
The consensus on the tastiest fish, though, went to the deep-fried.
The Scouts cleaned up and enjoyed spending time around the fire before heading off to bed. It was a delightful and delicious day.
“It put a smile on your face,” Zachary says.
Anytime you’re outdoors, even if it’s briefly, protect yourself from the sun.
“You’ve got to keep the UV rays away,” Aiden says.
Ultraviolet rays cause sunburns, and your skin can turn red within a couple of hours of being burned. The Scouts wouldn’t have much shade while they were fishing on the boat. So they slathered on sunscreen often, and some wore long sleeves to cover their skin.
Wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat also provides protection.
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