4 tips for releasing fish

Whether you've already caught your fill for dinner, the waters you're fishing are regulated or you simply want to enjoy the sport of fishing in a humane way, there will come a time when you will need to release a fish you've caught. The release process can be surprisingly tricky if you aren't prepared for it, so here are a few tips to help you release fish quickly and without harming them:

  • Use proper equipment. Using a barbless hook will make it much easier to unhook the fish from the line and keep it from excessively injuring itself. It can also be helpful to have some release tools, such as pliers or a lip-gripping instrument, to get a good hold on both the fish and the hook before attempting to pull the hook out.
  • Don't over-handle the fish. Fish can become stressed, injured or even die if they are kept out of the water and handled for long enough. Make sure you wet your hands before handling a fish, so as not to remove its protective slime layer, and hold it horizontally if you want to take a picture with it, to avoid damaging its internal organs. If the fish is agitated, you can use a wet towel to cover its eyes and calm it down.
  • If the fish is deeply hooked, cut the line. This will keep from inflicting more serious injuries on the fish while trying to remove the hook. Most hooks will become dislodged and come out naturally after a while.
  • Revive the fish. If it's looking like your fish might not have the energy to swim away immediately, cradle it under the belly in the current while slowly moving it back and forth to stimulate the gills. 

To suit up for your next fishing trip, check out ePal's selection of marine accessories. We have everything you need to make your trip run smoothly.

How to use an ice eater/deicer

An ice eater, or deicer, is a powerful tool that prevents ice from forming on the surface of water where it is submerged. Ice eaters don't actually get rid of ice; rather, they draw warm water to the surface using a propeller, making it impossible for the surface to freeze. This protects your boat, dock or marina from ice damage during the winter, which can prove costly once you're ready to take the boat out again. Here's how to make sure you get the most out of your ice eater:

  • An ice eater can be mounted in several different ways. You can hang your deicer from the dock using two suspension ropes, mount it directly to the dock itself, or hang it from a float or structure separate from the dock.
  • The ice eater should remain at least 3 to 5 feet below the surface of the water and 1 foot above the bottom to allow the propeller to function properly without dragging dirt and debris to the surface.
  • The angle at which the ice eater is mounted determines the shape of the clear space on the surface. To de-ice a circular area, mount the ice eater vertically, or to capture a wider area with an elliptical shape, mount it at an angle.
  • Make sure the ice eater is not left in water shallow enough to freeze entirely; if water freezes within the ice eater itself, it will damage the motor and propeller, not to mention defeating the purpose of installing the device to begin with.

Here at ePal, we currently have all Powerhouse ice eaters on sale for up to 23 percent off. An ice eater is one of the most important marine accessories you can have during the winter, so if you're in the market for one, don't delay!

Lowrance Elite-4 HDI series review

If you're in the market for a small, reasonably-priced chartplotter/fishfinder for use on a small boat or kayak, look no further than the Lowrance Elite-4 HDI series. With nearly all the same features as the larger Elite models, it is ideal for the fisherman who needs a smaller unit that still packs a punch.

HDI stands for Hybrid Dual Imaging, which means that these units employ a two-pronged strategy with two types of sonar for mapping the area and locating fish. The Broadband Sounder sonar is 2D and can reach deeper into the water, which makes it better for fishfinding, while the DownScan sonar creates a more detailed 3D image of the area, showing the structure of the bottom with detail and clarity. These two images are spliced together to give the user a full picture of every fish within range, even those who might be hiding under or within objects near the bottom. 

The Elite-4 models all come with an LED-backlit 4.3-inch screen that is bright and easy to read even in direct sunlight and can be split to show three different images at once. The unit comes pre-loaded with maps of over 3,000 lakes and 1,000 coastal areas — but if you're in an area that hasn't been mapped, the Insight Genesis mapping feature allows you to create your own map using sonar recording. To top it all off, these models were designed to be used with just one hand, making all the features accessible with a tap of a finger — useful for times when you can't put down your oar.

At ePal, we currently have the Lowrance Elite-4 series on sale for up to 23% off. Check out the options by clicking here!

How to use a pocket weather meter

Having an adventurous personality means that sometimes you will find yourself in unpredictable situations. This can be especially true with weather conditions after you've hiked or sailed out of range of cell towers and no longer have access to the most recent weather reports. With high winds, rains and snow storms threatening damage to property or even sickness, staying connected to a weather station's update reports is a valuable too.

However, since smartphones and internet connections are limited in their range, sometimes the best option is to bring a weather station with you. 

A pocket weather meter doesn't tell you precisely what will happen in regard to the weather, but its ability to read atmospheric measurements and provide you real-time data allows you to understand what shifts the weather is taking once you learn how to read the information. Most devices will initially present commonly understood factors like basic temperature, wind speed and your present altitude. Other data points like the wet bulb or density altitude provide the additional information for you to operate as your own weatherman. 

Here are a few measurements of information a pocket weather meter can provide you:

Density altitude: This measurement simply quantifies the density of the air which operates as an important function of temperature, relative humidity and air pressure. 

Dew Point: The dew point is the temperature at which dew would form, assuming all other conditions stay the same. A feature to look for is if the dew point temperature and air temperature are the same. That would mean that the humidity is 100 percent, meaning that you will be sweating a lot. If the dew point is low then you are more likely to have dryer weather.

Wet bulb: This thermometer provides information on how cold you will feel if you get wet and also tracks the atmosphere's dew point and relative humidity. 

The Kestrel 4500 Pocket Weather Meter is one of the leading marine instruments when you want to stay in front of any weather-related challenges. If you'd like to learn more about pocket weather meters and which one best meets your needs, contact ePal today! 

The value of satellite phones

Not only on account of increasingly volatile weather patterns the world has seen during that last few years, but just out of a desire to maximize the pleasure of your deep sea boating adventures with an extra safety measure, keeping a satellite phone on your boat is a great decision. Unlike the smartphone that keeps you connected to the world most of the time, satellite phones aren't subjected to cell towers that can be knocked down during a particularly violent storm.

Sat phone technology operates through a network of satellites that are either positioned above the equator or in what is known as Low Earth Orbit (LEO) which ranges anywhere from 500 to 1,000 miles above the planet. Not only are they hardly every affected by inclement weather, the bulky designs of the past are gone with newer models coming in sleeker sizes and operating from most places in the world where a cell phone is of no use, overall covering roughly 80 percent of the entire planet.

One of our popular marine accessories at ePal is the Inmarsay IsatPhone PRO. This satellite phone isn't only designed to provide a clear reception and voice, but also to do so in the harshest conditions, dust storms, monsoons or freezing temperatures are just a few of the elements it was created to function in. It also has a longer battery life than any other satellite phone on the market which complements the easy interface, so there's no feeling overwhelmed when you need to use it. Its hands free option and Bluetooth accessibility further add to that ease of use. 

If you'd like to learn more about any other marine instruments or boat accessories, contact ePal today. We have all of the products you need at the prices you want!

The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show has something for everybody

Spirits in the boating community are high as the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show prepares to burst onto the marine scene from October 30th to November 3rd. According to industry experts, this has been the best year for boat sales since the recession hit, with sales of new powerboats and accessories in Florida up 16 percent since 2012. For those who are looking to buy a new boat, there will be no shortage of types and models to choose from at the show — the website lists more than fifty different types of boats that will be on display, from superyachts to simple canoes. 

Despite the heady prospects of sales to be made at the show, the organizers recognize that not everyone is in the market for a superyacht. Enter Roger Moore, CEO of a kayak and paddle​board company in Dania Beach, who will be installing a 15,000-gallon pool that will allow visitors to try out these smaller, easier-to-maintain watergoing options for free. According to Moore, the health benefits of paddling your own vessel combined with the simpler storage needs of a canoe or kayak make this scale of boat popular with city-dwelling, moderate-income marine hobbyists. "It's what I call the new generation of boating," says Moore. "Anybody can do it [...] and it's a good workout." 

Finally, the show will also include a varied selection of educational activities, including a presentation on boating safety from a Coast Guard rescue team and talks on esoteric marine hobbies like paddleboard yoga and underwater photography. General admission ahead of time is $22 for adults and $7 for children. 

Can't make it down to Fort Lauderdale in time for the show? ePal's marine accessories section is the next best thing. Contact us anytime for more information about the marine instruments we offer.

Geocaching is a real-life treasure hunt

Looking for an outdoor activity that gets the whole family involved while teaching orienteering skills? You may want to look into geocaching, the real-life treasure hunt that has been growing steadily more popular since the early 2000's. Essentially, geocaching involves looking for "caches" (a French term for a group of objects hidden together) that have been left by other geocachers, using only a GPS device and the given coordinates. Caches can be anywhere, from the middle of a big city to the bottom of the ocean, and it's up to you to figure out how to get there, with options ranging from hiking to boating and even scuba diving. 

To get started, you will first need to sign up for a website like geocaching.com, where fellow hobbyists post the locations of their caches for other geocachers to find. Use the zip code of your location to find a list of caches hidden in your area, then plug the coordinates of your chosen cache into your GPS device. Navigate to the location, then start looking around for hiding spots. Caches are usually well-camouflaged to keep them from being discovered by non-geocachers, so make sure to comb the area thoroughly.

Once you find a cache, you should first enter your name into the logbook hidden with it — this functions almost like a high-score board in a video game, giving you bragging rights for finding that particular cache. Next, you may take anything left in the cache as long as you leave behind items of equal or greater value (although you should avoid leaving food or scented items, as these can attract animals). You never know what you might find in a cache, so expect surprises!

The key to geocaching is GPS, and ePal has a wide selection of both handheld and marine GPS devices. Contact us for help deciding which device is best suited to your needs.

Marine radio etiquette tips

Of all the marine electronics on the market, the VHF radio is the most vital for your crew's safety. It allows you to receive updates from and communicate with other vessels, and it may be your only means of calling for help in an emergency. The VHF system only functions if everyone works together to keep from abusing it and to make their communications as clear and concise as possible. To that end, make sure to follow this system of etiquette:

  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. When contacting another vessel, repeat its name three times, then repeat the name of your own boat three times. This leaves no room for misunderstandings about who you are and who you're trying to contact.
  • Over it. When you're finished speaking, make sure to say "over" so that other vessels know your message is finished.
  • Spell it out. Letter names are notoriously hard to understand over the radio, so when you're spelling something, make sure to use the NATO phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.)
  • Keep it short. The airwaves need to be accessible to everyone, so make sure you're not taking up more than your fair share by being overly wordy. Communicate the message you want to convey in as clear and concise a way as possible.
  • Get low. The best radio voice is low-pitched, clear and highly enunciated. Practice speaking in as deep and clear a voice as you can before heading out on the water.
  • Be prepared. Make sure you know the emergency terms and how to use them by heart. "Mayday" calls are only for true emergencies, such as a fire onboard or a sinking ship. "Pan-pan", pronounced "pon pon", is used in less urgent situations, such as breakdowns or minor mechanical problems.

Looking for a VHF radio? ePal has you covered. Click here to browse our selection.

Four top camping spots for fall

Camping may be associated mostly with summer, but the cool weather, beautiful foliage and decreased number of biting insects that fall offers make it an ideal season for outdoor adventures. From leaf-peeping in New England to rock climbing in the Southwest, parks across the US offer all the outdoors experiences you need to take advantage of the season:

  • Pawtuckaway State Park: This New Hampshire park is a prime location for fall foliage (as are most parks in New England at this time of year). Hit the park's mountain hiking trails to take in the leaves, or set out on Pawtuckaway Lake for boating and fishing. The park is also a popular destination for orienteering hobbyists, hosting the New England Orienteering Club and other local orienteering and geocaching organizations.
  • Picacho Peak State Park: Although the name is redundant ("Picacho" means "big peak" in Spanish), the features of this Arizona desert state park certainly aren't. Fall is the season when the desert cools off enough to allow visitors to take on the Hunter Trail, a 1,500-foot climb to the top of the park's eponymous peak. Hiking boots are a necessity, as well as sturdy gloves to grip the steel cables installed to help climbers.
  • First Landing State Park: The most visited state park in Virginia, First Landing offers a wide selection of activities for visitors, including an annual fall festival that's great for children. The park also has an educational center that provides opportunities to learn about the unique ecosystem of the Virginia maritime forest.
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park: The fall is the last chance to camp out under some of the biggest trees in the country at the oldest state park in California. The park also offers waterfalls, canyons, and a flourishing population of birds and wildlife.

Get everything you need to equip yourself for camping this season in our camping section!

Get Out the Grill

With football season in full swing and crisp fall weather ahead of us for a while yet, fall is no time to give up on your grill. Whether you're tailgating at the game, camping with family or just in the mood for some outdoor cooking, these grilling ideas will keep everybody full and happy (although we make no promises about healthiness). Grab the tongs!

  • Juicy Lucys: Invented in Minneapolis, these cheese-stuffed burgers are a mouthwatering treat. When forming the patties, simply fill the middle with cheese, so that the cheese melts inside while the burgers cook. Careful — the first bite can be hot!
  • BLT Burgers: Wrap burger patties in bacon (as much or as little as you want!) before you put them on the grill for an extra-succulent meat experience. Serve with lettuce and tomato.
  • Chicago-style hot dogs: Tired of plain old ketchup and mustard on your dogs? In Chicago, hot dogs are traditionally served with whole slices of tomato and pickle, chopped onions and pickled peppers, adding a lot more crisp vegetable flavor to this old standby. According to many Chicagoans, ketchup is a no-go on this type of hot dog, but we won't tell anyone if you want to add some anyway.
  • Cast-iron skillet cornbread: Cook cornbread in a skillet on the grill next to the meat — that way, it will absorb the smoky grill flavor and be ready around the same time as the main course.
  • Pizza: Yes, grilled pizza is possible! Make the dough first, shape it and slightly char it on the grill, before adding toppings and covering the grill until it's done. It'll have that fire-grilled pizza flavor.
  • Grilled s'mores: If anyone has any room left after these main dishes, you can roast marshmallows over the grill and make s'mores for dessert.

At ePal, we carry everything from full-sized gas grills to small portable stoves. Contact us for help deciding which model is right for you!