Offshore—the blue water—begins where the nearshore waters leave off, where the depths descend more quickly over the Continental Shelf, and beyond, where the shelf itself drops off to deep canyons and the seabed floor. It’s the realm of big game fishing, offshore tournaments, fun days at sea getting lots of good fish to eat—pelagics like dolphin, wahoo and tuna, and bottom fish, primarily snapper and grouper in Florida. At first glance, it’s all open water, but anglers know the features and structures—both on the surface and below—that lead them to target species.
Offshore reefs and wrecks are habitat for the bottom species like snapper and grouper and their prey, and they’re temporary havens for migratory pelagics. Reefs and wrecks are grouped together for good reason—they’re often found in the same vicinity, where the ship wrecks on the reef and was lost nearby. Out deeper, as the sea floor slopes downward, anglers know where the canyons and the humps and mounds are, attract bait and sport fish and create turmoil on the surface—called rips—as currents pass over them. These rips are likely trolling grounds for surface feeding pelagics. Even deeper, at the edge of the Continental Shelf and along its cracks and crevices, is habitat for bottom dwelling species of snapper and grouper and the hunting grounds for the biggest gamefish, including marlin, big tuna and swordfish.
Major open ocean currents, temperature breaks, tidal changes—some people even say the possession of bananas onboard—all influence the conditions offshore at any location and anglers’ success on any given day. But the limits to our knowledge of these natural conditions, the technology to track them—and the expense and sweat we’ll spend to get there—is constantly being pushed and explored. That very sense of exploration that goes with offshore fishing accounts for a good deal of its lasting appeal. That and the chance at battling a 50-pound dolphin or a 25-pound snapper—or both in the same day—and you’ve got the sport of it.