Party Boat FAQ

With many novice anglers working the rails of party boats each season, the captains and crews field a lot of questions.

A nice catch of black sea bass caught on last Friday's offshore trip aboard Parker Pete's Sportfishing.

Photo Credit: Parker Petes Sportfishing

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With many novice anglers working the rails of party boats each season, the captains and crews field a lot of questions. Here’s some important information to know before you jump aboard.

What’s the best spot on the boat?

Go on a trip with a lot of regulars, and you’re bound to see anglers beelining for certain spots on the boat. Some of it is superstition, leading anglers back to a lucky spot where they once won the pool, but according to the captains, the productive parts of the boat vary depending on the type of trip.

“The experienced fishermen flock to the ends,” said Greg Dubrule, captain of the Blackhawk II. One of the obvious advantages of the ends versus the middle is that you have fewer lines around you and, presumably, a lesser risk of tangling. But, there is an edge when bait-fishing.

Party boat rear
When anchored, the back of the boat is the preferred position of party boat regulars.

“If you’re bait fishing at anchor, the lines often run to the stern, making the back of the boat best,” said Captain Hank Leonard of the Golden Eagle. This is especially true on trips with chumming involved, such as bluefishing and canyon trips.

“The guys in the stern get them first,” said Dubrule, talking about how fish follow a chum slick to the anchored boat.

“It also allows fishermen to feed their lines back into the chum slick,” said Captain Matt Sosnowski of the Norma K III.

When drifting for fluke, Sosnowski thinks the sides of the boat, up to the bow, are best.

party boat pulpit
Fishing the pulpit allows fishermen to work either side of the boat, depending on the drift.

On boats with a pulpit, that location becomes the most coveted spot, said Dubrule, because fishermen can fish both sides of the boat and switch back and forth depending on the drift.

Is braided line okay?

The super-thin diameter of braided line has many advantages, but staying out of tangles isn’t one of them. On party boats, tangles happen as a matter of course, so when braid first became popular, many captains banned it from their vessels.

tangled lines
Tangled lines are inevitable on headboats, but using a long, monofilament topshot will make them easier for the mates to clear quickly.

But, as Dubrule put it, “Braided line catches better.” Today, braided line is welcome on most boats, with a few exceptions. For instance, on the Norma K III, fishermen are encouraged to use braid on fluke and bottom-fishing trips, but bluefish trips are monofilament only.

Hooked bluefish run around the boat, tangling up lines, said Sosnowski, and dealing with a braided line tangle with a frantic bluefish at the end is dangerous for the deckhands.

Even on braided-line-friendly trips, Lucas, a deckhand aboard the Seven B’s V, says fishermen are wise to use a topshot of monofilament between 20 and 50 feet in length depending on the depth and target species. Most tangles will happen close to the rig and the monofilament is far easier to untangle, making life easier on the mates and allowing you to get back to fishing more quickly.

How much do I tip the mate?

As I heard one captain say over the intercom in the final moments of an overnight offshore trip, “At a restaurant, you tip your waiter who spends 45 minutes to an hour with you, and our crew has been with you for a lot longer than that … and working a lot harder.”

That’s not to suggest that waiting tables is easy work, but you don’t count on your average waitstaff untangling rats’ nests and unhooking spiny dogfish in between netting or gaffing your catch.

party boat fluke
Captain Russ Benn of the Seven B’s V said a tip of 15- to 20-percent of the fare is a safe bet, but you may want to tip a little extra for exceptional service—like some heroic net-work to nab a doormat that spit the hook.

Still, none of the captains had an easy answer about tipping. Instead of giving a percentage of the fare, all said the tip should be dependent on the service. Some fishermen don’t tip at all, said Dubrule, but he’s also seen some pool-winning anglers hand over all of the money to the mates.

Fishermen who’ve had a good trip are definitely looser with their wallets, said Dubrule, but when the fishing is tough, that’s often when mates work the hardest.

Captain Russ Benn of the Seven B’s V said a tip of 15- to 20-percent of the fare is a safe bet, but you may want to tip a little extra for exceptional service—like some heroic net-work to nab a doormat that spit the hook.

What must-have items do fishermen forget?

“Clothes!” said Sosnowski, when discussing the most frequently forgotten item aboard Norma K III trips. “Whether it’s hot or cold, it’s always important to bring extra clothes. You can always take them off if you get hot.”

Foul-weather gear is another important item. Even without rain in the forecast, rough seas can make for a wet ride.

party boat seabass
One of the most commonly forgotten items, according to party boat crews, is a cooler and ice to care for the catch before taking it home.

Dubrule said coolers are another important item that fishermen fail to bring. It’s important to him that the fish taken are well cared for and enjoyed, and he goes so far as to pass out recipe cards recommending how to prepare the catch. “A fisherman who takes home his catch and makes a nice meal is more likely to have his wife let him go out fishing again,” Dubrule joked.
Keeping a catch on ice will also improve the yield when the mates clean the fish at the end of the trip, Dubrule said.

Some boats provide ice or sell it, and others don’t, so it’s worth calling ahead to see whether or not you should grab some ice on the way to the dock.

Cash for the tip is another oft-forgotten item. “I was once tipped in Gatorade,” said John, deckhand of the Seven B’s V, “but I guess it was better than getting totally stiffed.”

What do you recommend for seasick anglers?

“When it came to seasickness, my father, Captain Lenny Sr., had a favorite saying,” said Leonard, “‘The only sure cure for seasickness is a walk in the woods.’” Here are some other ideas to keep you off the rail when it gets rough:

Seasickness Remedies
Sea Band


The acupressure-inspired Sea-Band has a plastic bead that presses against a pressure point located on the palm side of the wrist that is said to reduce nausea. It is available without a prescription and has no side effects.



Antihistamines can be effective in curbing motion sickness. Dimenhydrinate (known as Dramamine), meclizine (known as Bonine) and diphenhydramine (known as Benadryl) are available over the counter, but are known to cause drowsiness, dry mouth and other side effects.

Transderm Scop


The Transderm Scop patch requires a prescription and works by blocking brain signals that cause queasiness. The patch is placed behind the ear, where it slowly releases medication through the skin into the blood stream. This slow release helps minimize side effects such as drowsiness.

Anchor Nutrition Bar

Anti-Nausea Foods

Ginger has been proven to help reduce nausea and is available in lozenge, candy, and gum forms. The Anchor Nutrition Bar combines ginger with protein and vitamin B6, which have also been shown to help reduce nausea.

3 on “Party Boat FAQ

  1. Fred Lilienkamp

    Ginger is great for combatting seasickness. An old time remedy. Ginger candy is something easy to eat. Fisherman’s Friend is useful for this, as well as gin-gins. Also crystalized ginger is easy to get. Another thing worth mentioning is breakfast. Either go out on a totally empty stomach, or a totally full stomach. I prefer a full stomach. The theory is this: In a partially full stomach, there is room in the stomach for the contents to slosh around with each wave, thereby producing the queasy feeling and worse…….On an empty stomach, there is nothing in there to slosh around, lessening your chances to get sick. I prefer the completely full stomach. The stomach is packed, so the contents won’t slosh around. Also, I get the needed energy to haul fish up from 300 ft depths. As breakfast is digested, more food can added. Lunch! Snacks!
    I go out on the Yankee headboats out of Gloucester. They have a good grill cook that makes good hamburgers and they even have good clam chowder! That’s more stuff to remember to bring if you don’t want to pay more money – bring your own food and water. Some sandwiches and ice water and Gatorade. That’s what I try to do. If I have time. Sometimes its all I can do to leave the house with enough time to jump on the boat at 4 or 5AM. It’s 1&1/2 hrs for me to drive to Gloucester. I look forward to their 12 hour marathon in the fall for 90$. It’s a good deal. Some good size pollock get caught as well as nice haddock. Of course cod get caught but they have to go back, being as we’re in the Gulf of Maine. I prefer pollock and haddock to cod any day.

  2. Phil Lee

    Simplest trick of all… Seasickness is an imbalance in the fluid flow in the ears from rocking back and forth. So,- all you have to do is block the ear on the side opposite your handedness,( if you are righthanded, put a piece of napkin, cotton, or an earplug in your left ear, and have a nice day). You can’t wait till you’re sick to do this trick,- if you think you are gonna get sick, PLUG IT UP! Don’t believe me, just try it….

    1. peter okeefe

      cmon phil ? how is blocking up your outer ear gonna effect the flow inside your head?? your ears dont gush fluid do they..LOL

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