What are some do's and don'ts to boating, fishing, and (possibly) swimming while 20-40 miles from land? I'm not an idiot adrenaline junkie or a nervous Nancy or ignorant of any fishing experience but I would always rather do things 'right' than learn the hard way, even if 'right' is subjective.
Disclaimer: I'm going Anon and being vague about certain things to keep from giving my situation away in the one in a million chance the captain I'm referring to sees this post. Not that he/she would/should be offended, just for my peace of mind.
Situation: I'm lucky enough to have formed a friendship with someone who owns/captains a boat that is (easily) capable of getting to and from some great fishing spots off the panhandle of Florida. I've always been a fairly strong outdoorsy person and tend to find a matching hobby almost anywhere I end up... well it looks like deep-sea fishing might be it for now.
After going out for several trips and loving it I'm wanting to expand my arsenal of tips/tricks/skills for while we're out there. The captain is a bit one dimensional when it comes to the trips but I think is open to other ideas if presented properly.
Fishing example: All we do is bottom fish for grouper/snapper/triggerfish with the same exact rigging setup/hooks/bait in mostly the same spots (since that's what he knows and seems to be comfortable with). That's fine and I'm really enjoying it but wouldn't mind knowing more about how to take other fish, what the benefits of other baits (or even lures) are, when/how to chum the water, how to properly tend the rod while waiting for a bit, etc. Don't get me wrong we catch fish every trip but we often don't approach the limit for the target species. Pages like this
are great but seem unclear on the more obvious points like
"When do you gut a fresh caught fish (or do you gut at all)?" Some seem to say on the boat ASAP, some seem to suggest icing and waiting until you get to the dock is fine. Some gut before they fillet, some don't seem to worry about it. The capt has his way but if I can step in and help at the end of the day it would be all the better for both of us.
Boating example: What bits and pieces I know about fishing totally overshadows my knowledge of deep-sea vessel handling. Beyond knowing/feeling like I could get the boat up on plane and to dry land and/or pick him up if he fell overboard, I'm a total rookie. Moreover, I feel like our strategy is pretty vanilla. Find GPS spot, estimate drift direction, drop anchor upcurrent, fish. Nothing like the skills that some people
seem to have.
Swimming example: I grew up near the beach my whole life and my swimming skills are fine if nowhere near lifeguard level. However, hopping off his boat to cool off/swim/relax just seems hinky to me. This isn't Deadliest Catch where the water temp kills in mere minutes. We (currently) don't chum the water beyond what odor our bait puts off. We've seen/hooked a few sharks (mostly nurse, a hammerhead, and a few sand sharks) so there's that, but I mean people scuba the wrecks here very often so how dangerous (besides the occasional jellyfish or something) can it be.
There's so many factors to this question that I know I haven't covered everything but I'll address them as they come up I suppose. Thanks for the opinions and for those of you that are/ever have been in the area I'm describing please feel free to memail me for more info or *gods be praised if this happens* some coordinates of decent/awesome spots to visit. We do things by the book and don't harm the fish unnecessarily by the way.