“Fish on!” is the sound all offshore fishermen live for. You’ve trolled through miles of blue water and suddenly the rigger pin snaps, the rod bends, and the fight is on. The line is disappearing at an alarming rate, your sea monster is getting farther and farther away and every instinct in your body is screaming, “Stop the boat!”
Right here in Florida, the fisheries lab at Nova Southeastern University (NSU), in Fort Lauderdale, has emerged as a fountain of useful research into blackfin tuna. Under the direction of Assistant Professor Dr. David Kerstetter, three research papers have contributed much to the scientific and common understanding of the species’ habitat, growth and reproduction.
There is one time where we always include a swivel in our wind-on leader system: when we are chunking dead bait for yellowfin tuna. Unlike all of the other wind-on leader applications such as trolling and live baiting, retrieving chunked dead bait can cause severe twist in your main line and leader. To help reduce line twist, we connect the wind-on leader to the main line with a high quality barrel swivel.
Florida anglers have access to a year-round fishery for these speedy predators. While there are many techniques for landing a big kingfish, one that you’ll want to have in your bag of tricks is kite fishing live baits. This method is especially productive along the edge of the reef while drifting or anchored over a wreck.
This winter, I was granted a unique vantage point from which to observe the decision-making process. I was on board a SeaVee center console with the Sailsmen team. The 7-man team, many of them longtime friends, were preparing for Operation Sailfish, first of a 4-leg competitive series, the Quest for the Crest. The series wraps up April 12-17 with the Final Sail event.
Easy ways to find currents and eddies offshore. Tracking weather fronts has long been a big part of offshore fishing. Pretty easy, too. Just turn on the TV or check the Internet. No excuse for getting caught in a norther on your way to the marlin grounds.
At its Feb. 10 meeting at the Florida Public Safety Institute near Tallahassee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved changes to the gag and black grouper minimum size limit and the gag grouper recreational season in Gulf state waters.
The Gulf of Mexico is a hard place to fish offshore. You have to travel upwards of a hundred miles to get to 100 fathoms, if you live in the Big Bend or south towards the Tampa area. The Panhandle, you are a lot closer to the deep water, but also a lot closer to that huge muddy river to the west.
Many of the largest swordfish of the year are caught as they migrate through our waters in winter. Each year as the weather turns cold, Florida east coast anglers begin targeting sailfish as they migrate south with each passing cold front. When chasing sailfish, the best fishing usually occurs on the leading edge of the cold front when the wind is blowing the hardest and the seas are rough.
King mackerel fishermen know all about downsizing tackle to lure big fish to the bait. Smaller diameter fishing lines, lighter gauge hooks and swivels are more likely to catch the eye of a mature and educated king mackerel. Perhaps the most critical adjustment, however, is in the size of the wire bite leader.
In the clear Gulf Stream water that sweeps along the coast of South Florida, wahoo aficionados use the scaled-down planer method to entice more strikes than they might otherwise get with the heavy lures and steel cable leaders used in high-speed trolling.
My all-time favorite surface feature, which I often look for when fishing close to an inlet, is a tide line. Tide lines are typically formed at the mouths of inlets that feed into the ocean. Here, an incoming or falling tide will have a tide line on either side of the inlet, created by the currents colliding with ocean waters.
That slim stretch of land halfway down the Keys is a stroke of geological genius for anglers. Only three miles to Islamorada’s south stands the reef, home of snapper and grouper. From there, the sea floor quickly drops off to the continental shelf.