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Deep Sea Fishing: 7 Tips for Prevention of Low Back Pain

by Athletico9 Comments

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.

Deep Sea Fishing:  7 Tips for Prevention of Low Back Pain

Deep Sea Fishing Injury Prevention tips


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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 and good stories! Don’t let your back pain be part of that! Fish on!

Deep sea fishing

Deep Sea Fishing

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  1. Eddie

    My feet hurt after my last Chicago marathon , someone told me I have planter facheitis , what can I do to make this go away. Thank you in advance Eddie Kovach

  2. Martin Schultz

    Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for your advice. I’m hoping for some feedback about lack of pain from 12 hr. deep sea fishing trip.

    I have had both hips replaced in the last five yrs. and suffer considerable low back pain when working outisde on certain tasks (bending over to pick weeds, digging holes, using a screwdriver.)

    However I suffered no pain from fishing trip and woke up next morning with less discomfort than usual. Do you have any explanations for why the activity of catching a lot of fish in deep ocean water would relieve my common back arthritic pains?

    Thanks for your feedback!! Marty Schultz–on vacation in Emerald Isle NC

  3. Sarah Clough


    1) Here is a link to our blog on plantar fasciitis:
    2) Head over to your nearest Athletico for a complimentary screening. Each person’s reason as to why he/she has plantar fasciitis may differ. It is always a good idea to be checked out in person to determine the causes and what exactly to do about it for you specfically.
    3) Bring your running shoes with you to your complimentary screening, as shoe wear is essential for healthy running.
    4) Consider a Video Running Analysis at one of our locations. For more on video running analysis visit:

    Hope this helps! Thanks for visiting the blog!

  4. Sarah Clough

    Hi Martin!

    There are a couple of reasons why you may have had less pain after fishing, although I won’t be able to tell you with certaintly what caused your positive results.

    1) Deep Sea fishing can be rocky on the waves. This requires your core muscles to kick in to keep you stable so you don’t fall over. When the boat tips to the right your core keeps you from falling to the right. Some people have a reduction in low back pain by strengthening their core muscles. Perhaps you respond to kicking the core muscles in to help support your back.

    2) When you tell me you have had hip replacements, I think of what may be different in regards to the way you walk/stand on the boat versus land. On a boat, you are more likely to use a wider base of support, keeping your feet further apart. Without examining your legs/back in person, I am not able to say whether or not this is a factor, but it could be. If this is the case, strengthening the sides of your hips could be key.

    3) Many people with back pain respond to a specific direction of movement. If repeated, the right direction of moving the back can reduce pain quickly. Think about if there were any movements of your back ex) bending backwards or forwards or twisting that were repeated more than usual this day of fishing. I wasn’t able to watch you fish, so I am not sure how you were positioned. However, fishing is often an activity that creates a slightly forward position. Often people with arthritis or stenosis in the low back will feel better with a slightly forward position. Many people will say they feel best when walking at the grocery store with a shopping cart (bent slightly forward). This slightly forward position opens the spine in the back, creating more room for the nerves in the back to breathe. With an arthritic back, some structures may impinge upon the nerves and bending forward relieves this pressure.

    I am sorry I can’t tell you for sure what helped, but I hope this gives you a few ideas!

    So what did you catch?!!! Sounds like you need to fish every day…therapist orders=).

  5. Brent Frayser

    I have a very mild case of Cerebral Palsy. Every I go deep sea fishing, the charter service lets me use an electric reel. It is very helpful, makes it much easier, and definitely helps reduce back and shoulder pain.

  6. Sariah

    My hubby is planning on taking us on a deep sea fishing come this weekend, and he’s looking into renting a charter boat. Good thing I came across your article which talks about preventive measures to avoid low back pain during the sport. I love the idea of riding down the waves once the boat goes up. Doing so will allow the wave to bring up our rods, and will save our arms and bodies from exerting too much effort on pulling up a fighting fish. Thanks for this!

  7. Angela Waterford

    Thanks for the tip that I should keep my back straight during a deep sea fishing trip. I plan to go to a fishing charter this summer so I’ll be sure to use my legs to avoid back pain. I think anchoring my rod would really help if the fish is big so I’ll be sure to note that while I look for a charter to book a trip to.

  8. Mia Stewart

    I like how the article explains that when you are fishing, you should make sure that you should try to bend backwards so you can counteract the forward force of fishing to prevent lower back pain. My husband has a lot of back pain but he is going fishing this week but I am worried he is going to get hurt. I will make sure to inform him that he should bend backwards to help lessen his pain while fishing.

  9. Greta James

    I really loved your advice to try to use your legs to pull a fish out of the water instead of winding it in with your arms and back. My father is an avid fisherman. He loves going out on lakes and catching anything and everything. However, I want to give him the opportunity to fish in an ocean. I want him to e safe though. So, I think I will tell him your tips and look for charter services that could take care of him.

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