I can think of nothing worse than having to pull an anchor up in any depth over 40m. Like everything we do there is an easy way and a hard way, and if you have ever had to do it then you would certainly know it is hard work. However, there is an easy way to up anchor and save your arms for pulling in the fish.
If we start at the beginning and step through the process it will all make perfect sense. In the following I will discuss how to make the process much more efficient and smooth enough not to scare away the fish.
Firstly, we need to set up the anchor and the equipment needed. Pic.1a shows a length of chain running along the anchor shaft and the plastic ties used to connect it. There is a large ring on a floating ball that can run freely up and down the rope until is comes to the anchor (refer to Pic.1b). This system will work for any type of anchor, this particular one is known as the Mooloolaba Pick. Once you have organised the equipment, head out on the water to your designated anchoring spot.
Now the next step is probably the most underestimated procedure of all. How many times has your mate or yourself picked up the anchor and just chucked it overboard allowing the chain to run over the fibreglass or aluminium side making stacks of noise and scaring everything in a 1km radius? It is vital that you pick up the anchor and chain, after pulling it through the ring as one unit, and drop it slowly and quietly into the water (refer to Pic.2a).
Once the anchor is in the water and the rope is running out, grab the rope until the pressure of the chain and weight of the anchor can be felt and release it to go down further. This ensures that the chain and anchor are not bunched up and the anchor will set properly. There are times when the chain and rope can tangle on the way down and it becomes impossible to set the anchor, particularly if you do not release it under control. The ball is placed in the water after the chain has disappeared into the depths (refer to Pic.2b).
Just for one moment put yourself in the position of the fish and imagine how scary it would be to hear a massive splash and see a huge metal object darting towards you and smashing on the bottom along with a great wad of chain. You would probably take off and not come back.
After your hard days fishing you are now ready to anchor up and go home. If you have a winch then that’s great, but if not the next step is to turn the boat either to port or starboard, depending on which side you want to bring the anchor back in, and motor forward along the line of the anchor rope. At night use a torch to find the ball, but normally you can hear it banging against the boat.
As the ball comes up along the side of the boat use the gaff to catch the rope and pull it in (refer to Pic.3a). Give yourself enough slack to tie a knot. Then tie the rope onto the boat; normally we loop knot it around the bimini and then place the line through the rear cleat (refer to Pic.3b).
The next step is to continue to motor forward along the anchor rope and beyond so that you are pulling the anchor out from its position. A little speed (6-10 knots) helps here but if it you are not comfortable then take it easy. A great way to tell if the anchor is up is if there is another person on board get them to place their hand on the rope and they will be able to feel the difference when the chain hits the ring connecting the ball (refer to Pic.4). Another way is to watch the ball; when the anchor is totally raised the ball will dart from side to side. It will get easier to tell with practice and learning how it feels.
The ring on the ball will run down the rope under the pressure of the boat moving forward, this allows the anchor to come right up and lock on, which gives you no weight to lift on the retrieve. The ball and the boat’s motion do all the hard work.
Once the anchor is up, turn the boat back around and run down along the rope motoring slowly towards the ball as you pull in the slack. Once you sight the ball, cut the engine and just drift up to it (refer to Pic.5). How easy is that!
At night it can be difficult to sight the ball, however, just follow the line of the rope. Reflective tape can be added to the ball so that it can be spotted using a torch.
Remember the anchor chain that we ran along the length of the anchor shaft? There may be times when the anchor digs in and is difficult to pull out. The shear power of the boat will break the ties jerking the anchor out from under the reef freeing it and starting the retrieve process. Once the ties break the spare few feet of chain will straighten pulling the anchor out in another direction.
If you follow this simple and logical process then you will have very few problems, and mostly you wont have to wrestle with the anchor again. At night watch the boats close to you and remember: practice makes perfect.
In the next article I will cover some ways to achieve good position on a reef or bommie and show you ideas that really work towards getting you more fish. I will also give you an idea of the common mistakes made when anchoring. Good fishing and have fun.
TIP 1: Mark your anchor rope with tape at intervals of 10m or 20m so you can measure when the anchor is about to hit the bottom and slow it down so as not to smash on the bottom and totally spook the fish. Some may say this is a little overboard, but we have all experienced someone motoring along and noisily dropping the anchor and subsequently making the fish go off the bite.
TIP 2: To maximise a reduction in noise levels, bring the anchor down the back of the boat and place it in a milk crate or something similar. This way you can cut out the hatch door banging open and rattling the chain on the bow. It is much easier to lift it up from the back of the boat and place it in the water than from the anchor well in bigger boats. In an aluminium boat I always carpet the anchor well and the lip over it to reduce noise when dropping anchor.
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