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Team Junkfish Blog

Sneaky Prohibition Bootlegger Tactics

In our new game Bootleg Steamer you can become the Rum Runner of your dreams, using your smarts to escape the coast guard and turn big profits. Just like the real McCoys back in the day! Speaking of the good old days, read on to learn some pretty clever bootlegging tactics that Bootician’s used to outsmart Prohibition Officers.

A screenshot from Team Junkfish game Bootleg Steamer. Image shows a crane on a dock, in the water is a little river steamboat. Text reads "Secret Stashes"

Boats Boats Boats

It may seem obvious but the best tactic for hiding giggle juice was boats! Boats with false bottoms were great for those times when a coast guard challenged a fishing boat. If bootleggers were clever enough the coast guard would only see a deck full of fish barrels, not realising there was a whole ‘nother deck below with a false floor hiding the illegal wares. Of course false bottoms weren’t the only place to hide the hooch; some sailors created fake mattresses to give the illusion of a nice thick mattress, when in fact the top would be a thin mattress, which when lifted up would be storage for many a liquor bottle! You’ve heard the story of the princess and the pea? Well, imagine sleeping on 91 bottles of alcohol disguised in a fake mattress?!

Boats could also hide in plain sight. That floating fresh fruit market selling fresh apples to malnourished sailors? Actually a floating juice joint! The small row boat with one guy wrestling a fish from a fishing line? Actually a Bootlegger reeling in his haul from his contact’s drop off.


When you think of Prohibition liquor smuggling vessels, torpedoes probably aren't top of your list. Well, unless you know that Torpedo was actually 1920’s slang for a Hit Man! Aside from that, Prohibition bootleggers actually used torpedoes in a couple of different ways. Some savvy Bootician would fire torpedoes filled with whiskey from the Canadian side of the Great Lakes to the American side. Others didn't want to run the risk of their wares being destroyed in a crash. These forward thinking Bootleggers would fill torpedoes with liquor, along with an air compartment so they would float, and then attach them to an underwater cable line. This cable line stretched from Canada to Detroit and was another quick way to transport goods to speakeasies across the region.

Meanwhile on land

Bootleggers didn’t just utilise the sea for their businesses, those who brewed their own Moonshine worked outdoors in rural areas where they had to cover their tracks…literally. These cunning moonshiners invented cow shoes. Yes you read that right, cow shoes. These cow shoes were made of a wooden block carved to resemble a hoof which was then fastened to a strip of metal. These were then tied to a person’s shoes so that any prints left in the ground appeared to be from a cow. Any prohibition officers hunting for Moonshine brewery sites would then only see animal hoof marks which would arouse less suspicion then human footprints!

Of course, along with the original booze cruise ships, such as William Bill McCoy’s ship the Arethusa, the best way to get your hands on that hooch was attending a Speakeasy. These Illegal bars selling bootleg liquor thrived on the secrecy and quality of the liquor sold. Whilst not a way to outsmart prohibition officers, the secrecy of these venues was no easy feat!

Bootleggers would get very creative just to evade the authorities back in the 1920s, both on land and on the seas! When Bootleg Steamer releases later this year we’ll be sticking firmly to the water and trying to evade the coast guard’s red lights. Will you be able to sail and smuggle your way through prohibition to a life of fame and luxury without capture? Or will you get pinched before you can turn profit? Time will tell! 

Want to stay in the know about Bootleg Steamer? Come join our  Discord, the moonshine (emotes) are on us. If you haven't already, don’t forget you can wishlist Bootleg Steamer on Steam.


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