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.

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!

Troubleshooting tips for your boat

In an earlier post we mentioned how the stress of uncertainty can be overwhelming when your boat malfunctions on the water and you don't know what to do, even if you have an idea of what may be wrong. Sometimes having a few troubleshooting tips to fall back on can offer just the relief you need to manage the situation efficiently. 

Here are two troubleshooting suggestions:

The suddenly silent engine: When an engine stops operating suddenly, one of the most typical causes is the failure of a primer bulb. When a vacuum happens inside of a boat's fuel tank, the fuel supply to the engine is cut off, resulting in a collapsed primer bulb and a silent motor. To remedy this issue, unscrew the vent to create some air flow through the engine and pump the primer bulb until it becomes hard again. 

Another time when a simple solution may be all you need for a dead motor is when the kill switch has been accidentally flipped. It's a mishap that's easy to overlook. But if you're on the water and it suddenly comes to mind that disengaging the kill switch may be the answer to your problems, you may end up saving yourself a lot of time and worry. 

The off-kilter propeller: Often, a malfunctioning boat is due to debris. That has been the case with propellers frequently enough to mention it as a possibility here. Firstly, turn the engine off and see if any foreign objects can be removed from the blades and shaft and try the engine again. 

Secondly, if the clearing away of debris doesn't fix the issue, inspect your propeller's shear pin. If it's broken it will have to be replaced. 

If you're interested in learning about some of the best marine accessories that would complement your boat as well as how to troubleshoot unexpected issues, ePal has everything you need and more. Contact us today!

Surviving at Sea: Finding drinking water

No one ever wants to be stranded at sea, but any mariner who is going to be spending time far away from shore needs to be prepared for this scenario. Boats can capsize or be damaged in storms, and if  this happens to you, you want to be sure you have a plan for staying alive until the Coast Guard or other sailors can find you.

One of the most important considerations is how you will stay hydrated. As you probably already know, you simply cannot drink seawater. This will cause you to become dehydrated faster, causing significant damage to your internal organs, especially your kidneys. 

Your best bet is to collect rainwater when you encounter a storm. Outfit your lifeboat or raft with a tarp and position it in such a way that you can let rain drops flow into a container. If you don't have a tarp, you can also use clothing to absorb water, then wring it to extract the water.

It's important that whatever drinking water you have is rationed so that it lasts you until you are rescued. Discover News recommends that you drink sparingly on the first day and consume 12 to 16 ounces each day going forward.

Among the most important marine supplies that you should equip your boat with are safety devices that can broadcast your location to the Coast Guard and nearby vessels so that you are promptly rescued. Epal carries a number of these products from ACR, Garmin and other manufacturers, which will save your life if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of being stranded at sea. 

A brief guide to inspecting your propeller

Whether you're getting ready for your next voyage or you're packing up your boat for the winter, it's a good idea to make sure your propeller is in good condition. Throughout a trip, the propeller can take a beating, and even the slightest bump against a rock or some debris can cause significant damage. If you neglect to inspect it routinely as you would any other marine instrument, you run the risk of throwing it, or losing the prop, in the middle of a trip, which could leave you stranded.

Luckily, inspecting your propeller isn't very complicated. Boating Magazine provides an in-depth rundown of the process. Here are some of the most important things to check out:

  • Blades: In addition to looking for any nicks or cracks in the blades, you should also check to make sure they're not bent. Bent propeller blades typically cause the boat to vibrate when under engine power, but you can also use a straight edge to measure the distance between the blade and a fixed point to detect smaller bends.
  • Hub: These tend to wear out over time, particularly if they're made of rubber, so if you find that your prop hub is deteriorating, it may be time to replace it.
  • Shaft: If the shaft is bent, it can also cause undesirable vibrations. Again, check distances between the blades and a fixed point to see if the shaft is straight.

In addition to carrying propellers, ePal can provide you with many other boat accessories so that you can make it to the next port of call. If you have any questions about our products, feel free to give us a call at (877) 245-8649.

How powerful should my fishfinder be?

Whether you're a commercial fisherman or a serious angler, your fishfinder is one of your most important tools for nabbing a big haul. The problem is that many marine enthusiasts don't understand the technology well, so they may end up with devices that are either not powerful enough, or go well-beyond their needs, providing a lot of information they don't even use.

One of the main specifications to pay attention to when selecting a fishfinder for your vessel is the peak-to-peak output of the SONAR transmitter. This determines how detailed the devices readings are of both local fish populations as well as the terrain underneath the boat. Generally speaking, the deeper the water where you'll be fishing, the more power wattage you'll want, with 800 watts being a bare minimum for boaters who will be in small lakes or very close to the coast. If you're a deep sea fisherman, or you're trolling well beyond the shore, you'll want at least a 3,000 watt system.

The thing to keep in mind is that higher power sonar will give you both a more detailed image, as well as a faster readout of what is underneath your vessel. Low power systems tend to lag, so that you'll have less time to react and aim for areas with higher fish populations.

There are many other features of fishfinders that you should take into consideration, but the power of the sonar transmitter is certainly one of the most important. If you're still a bit unclear about which unit is right for you, feel free to give us a call today at (877) 245-8649 to speak to one of our marine accessories experts.

Picking a mount for your transducer

Selecting the type of mount you want for your marine transducer can be a difficult decision. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type, and ultimately the decision rests on how much power and detail you want to get out of your device.

In this post we'll walk you through some of the features to consider when deciding between a transom-mounted transducer and one that is attached to the inside wall of the hull:

  • Shoot-Through ("In-Hull") Transducers: These are mounted on the inside of your boat, typically in the bilge, which is the closest part of your boat to the water. The advantage of this type of mount is that you don't have to drill a hole in the bottom of your vessel in order to use it. Instead, it sends a sonar ping through the hull's material, which severely limits its ability to deliver in-depth information about what lies beneath your boat. The hull tends to absorb some of the ping's power, which means that you'll get a less detailed image.
  • Through-Hull Transducer: Drilled into the hull of your boat, through-hull transducers give you more accuracy, as well as a more permanent transducer solution. They're typically the most expensive to install and replace, as they require you to permanently incorporate them into the structure of your boat.
  • Transom-Mounted Transducers: In terms of power and accuracy, you can't beat a transducer mounted on the transom of your boat. This puts it in direct contact with the water, which means that there's nothing in front of the transmitter that absorbs the sonar waves. As a result, you'll get much more useful information out of your transducer, particularly if you're boating in deeper waters.

If you're still unsure about what type of transducer will give you the best results, we recommend giving ePal a call today at (877) 245-8649 and letting one of our boat accessories specialists give you more information.

Marine Chartplotters Explained

One very important piece of equipment that every mariner should have on-board is a marine chartplotter. This electronic gadget is a must-have if one hopes to have a safe and enjoyable voyage. It’s useful for fishing boats as well as pleasure boats that sail from port to port.

So what exactly is a chartplotter?  Let me try to break it down for you.  All chartplotters use a GPS antenna (either integrated into the unit or as an external antenna) to plot your location on an electronic map stored in the chartplotters memory.  The type of map you get varies greatly and affects the price of the unit.  Some very basic units have no mapping data and just plot a location on the screen so you can find your way to and from a great fishing spot.  Top of the line systems come with 3D mapping that will show you just about every detail around you.  Some chartplotters come with a sounder built into the unit.  These are usually referred to as GPS Combos.  GPS Combos allow you to hook up a transducer to “see” under the boat and act as a fishfinder or depthfinder.  Many charplotters that are available today can also be hooked up to a NMEA network to allow you to use a radar to help you navigate, an autopilot to help take some of the pressure off piloting you boat, wind data if you are sailing, and RPM and fuel data from your engine.  You can now see why having a marine chartplotter on boat is so important.

A marine chartplotter may seem more complicated than other gadgets you can find at the helm because it integrates so many functions.  That is simply not true.  Today’s chartplotters are very intuitive and user friendly.  Shopepal carries all the best brands of marine chartplotters like Garmin, Humminbird, Raymarine, Lowrance, and Furuno.