Skip to main content

How To Properly Anchor Offshore for Reef Fishing

On hard-fished reefs, especially, it's worth the extra effort.

Catering to a number of anglers? Efficient, effective reef fishing starts with proper anchoring.

Being a successful bottom fisherman in a boat without a GPS-driven trolling motor is all about anchoring. A blue marlin may hear a lure moving through his territory a hundred yards away, and we've all seen schoolie dolphin come greyhounding into the spread from great distances, but a grouper could care less what's going on just a few yards away from where he's sitting. Miss dropping your bait in front of him, and you'd might just as well be in the next area code.

Captain George Strate spent a long and illustrious career as a captain of four Mayport party boats. He anchored up to 15 times a day, and he had to be right on the money. In Northeast Florida, the fishing business depends on developing a regular clientele, anglers who fish with you every day they get a chance.

“Anchoring is all about determining the effect of the wind and current,” Strate explains. “On the way out I never used autopilot. That way I could tell which way the current was pushing me, and how hard. Back in the day, when we got directly on the spot we wanted to fish, we threw a marker buoy. Then we watched our compass and saw how we drifted away. Once we had the course back to our buoy we would run that course to the marker, and run three times the water depth past the buoy, and drop anchor. As we approached the buoy while drifting back, we would tie off the anchor and let it get tight. Hopefully we'd be just up current of the spot. If we needed to, we would slowly let out line until we were perfectly centered. Keep in mind on a 72-foot party boat, I had to be located so everybody on the boat caught fish. I always tried to determine who the worst fisherman on the boat was. Then I'd try and make sure we were located so they were getting bites and catching fish.”

George said it's been years since he's drifted on a piece of bottom for two reasons. First off, on a party boat it's almost impossible to keep the lines clear. You can imagine all forty customers trying to bottom fish while the boat is drifting. Talk about a giant tangle!

Secondly, George believes snapper, grouper and vermilions can be badly scattered by drifting through them. You can always count on your bait attracting fish that for whatever reason don't bite. That means every time you drift over the spot, some fish follow you. Maybe some of them return to the spot after your drift, only to find a bait more to their liking, but others may well swim off to a different spot.

With the current electronics on almost every boat, there is no longer a need to throw a jug. Now you just stop your boat, and watch your track on your chart plotter. After you've determined the course, drift away from your spot and follow the track line back past the bottom until you're three times the water depth past the spot. Drop (never throw!) the anchor, and understand there's no shame in realizing you missed by 30 feet to one side or the other. Just pull the anchor and make the necessary adjustment. Miss it twice, and you may want to see what's on sale at the golf store. FS

Published Florida Sportsman Magazine October 2019

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Let's break down how to modify one of the easiest and strongest line-to-leader connections when using heavy fluorocarbon or monofilament leader.

How to Modify Double Uni Connection for Heavy Leader

Jeff Weakley, editor of Florida Sportsman Magazine, breaks down how to tie a non-slip loop knot, an easy and useful fishing knot that every fisherman who uses artificial lures needs to know.

How to Tie a Loop Knot: Best Fishing Knot for Lures and Jigs

Jeff Weakley, editor of Florida Sportsman Magazine, breaks down the easiest way to tie one of the most versatile, strong and reliable fishing knots that every fisherman needs to know, the uni knot.

How to Tie a Uni Knot: Easy, Strong & Reliable Fishing Knot

The scented and flavored Gulp! baits are always a good choice in saltwater, and the Grub style baits in particular are a universal choice. Learn how to choose and rig different sizes for different kinds of fishing, from the flats to the coastal reefs. Plus, a Key West fishing expert weighs in on special uses for offshore fishing.

Berkley Gulp! Curly Tail Grub. Berkley Gulp! Grub is a Surprise Hit In Salt Water

In salt water, everything eats shrimp. The Berkley Gulp! Shrimp is an excellent choice for any situation where you want to appeal to a marine fish's interest in shrimp. Here's expert advice on rigging these unique baits, plus proven tips on casting and retrieving them. Storage is another great attribute; these shrimp baits are ready to go when you are!

Berkley Gulp! Shrimp: A Bait That's Better than Live Shrimp!

Join professional surf fishing guide Capt. Paul Sperco for a conversation about reels that hold up in extreme saltwater conditions. Sperco also offers great tips on rigging different kinds of spinning combos for catching pompano, whiting, snook and other popular fish. All of it is done from shore! Easy, fun fishing anyone can enjoy.

Penn Sealed Saltwater Reels: Durable Reels for Surf, Pier and Other Saltwater Fishing

We join Key West, Florida, fishing Captain Pepe Gonzalez to discuss one the most important advances in saltwater fishing tackle in the last 25 years: The advent of fluorocarbon leader material. Fluorocarbon definitely improves your chances of getting bites from wary-eyed ocean fish such as snappers, tunas, tarpon and sailfish.

Berkley Fluorocarbon line: Captains Say Use Fluorocarbon Leader to Catch More Fish

Florida Sportsman Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

Preview This Month's Issue

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Florida Sportsman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Florida Sportsman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now