By Gene Kira, April 12, 2004, as orginally published in Western Outdoor News:
There’s something very direct and satisfying about setting a hook and fighting a fish mano a mano while fishing with a handline, and for years, my favorite “rod” was a totally thrashed winding board and about 200 feet of super-thick monofilament line, with so many knots and splices in it, you could easily tell how deep you were fishing, depending on which knots and which colors of line had passed through your hands.
I try to fish with winding boards and handlines as often as possible, but it’s a little tough sometimes because of the noise of everybody in the boat laughing at you--including your panguero--as you try to set the hook and maintain more than about one pound of “drag” with your hands coated by sweat and slimy sunblock.
Anyway, despite having many hours of fun with these venerable tools of the working panguero’s trade, I had never actually made my own winding board until about five years ago--and the results were a total disaster.
I sought out the perfect weight of Brazilian-made Araty Superflex mono, which has a very low memory, much like Cuda line, and I wound it carefully on a perfectly-proportioned board made from a piece of one-by-four pine. But, very surprisingly, the line was a complete failure, because it tangled constantly, like a writhing snake, all over the deck and around your ankles; it was impossible to fish with.
With a little asking around, I discovered the fix for this problem: dip the line in boiling water. I boiled up a big batch of water, and threw the whole winding board in for about a minute, wood and all, and voilà! The line worked perfectly from that instant onwards.
You wouldn’t think this is a subject that anyone gives a hoot about, but recently I’ve gotten to know Jeff Petersen of Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico, who must have been a panguero in a former life. Jeff, a retired pediatric dentist, fishes nights with his friends, the Loreto carnaderos bait fishing guys who sell mackerel and sardina every morning at the Loreto marina, and he’s likely Baja’s leading gringo authority in this very arcane study of handlines and their proper care and feeding.
In fact, Jeff has even made a special winding machine to hold the line while boiling water is poured over it. Here’s his sage advice:
“The line you ask about (Araty), being commonly available here, is used successfully by many Loreto people. For big squid, the heavier weight seems very popular.
The group (Loreto carnaderos) and my preference are monos purchased up north. My absolute favorite is Jinkai. It just hangs straight and works well in my hand. The Loreto carnaderos, with infinitely more experience, pick up and use darn near anything.
“Any handline must first be stretched, and under tension, boiling water is applied to eliminate memory. Fresh from the store, the line is wound under tension, around, say, a trash barrel, and tied off. Boiling water in a pot, is brought to the line and ladled by cup, not repeatedly, but until the line has been wetted.
“Following this procedure, there is a considerably reduced tendency for the line to tangle. Following line prep, the line is wrapped around a board (called a tabla), say, the size of a shoe box lid. The line will assume a shape, as it bends about the board, but hangs straight when let out.
“This subject is near and dear to me.”
Me too! Thanks, Jeff.
Clockwise from upper left: Jeff Petersen’s line stretching and boiling rig at Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico; Panguero winding boards ready to fish; Augustine Davis or Loreto with a pargo mulato; Jeff Petersen, second from left, with the Loreto carnaderos, Gregorio Segoviano, Ignacio Davis, and Augustin Davis. Photos courtesy Jeff Petersen.