As the sales manager at AFTCO, Greg Stotesbury has heard plenty of stories of the dangers associated with not adequately protecting your hands when fishing. Unfortunately, one story hits close to home.
Stotesbury’s father was fishing off San Diego several years ago with his wife, who had hooked into a big striped marlin. As the fish began tiring boat-side, Stotesbury put on a pair of orange mesh gloves and began wiring the fish.
“Just then, it bolted under the boat,” recalls the younger Stotesbury. “The leader tightened around his index and ring finger, and cut them clean off. It happened so fast, he didn’t have time to react … and those old gloves just weren’t up to the task.”
Here’s the reality of saltwater fishing: It can be a dangerous game sometimes. Whether wiring big pelagics, handling abrasive gear or simply spending too much time under a damaging sun, anglers must properly protect their hands.
Preparing for Battle
We’ve all seen — and probably used — the orange mesh gloves Stotesbury described. While these gloves might provide a certain level of protection, they are wholly inadequate when it comes to heavy-duty offshore work.
No one knows more about this subject than Charles Perry. Generally recognized as the top wireman on the planet, Perry has been pulling on huge tunas and marlin from Australia to Madeira and everywhere in between for decades.
“The basic idea,” he says, “is that whatever size leader you’re using, you use gloves that protect your hands but still offer as much feel as possible.”
Big fish and 400-pound leaders? Use heavily padded gloves that allow you to apply the proper amount of pressure needed to turn and lift a big fish, Perry says. Wiring sailfish on a light leader? Scale down the gloves so you can “feel” your quarry, react to its surges and avoid break-offs.
Luckily, anglers can find several good options. While in the old days Perry would battle marlin with custom-made “leather fireplace gloves with padding in the palm’s heel,” companies such as AFTCO now offer manufactured gloves designed to protect hands in the same fashion.
AFTCO actually consulted Perry when designing its Bluefever Wiremax gloves, which are made with closed-cell EVA foam and Kevlar coating to offer protection against the biggest fish. The company’s Release gloves have less padding and are “more of a tactile glove for wiring sailfish, striped and white marlin,” says Stotesbury.
Fighting, Gaffing and Fileting
While wiring a massive fish is likely the most intense test you’ll ever put your hands through when fishing, it’s not the only one. Fighting a big fish with rod and reel can be similarly hard on an angler, especially in an unforgiving offshore environment.
Consider first that your hands will likely become wet with sweat or seawater, which causes slippage, pruning and a greater susceptibility to cuts. Then there’s the fact that a rocking boat often leads to banged knuckles on heavy gear. And, of course, if you’re latched onto a true beast, you’ll be working hard for an extended period of time, which always leads to hand cramps and blistering.
Bottom line: A good pair of gloves makes doing battle much easier and much more comfortable.