About Lenny Rudow

Lenny Rudow is Senior Editor for Dominion Marine Media, including Boats.com and Yachtworld.com. With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, he has contributed to publications including Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design who has won 28 BWI and OWAA writing awards.

White Marlin Open, the World’s Biggest Billfish Fishing Tournament Begins, results and winner info coming soon!

The White Marlin Open, the world’s biggest billfish fishing tournament, begins today and we’ll have results here on the blog, asap! Anglers leaving ports from New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia will be competing to take home cash prizes and bragging rights, for the biggest white marlin, biggest fish overall, biggest tuna, biggest mahi, and biggest wahoo.

Though the field is reduced this year (the final count of contenders was 255 after registration closed, which is down from a high of nearly 400 boats a few years ago), the purse still holds the promise of 1.8 million dollars in prizes. So plenty of boats steamed through the inlet this morning, even with a so-so weather report of East by North/East winds of 10 to 15 knots and seas of three to six feet. Though this isn’t a heavy wind, North/East seas are usually the worst for Mid Atlantic anglers, with regards to both sea conditions and fishing. (Remember the old Ocean City saying: “North/East = Never ever”).

Tomorrow’s forecast holds a bit more promise, with the breeze dropping and seas subsiding to three to four feet. On Wednesday, however, they’re forecast to rise again.

In either case, the white marlin bite has been existent but not exactly hot from the Baltimore to Washington canyons, with most boats reporting one to three bites per day. Blue marlin bites have been rare lately, with tuna bites even rarer. Since this is a five day tournament, of course, a lot can change between today’s catch and Friday’s. Check back on the blog, because we’ll have daily results updates here, and good luck to the anglers competing in the White Marlin Open, the world’s biggest billfish fishing tournament!

white marlin open billfish tournament billfishing

A billfish gets hoisted for a picture, prior to release. Only those over 70 pounds are brought to the scales for weighing, in the White Marlin Open.

Sirius Satellite Weather on the Chartplotter

Sirius weather satellite boat chartplotter

Sirius satellite weather works, period.

After testing Sirius satellite weather on the chartplotter, I signed up for the service myself. Since I take my kids out on offshore adventures that may range 60 to 70 miles from the boat ramp, I wanted to be darn sure I knew what weather was coming, and how to avoid it. And avoid it we have, several times now, thanks to real-time satellite weather.

A few months ago, I was talking with a friend about it when he whipped out his cell phone, and brought up a real-time weather radar on an ap. What a fool I had been! The ap cost him all of five bucks, while I was spending $30 a month to get Sirius. Of course, cells don’t work when you’re miles and miles offshore. So I justified the expense by thinking about those times we’re out on blue water. Yes, the bulk of the fishing trips we take are on the bay or nearer the coast, so the usefulness of Sirius, though down-graded in my mind, was still worth the cost.

Yesterday, my way of looking at weather service changed once again. We drove towards the boat ramp for an afternoon of bay fishing, with a 40 percent chance of thunder boomers in the forecast. As we got close the skies grew dark, and it began sprinkling. When we pulled into the ramp parking lot, a flash of lightening went through the sky and the clouds opened up. We parked the rig and ran up to the pavilion, where a dozen-odd other boaters were also taking cover, waiting for the storm to pass. One of the guys whipped out his cell phone, and said he’d pull up the current radar shot. Relieved I didn’t have to run through the rain to fire up the chartplotter, I watched over his shoulder, along with several others, as his fingers played across the screen. “Hmmm…” he said. “Something isn’t working right.” Despite several tries, he couldn’t pull it up. As we all know, the worst thing about cell phones and tapping into the internet with them is relatively low reliability, especially when compared to something like Sirius satellite, which is nearly 100 percent reliable.

Soon, the clouds broke and it appeared as though the worst of the storm had passed. As the guy with the cell phone jumped in his boat and roared off, I climbed onto my boat, turned on Sirius, and soon saw a huge line of severe thunder storms tracking right for us. We packed up and drove for home – through intense downpours, lightening, and heavy winds. What about the guy with the cell phone? I’ll bet he wished had satellite weather, instead.

Gulf Oil Spill Map from NOAA Charts Fishing Closures

There’s a new interactive NOAA map online that charts the Gulf oil spill, fishing closures, spill trajectories, environmental impact, and more; it even has aerial and satellite images. Say what you will about the feds, NOAA has done one heck of a job with this and whoever was in charge of it should get a pat on the back.

It’s hard to get the straight scoop on anything these days thanks to all of the misinformation out there, and this NOAA Gulf oil spill map system gives you the ability to see exactly what the heck is going on without the clutter and sensationalism of media news networks, or the potential BS of the internet. Those of us who are far from the area will want to use it to see the overall impact, but locals will find it even more useful thanks to the fishery closure area charts. Not only can you see what areas are closed to fishing, you can even see when other areas were shut down, and when, with a click of the mouse.

You might remember from a prior post (see it at http://www.boats.com/boat-content/2010/06/noaa-fish-habitat-map-locations-released/) that NOAA recently released an interactive map of fish habitat areas, and they’ve also updated this one to a new URL with a shorter link (http://www.habitat.noaa.gov/efhmapper). Now, this new NOAA Gulf oil spill map is out – it makes you wonder who’s running the interactive charting show at NOAA, doesn’t it? Someone who’s – dare I say it – competent. Thanks, whoever you are!

Here’s the link: http://gomex.erma.noaa.gov/erma.html#x=-90.42000&y=28.03000&z=6&layers= and a screen shot, so you can see what the mapper looks like:

map of the gulf oil spill by noaa

The NOAA interactive Gulf oil spill map has info that'll be of interest to boaters and fishers near and far.

Bailing Mahi at the Lobster Pots

Bailing mahi mahi at the lobster pots along the edge of the Continental Shelf is one heck of a fun way to fish; there’s a ton of action, the fish jump and fight like crazy, and they taste darn good, too. Yesterday a weather-window opened up wide, so we launched the WriteAway and headed out for the canyons to give it a shot. The fishing was red-hot and mahi were under every lobster pot float we checked (look for some cool underwater videos of mahi mahi to appear on Earthsports soon!) but as we fished, it brought back the memory of a very real danger that exists when you run your boat out to the edge, and partake in this fishery.

The lobster pot floats attract mahi because they’re moored in place with lines running down to the bottom, creating some stationary structure in 400′ to 800′ of water – a real rarity in the offshore waters. When bailing for mahi the trick it to get close to these floats, toss some chunks of fish into the water to get the mahi riled up and in a feeding mood, and then toss in your baits.  In doing so, you drive towards the float then spin the boat around so the stern faces it and the anglers can toss their baits out close to it. Get too close, however, and when you spin the boat your prop(s) can get a little too intimate with the lines running to and from the float.

Wrapping a prop is bad enough, but wrapping one from a lobster pot float means you not only lose power, you’re essentially anchored by the stern. If there are any waves around – occasionally you do find them out in the ocean – they can roll right into the cockpit of your boat. We in the maritime field generally call this “bad”.

Two years ago, a boat I was on came damn near sinking due to this danger. The captain swung in a little too close, and in the 45 or 50 seconds it took me to crawl out onto the motorwell and cut the line, two waves washed right in. One of the bilge pumps failed, the other back-flowed, and in a matter of two minutes we went from having a fun day of bailing mahi at the lobster pots to struggling to stay afloat, manually bailing a knee-deep cockpit, with one engine completely out of action and the other stuttering (from partial submersion). It took several hours and a call to the Coast Guard to get everything up and running properly again. So when you consider bailing for mahi around the lobster pots at the canyons, be careful not to get too close!

bailing mahi lobster pot floats fishing

Bailing mahi at the lobster pot floats is a ton of fun, but watch out for that line!

Adding a High Accuracy Fuel Flow Meter on your Boat

Adding a high accuracy fuel flow meter onto your boat is a much easier installation then most people would assume, and it gives you some important advantages. Let’s face facts: just about anyone who’s run a boat for years on end has either run the fuel tanks dry, or come close enough that they’ve stressed over reaching the dock. A flow meter takes care of these concerns, and tells you when you need to turn around and head for home, plan to fuel up for the next trip, or even if you need to slow down to conserve fuel, because you risk running out.

Of course, accuracy is important, and all flow meters are not created equal. Modern outboards which compute fuel flow via their onboard brains are great, but if your engine doesn’t have this feature built in the chances are, you need to add a mechanical meter. One simple rule of thumb will help you pick out one that’s reliable: if a fuel flow meter costs less then $350, you can pretty much bet it’s quality leaves something to be desired. And that’s just the meter; plan on spending more for the display, if the meter you choose won’t play nice with a display that’s already at your dash.

You want some specifics? Fine. I’ll speak to two fuel flow meters which I’ve had in my own boats, and can vouch for when it comes to accuracy: FlowScan and Yamaha. In my experience the FlowScans reliably run within two percent of actual burn. The Yamahas reliably run within five percent of actual burn, but do better if you don’t troll very much because their reliability is better at high flow rates then it is at low flow rates. One key factor: it’s important to make sure the flow meter is installed in a lever, secure position, without any kinks or sharp bends in the line prior to the meter. These cause turbulence in the fuel flow, and when air bubbles hit the meter’s paddlewheel, they throw the readings off.

You want to extend your range, and end the uncertainty? Then add a fuel flow meter that has high accuracy – and of course, always keep 10 percent of your fuel supply in reserve!

accurate fuel flow meter boat

An accurate fuel flow meter is great to have, on your boat.

Nascar Drivers Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jimmy Johnson, Fame, and Fishing Boats

nascar fishing rods result sales

NASCAR colors results in more fishing rod sales? Er…..

What do Nascar drivers like Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt have in common with football greats like Jimmy Johnson? They like boats, and they like fishing. Check it out: Gambler built several Dale Earnhardt edition bass boats; Jeff Gordon was involved with the 2004 Ranger Boats Nascar bass boat give-away; and after NFL legend Jimmy Johnson “retired” to the Florida Keys (in Islamorada) he was asked how often he went fishing and responded by saying “If the weather is decent, I’ll be out on my boat.”

Of course, some people even more famous then these sports figures (the elder George Bush,  Hemmingway, and Johnny Depp-yep, he’s a captain in real life, too-are all examples) are also boaters. Wait a sec – why should you care? I’m not saying you really should. Personally, I find America’s status as a celebination absolutely ridiculous. But evidently a heck of a lot of fishermen really care about it, because at this year’s ICAST show (where all the fishing tackle manufacturers introduce their new products) we saw entire lines of rods that were flying the Nascar banner (finished in the same color patterns as your favorite driver’s car), “fishing wear” sporting the NFL logo, and even some rods which were color-matched to college ball teams. What’s next, a NASCAR fishboat? Oh yeah – wait a sec – we already had those Gamblers…

So, why isn’t there a Bush-edition Fountain? Because the former president may be just as or more famous then a sports figure, but that sure as heck doesn’t mean he’s as popular, nor will he help as much when it comes to selling boats. Nor should it. But if you stop and think for a moment, being associated with NASCAR really shouldn’t amount to a hill of beans when it comes to selling fishing rods, either… should it?

Troubleshoot Outboard Engine, Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda, Evinrude, or Mercury

Do you need to troubleshoot your Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda, Evinrude, or Mercury outboard? Even though most of today’s outboard engines require a full-blown laptop scan to diagnose, some common problems can be addressed rather easily… if, that is, you know what to look for.

Electrical issues and the number one problem, when your outboard won’t start. To make sure you have enough juice to get it running, tilt the engine up and down one time. If it doesn’t run full speed, you may not have the power you need. (Check your battery cable connections, and scrub away any green crud before going any further; it’s enough to prevent the power from getting through to the engine.) If it does, immediately suspect the shifter. Jiggle it a bit as you turn the key, to make sure it’s in the proper neutral position. Next check the kill switch, which may have shorted. You can circumvent it by disconnecting the black wire with a yellow stripe, at the ignition switch.

Fuel systems come next in the troubleshooting line up. Pump the ball to make sure it’s firm, not collapsed (which indicates a vacuum, check the vent and vent line(s) to make sure they aren’t kinked or blocked) or soft (which indicates a leak in the system.) If all’s well there, suspect ethanol issues. Do you add Star Tron to your tank on every fill-up? If you don’t burn the fuel out of your boat at least every few weeks, you should. Sudden shut-downs and bogging means you probably have a significant amount of water in your fuel tank.

Finally, consider the cooling system. If you’re overheating or the tell-tail isn’t flowing there’s a good chance the intakes are blocked (check them for plastic bags, weeds, mud, etc.), or your impeller has gone bad. (You’ll have to replace it.) If the impeller proves okay, than the thermostat is the next most likely culprit; put it in a pot of boiling water to see if it’s opening properly.

Two other easy to spot and common issues are vibrations, due to a bent or chipped prop; and vibrations or a thump upon acelleration, due to loose motor-mount bolts. Of course, there are plenty of other problems you’re likely to encounter while running an outboard that require the help of a pro. But often these easy issues can be identified, with a bit of quick troubleshooting.  

troubleshoot outboard engine Yamaha Suzuki Mercury Honda Evinrude

Is your engine running right, or do you need to troubleshoot an outboard? These tips will work, whether you run a Yamaha, Mercury, Suzuki, Honda, or Evinrude.

The FLIR Raymarine Acquisition and New Marine Electronics for 2010 and 2011

The FLIR acquisition of Raymarine has left a lot of questions in people’s minds, and everyone’s wondering what new marine electronics for 2010, 2011, and beyond will develop from this marraige. Yesterday I met with company reps, who gave me the low-down on what we can expect to see over the next year, and it’s all good stuff!

Some new gear will be coming out from Raymarine around the time of the Lauderdale boat show, but for now, we’re sworn to secrecy on exactly what it will be. But here’s what I can tell you: These companies have made a serious commitment to upgrading Raymarine’s current offerings; they’ve already worked out the bugs left in some of the newer systems, and have paid some serious attention to getting the line-up in good shape before launching new products. FLIR’s expertise in networking systems is both simplifying and expanding Raymarine’s SeaTalk capabilities and future prospects, and a new converter is available (and costs less then $100!) which will allow legacy products to “talk” to new units on the SeaTalk system. There’s also a new GPS antenna in the game, the Raystar 125 Plus, which can communicate with both old and new SeaTalk as well as NMEA0183 systems.

More important then any individual product was the attitude Raymarine reps projected: they are 100-percent committed to moving Raymarine forward, and re-establishing it as a leading marine electronics brand.Meanwhile, FLIR is giving them the backing they need to fix the problems created by economic turmoil and move forward with cool new products in the very near future. (And as we’ve seen in the past, FLIR does what it says and does it well.) OK Ray fans, you can let out a collective sigh of relief – Raymarine isn’t going anywhere, it’s only going to get better!

Raymarine FLIR acquisition gps seatalk sea talk

The Raymarine SeaTalk converter and Raystar 125 Plus GPS antenna

New Shimano fishing reels, rods, and lures for 2010 at ICAST

Shimano had new fishing reels, rods, and lures at ICAST for 2010, no surprise there, but what is surprising is just how much new gear these folks introduced this year. A down economy? Says who? Certainly not Shimano! But here’s the real surprise: not only did they intro new gear, they also re-designed (and vastly improved) several existing models – Shimano didn’t hold a darn thing back! Here are some of the highlights:

- The Trinidad A – The Trinidad star drag reel has been around for years, and is an extremely reliable (though expensive) workhorse. Redesigned for 2010, it now incorporates all of the technology advancements Shimano’s made through the past decade. High efficiency gearing, the Dartanium II drag, EI corrosion protection, and so on. PS – this one won an award for best new saltwater reel.

- The Talica II – I got a sneak-peek at these while fishing with the Shimano guys in Key West this spring, and wrote up a review of the Talica II 10 at http://www.boats.com/boat-content/2010/03/shimano-talica-10-fishing-reel-test-light-tackle-high-speed/ The bottom line: this is a sweet little mighty-might of a reel, which packs one heckova punch!

- The Thunnus – This spinning reel is the heavyweight of baitrunners, and its redesign includes a new drag system, a weight reduction, and enhanced corrosion protection. It’s another reel with a high price point, but it’s a spinner that can conquer tunas and other large pelagics.

- The Wax Wing sub-surface lure – this is another one I got to try out in Key West, but was sworn to secrecy until it’s introduction at the 2010 ICAST. It’s similar to a crankbait but it has upper and lower fins instead of a lip. That gives it a quick side to side darting motion, while it runs just under the surface. The fish ate it up! (I have a super-cool video including underwater footage of a bonito busting on it, at www.Earthsports.com. Check it out!) BTW, this one won an award at the show, for best new hard bait.

 - The Stella SE – This is Shimano’s top-end spinner, and it’s silky-smooth in the extreme. New sizes are available, and multiple upgrades over past models helped this one win the best new freshwater reel category.

- Terez rods – These big-boat rods are all-new, and they have several features you won’t see on others. The basic design theory creates an offshore trolling rod with no roller guides and half the weight of a traditional boat rod, but twice the power. They are amazing, period. On that trip to the keys I had the chance to fight a nice sailfish with one, and LOVED it. Yep, this one won an award too, for the best new saltwater rod. Added bonus: it comes in colors that match most boat hulls, from fighting lady yellow to sea foam green to creme white, so you can color match your gear to your boat.

Other Shimano companies like G. Loomis also introduced cool new gear for 2010 at ICAST, but there’s just too darn much to get into at this point – so stay tuned! Until next time, here’s a shot of that sailfish, coming in on a Talica II reel and Terez rod combination.

shimano new fishing reel rod talica II terez at ICAST

Introduced at ICAST in 2010, a Shimano rod (Terez) and reel (Talica II) combination whooped this sailfish.

Si Tex Electronics is Back, New SP 36 Autopilot

Si Tex marine electronics is back in the game after fading into the background for a couple of years, and their newest offering is an autopilot: the SP 36. This is a high-end unit, with advanced features like virtual feedback capability (so there’s no need for a rudder feedback unit on stern drive and outboard boats). That simplifies installation and in the long run, even cuts cost.

Steering features include the perks we’ve become accustomed to in high end autopilots, like trolling zig-zag patterns, circles, MOB turns, and towing applications. More importantly, this is a “smart” autopilot. Over time, it’ll “learn” how your boat handles and automatically adjust itself to control the boat more efficiently and accurately. We’ve seen this in some other high-end units before, but never a Si Tex.

The Sp 36 control head itself has a hi-resolution, sunlight-viewable color display with a rotary steering and course control knob, and is waterproof, too. The price tag? It isn’t cheap, at $3,299.

Si Tex was essentially shut down until last fall, when it was purchased and moved to New York. They quickly rolled out the new EC series of chartplotters, with five, seven, and ten inch screens. Now, this new autopilot is hitting the streets. We’ll have to hold our breath and wait and see just how well Si Tex does with these new offerings, but in any case it’s good to see the company back in operation…and this time, we’re pretty sure it won’t be left running on…well, you know!

si tex sp 36 autopilot

The display for the Sp 36 autopilot from Si Tex is color, and waterproof. Good to have you back, Si Tex.