Boat Brakes

Smart Sea-Anchoring Can Improve Your Fishing Success

October 30, 2012

Do you ever wish you could slow your drift or hold the bow into the sea without standing at the helm and using engines? You can. Three pros describe how sea anchors add comfort to your drift, and enjoy increased action from sailfish, swordfish and tuna.

“It’s like an extra set of hands,” says Jeffrey Liederman, a tackle specialist at Capt. Harry’s Fishing Supply in Miami. Rather than standing at the helm, he says, “I can be in the cockpit changing baits, watching lines, keeping everything fishing well.” Sea anchors are particularly helpful on small boats. “With twin inboards, it’s fairly easy to keep the bow into the sea. With outboards all the way at the stern, the boat doesn’t respond as quickly. You end up sideways to the waves,” he says. “The sea anchor settles things down and makes the situation a lot more manageable.” Often the slower, steady drift helps kites fly better too.

Liederman won’t use a sea anchor when wind and current necessitate mobility to hold a ­particular depth, or when tailing or free-jumping sailfish require quick moves.


Liederman’s Short-Rode Rig

Liederman wants the shortest rode possible that still allows the sea anchor to sink below the waves enough to open completely. “When we have to chase a fish, it’s pretty simple to pull up,” he says. A short rode also lessens the chance of surface-fighting sailfish tangling in the sea anchor.

For his 35 Contender center-console, Liederman uses a 15-foot PARA-TECH sea anchor on just 30 feet of ¾-inch nylon rode attached to a stainless-steel swivel at the sea anchor’s bridle. PARA-TECH sews a retrieval “trip line” to the center of the parachute. Liederman attaches an 8-inch float to the end of this trip line, and runs 50 feet of ½-inch floating polypropylene line from that float back to the boat.


Setting the sea anchor is simple. Secure both rode and retrieval-line bitter ends to the boat, pay out the entire retrieval line, and then pay out the sea anchor and its rode slowly. The sea anchor opens once the rode comes tight.

Retrieval is also simple. Pulling the polypro trip line collapses the sea anchor and brings it to the boat backward, parachute-end first. “Watch that the shackle doesn’t scratch the boat,” Liederman warns. He paints his with rubberized Plasti Dip coating. He packs the sea anchor into a 36-quart cooler, ready for another quick set.

Sails and Swords


For sailfish, a sea anchor holds the bow into the wind, so kites and fishing lines stay off the stern. Swordfishing is a bit tricker, since lines are drifting off the windward side of the boat.

“If you’re drifting too fast, you’re dragging the baits up toward the surface,” Liederman says. He sets three lines to windward using a balloon on each to set depth, and varying the distance of those balloons from the boat. With the sea anchor, he simply moves those three rods to rod holders on the bow. Once they’re out, he sets the sea anchor. “As long as there is tension on those lines, they won’t tangle,” he says. Liederman drops a fourth line without a balloon straight down from the rod at the stern.

Capt. Ray Rosher, owner of Miss Britt Charters also uses a sea anchor when swordfishing. “I can’t hold an exact drift speed while power-drifting in very heavy wind,” Rosher says. “I want constant, even pressure on the rods. The steady drift of a sea anchor helps anglers recognize and react to the bite.” It’s easy to fish in the bow of Rosher’s 42-foot walkaround charter boat. On sport-fishers with high foredecks, it requires agile crew and rod holders installed in the foredeck atop the anchor locker.


Northern Canyons

“Sometimes we’ll set the sea anchor to slow the drift while we’re chunking,” says Bryce Poyer, owner of Whitewater Outfitters in Hampton Bays, New York. “If we’re making only a couple of drifts instead of four or five, we spend more time fishing.” Chum can make a mess of the sea anchor. As it comes aboard, Poyer puts the sea anchor in a cooler along with some Orpine bilge cleaner.

Poyer also uses the sea anchor for comfort. “Rocking around in the dark is unpleasant,” he says. “Instead of standing at the helm, jogging into the sea, I’ll set the sea anchor and sit comfortably drinking my coffee.” This also allows him to put at least one line down for ­swordfish and one on top for mako.

Poyer’s Long Rig

Poyer uses a much different rig than Liederman or Rosher. “A swordfish or mako or a real hot tuna fight deep,” he says. “You want that sea anchor way away from the boat so the fish swims under it.”

Poyer rigs his sea anchor on 300 feet of 5⁄8-inch nylon anchor rode. Like Liederman, he puts an 8-inch buoy on the prerigged trip line, and then attaches 50 feet of polypropylene, but at the end of the polypro, Poyer attaches a another buoy. “We drive up to it, taking up slack,” he says. “When we get close, the mate grabs that trip line with a gaff.”

Whatever the fishing situation, when you need to slow the drift or stay bow into the waves, try a sea anchor.

Capt. Vincent Daniello
A large stainless-steel swivel connects the sea anchor’s bridle to the rode. Capt. Vincent Daniello
David Shepherd
A medium-size cooler not only offers a convenient place for the sea anchor and rode, but keeps chum and debris off the deck as the gear comes aboard. Capt. Vincent Daniello

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