Fish on! Hook up! Fresh one! These are all common phrases to yell out when your reel is screaming and the line is taken hundreds of feet into the ocean. It is also in that moment that you may realize your back is in for a workout.
I have caught 50 lb. blue fin tuna, barracuda, albacore, yellow tail, and more on over 20 trips off the coast of San Diego, approximately 75 miles offshore. I have also caught a nice 30 lb. brown trout off of Lake Michigan. Each takes me about 20-30 minutes to bring on the boat, providing my body with quite the endurance-based workout. The physical therapist in me can’t ignore back pain, so there are strategies to help land that fish and assist with eliminating that back pain in the upcoming weeks.
- Use the waves: Even if the fish you have hooked up isn’t too big, the ocean can fight against you. Here are a few tips to fight back. Wait for the boat to go up the wave. Once at the top, wind, wind, wind, wind as you ride down the wave! This allows the wave to bring up your rod, saving your arms and body the trouble of pulling up on a fighting fish against the swells of the ocean.
- Keep your back straight: The fish will be heading out and towards the bottom of the ocean floor, pulling you into the boat’s railing. Keep your back straight, with contraction of your core muscles. This will support your back best. With some fish, you will have to slump over the rail. Habitually, you will want to stand up using your back.
- Use your legs: If the waves are not big (i.e. Lake Michigan or a calm day on the ocean), use your legs to try and eliminate the cause of back pain. Instead of pulling up on the rod with your arms and back, bend your knees then wind as you straighten them. Sit back to counter the forward pulling force of the fish. This will give your quads and gluts a great workout and save your back from some undesirable positions.
- Stagger your feet: I have noticed some pain in my low back even when I haven’t yet hooked up a fish. My bait is swimming and the weight of the pole pulls my center of gravity forward as I lean into the boat railing. Staggering your feet allows a more upright position and will better prepare you for that huge tug as you hook up that fish.
- Anchor your rod: If you are truly strong enough to place your rod under your arm as you fish that’s great. However, for those of us who need to control the rod a bit better for whatever reason, you will want a place to anchor your rod. I place the end of my rod in my side, about 3 inches left of my belly button. Using my body helps to stabilize the rod and allows me to use my legs and keep my core muscles tight as I bring in the fish.
- Follow your fish: The fish will move sideways and even swim all the way around the boat. Follow it! Torquing your body at different angles is stressful on your back. Staying in front of your fish and moving your feet with it will help keep the fish on the line as well!
- Bend backwards: After a successful fishing trip and reeling in that huge prize winning fish, bend backwards a few times to counteract
the forward force that your body just fought against.
Deep sea fishing creates great memories stories! Don’t let your back pain be part of that! Fish on!