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When first starting out, it is recommended that you collect clams and crabs. This is because one fish earns you about $50 - $350 (varying) while crabs and shells earn you about the same however they spawn more frequently and the crab varies from $30-$400. One more added advantage is that your ship cannot take damage when not at the sea while you still earn the same amount of money.
However, there is another strategy that is possible if you want to play aggressively. If you simply select the option spawn in the sea on the menu you can sail in a circle and fish and kill other players who come near. In this scenario, it seems that while fishing at sea, there is a considerable increase in fishing speed which is an added advantage.
It is also recommended that you buy a boat if there is a lot of traffic since you will lose little gold as one of the quests will give you an instantaneous return of 5000. However, if there seems to be a small number of players you could buy a trader 1 and start trading as buying a trader will only give a profit of $650 due to one of the earlier quests as mentioned above. However, it is important to note that you only have the option of choosing the trader or a boat if you want to earn the 5000 from the quest .. hence It is advisable that you choose on the basis of how players are near you. By far, the most profitable route is Silk from Jamaica to Guinea and Coffee from Guinea to Jamaica, if the distance is factored in. Unfortunately, the popularity of this strategy makes this dangerous as there is very high traffic over a long voyage. A comparatively safer route is Silk from Spain to Guinea and Coffee back. However, even this route can be dangerous at a busy time. Trading Rum from Labrador to Brazil and Silk or Spice back is safer. If the player cannot fill their cargo with Silk, it is suggested that they fill cargo with Spice as it yields a 78.6% profit as opposed to 53.3% for Silk. However, if one can fill cargo with Silk, they will find it better to trade as Silk yields 6.67 gold per cargo space as opposed to 1.375 for Spice. It sounds weird but if you think about it, it works. The most important thing is you invest as much of your gold as you can into Cargo. In a nutshell, if you can fill up your cargo with Silk, do so, and if you can't, get Spice. But remember, once you get a good $3000, Silk and Coffee are the way to go (Spain, Guinea, and Jamaica only).
When turning your ship and shooting, your shots are a bit higher than usual, so try to aim lower.