Accuracy counts. From inshore to offshore there’s a fine line between successfully connecting with fish and just going for a boat ride. The ability to consistently produce is what separates skilled anglers from the rest of the pack.
On the inshore scene, casting precision is the key to success. Whether blind casting an open at, fishing docks, mangroves, or sight casting to a specific fish, accuracy is necessary. Every cast should be placed to a specific location.
On an open grass at there are subtle differences that should be focused on. Making a cast to the center of a sandy hole or working the perimeter should be a premeditated decision and not just a matter of luck. Species-specific casts can be made in this scenario. Think flounder in the middle and trout on the edges and you’ll begin to understand.
On docks, casts should be made between intentional pilings up under the dock. The difference in a perfect cast and a total blooper can be a matter of inches. One connects with a sh, the other puts you in time out re-tying your tackle.
Mangroves are not much different than docks. Pick your points, limbs, oyster clusters, or other features and re a cast in accurately. An advanced technique is to use your index finger to feather or stop the line on the spool of a spinning reel just as a bass caster would use his thumb.
Sight casting presents an entirely new set of rules. First and fore- most is obtaining the ability to discern which end of the target eats, and which end swims. The margin of error is greatly reduced and may often be on the move. Combine this with a ticking clock of when your target realizes you are present and you have graduated into the next level of precision casters. If your tool of choice is a fly rod in this scenario, you’re reaching for the Holy Grail.
Switching gears to the offshore scene, boat position is just as critical as an inshore cast. When bottom fishing, dropping baits to a precise location on a ledge, reef, or wreck is critical. Being a few feet off is often the difference in catch- ing sh or not.
Dropping baits to a grouper’s doors step takes anchoring skill. Knowing that the snapper are hanging on the highest relief of a structure and presenting baits in that zone from may feet above takes practice and experience.
Calculating wind direction, tidal ow, and depth to accurately drop baits into the strike range can be a calculated guess at best. There are no visual clues offshore as there are inshore. Understanding your electronics readings are paramount.
When considering inshore precision casting and offshore precision anchoring, it becomes apparent that it’s a huge lesson in geometry. It’s a 3-dimensional playing eld and thus the term “angling” has been aptly applied to our passion- ate pastime.
Capt. Brent Gaskill is a 4th generation Tampa Bay native and full-time fishing guide, both inshore and offshore. He can be reached at 727-510-1009 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accuracy counts. From inshore to offshore there’s a fine line between successfully connecting with fish and just going for a boat ride. The ability to consistently produce is what separates skilled anglers from the rest of the pack.
Wintertime for most sportsmen vantage if you are fishing from a Kaku Kayak usually means sitting in a tree stand or a ground blind in the freezing cold and snow for hours at a time while waiting for that big buck to walk out in front of them within range. That is all fine and good, but there is another way to spend those cold winter days while enjoying the great outdoors. Fishing in the Crystal River is as good as it gets when the mercury starts to drop, but knowing where to fish becomes much more important for success on the water during the winter season.
Kings Bay is a great place to fish in the winter due to its thermal properties. It has numerous springs located throughout the entire bay. These springs produce 72-degree water all year long. This warmer water temperature at- tracts bait fish, which in turn brings the larger predatory fish like Red fish, Trout and Snook. Another advantage to fishing inside the bay is that the entire bay is either a minimum wake or no wake zone. This is a great advantage if you are fishing from a Kaku Kayak or Paddleboard.
Redfish is our main target inside of Kings Bay. The reds are structure oriented so you can find them cruising the shoreline and seawalls throughout the bay. They can also be found on the drop-offs and hard bot- tom ledges that are located all over the bay and inside the river. Artificial baits like the Wedge Tail Mullet by Egret Baits are a great way to work these areas. Snook can be found in these same areas and they can also be found in the open grass flats using shallow diving plugs like the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow or the 3D inshore Twitch Bait.
Seatrout also can be found inside the bay during the coldest days of the season, but they do not stay long since they can’t tolerate the lower salinity very long. They are usually found around shallow hard bottom areas that absorb the heat from the sun during the day. Targeting these Trout should be done around mid-day, while the sun is at its highest.
If water temperatures are mild, they can be found on the shallow flats all along the outside of the river mouth. If you can find a patch of kelp grass on these flats, you will surely find the Trout.
There are many other fish that roam our waters during the winter season that can also be targeted. Sheepshead are surely one of the species that we like to target since they can be found on the near shore rock piles and ledges. Pompano and Permit can be target- ed around the sand bars around Yankeetown and Crystal River. Black Drum can be found around oyster bars feeding on small crabs and shrimp. Tarpon usually roam the inside of the bay and river. We also look for Tripletail under any floating debris or crab trap buoys while running to different locations.
If you plan to visit Crystal River in the wintertime or any other time of the year I would highly recommend staying at The Plantation on Crystal River. They have great amenities and are conveniently located, right on the water, with boat parking on the seawall behind the rooms that you stay in. They also boast their own marina/dive shop that carries tackle and live bait. If you do not wish to bring a boat or kayak, then just head to the Plantation Adventure Center and have them set you up with one of their guides. They also rent jonboats, pontoon boats, kayaks and paddleboards so there are plenty of options for getting to the fish.
Good Luck and enjoy Florida’s awesome wintertime fishing!
Growing up in Florida, I always believed I had it all when it came to fishing, wondering who in their right mind would spend time and money traveling anywhere else to chase a catch. It only took one trip to the other side to discover what I never knew I was missing.
My first day fishing in foreign waters, we trolled through the shy waters of Panama. We stumbled across a capsized boat. Acting as our personal floating bait shop, as most wrecks do, the ship held promise for this Florida angler far from home. After only ten minutes, the promise of a good fight
began to surface. One of our live bonitos bridled with a Mustad 14/0 circle hook was knocked down,
and we all waited to see what culprit would surface. We watched in awe as a nearly 500 pound blue
marlin danced across the top of the water as though he were lighter than air. But when he sounded, it was evident to the entire crew he was quite the beast. With blood pumping and hearts racing, we
backed down on the fish. Spray off the back of the boat quickly took the edge off of the heat as we continued the fight. I couldn’t tell you if we fought for 10 minutes or 10 hours.Time was irrelevant in those moments, and I realized the thrill of a fight I would never want to pass up again. After that, it wasn’t just the sh that was hooked. I had my first taste of the action, and I have been hooked on Pacific sports fishing ever since.
It’s true, in Florida we have a lot to be thankful for, but every sportsman should experience at least one exotic adventure in this lifetime.
The Tropical Eastern Pacific stretches from Baja Mexico all the way through Central and into South America. These waters hold some of the world’s most sought after sh. If you are like me, half of your bucket list is comprised of the names of these species like Black Marlin and Rooster fish.
For many, it is the Marlin that first comes to mind for Pacific fishing.The thrill of seeing a giant marlin leap from the water, followed by the scream of your drag as line is ripped from it, is unmatched in the sport fishing world.The Blues and Blacks that rule the Pacific deserve the reputation they have earned. Even fighting the smaller cousin, the Striped Marlin, leaves a lifelong memory for those fortunate enough to hook up. And there is no shortage of pelagic species feeding just below the surface throughout the tropics of the Pacific.Tuna, Mahi and Wahoo are just a few of the natives you can expect to run into during your adventure.
Now, if that’s not enough incentive for you to make a trip, don’t forget to consider the thrill of the inshore fishing experience. Rooster sh could be one of the most exhilarating, and exhausting, catches you ever experience.This member of the jack family is as stubborn as its cousins and regularly fights the entire way through the water column. If back-breaking brawls are more your style, then Cubera Snapper will surely satisfy your appetite.
Speaking of appetite, these delicious morsels are the kind of table fare worth traveling around the world for. Both Cubera’s and Roosters are abundant from Baja Mexico down throughout Central America.
I believe every serious adventurist should consider the short trip to this stretch of fishing paradise, if not for the fishing, for the culture. Of course, we are not just talking about one culture but dozens, weaving through nearly a dozen different countries. I have had the privilege of fishing in Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico on numerous occasions, and every time I walk away with a new perspective. From cuisine, to architecture, to fishing techniques, every place you go offers something unique that makes the experience all worthwhile. And the appeal of this area is only partly the sh you can catch. Another element to consider besides the surf when determining if a Pacific adventure is right for you is turf.
In Florida, we have at lands slowly sinking be- low the waterline.The two gently and gradually merge together. Much of the Pacific coast is lined with majestic mountains creating cliffs that collapse rapidly into the deep blue. These jagged formations are commonplace in parts of Costa Rica and Panama, and their beauty simply cannot be fully captured in a photograph. But one of the main reason’s anglers are deterred from venturing south of the border is how overwhelming it seems to plan such an exploration. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be. If you’ve got the time, there are many reputable lodges that will help set you up with an all- inclusive trip of a lifetime.
You may be reading this and thinking that anglers’ fantasies, like this one, tend to be unaffordable. That could not be further from the truth. There are, of course, expensive luxury resorts that can quickly break the bank for the budget-conscious traveler, but there are also a plethora of inexpensive traveling options. It is very feasible to book an all-inclusive fishing trip of 3-4 days for a couple thousand dollars. Depending on the location and amenities of your chosen resort, the price tag can also creep above the $10,000 mark per person.
The best advice for anyone planning an international fishing get-away is to do your research! Do you want to target Black Marlin?
Then make sure you are planning a trip during the right time of year for the country and region you want to visit. Resorts around the Los Cabos, Mexico, advertise August-October as being a great time for Black and Blue Marlin. While there are no guarantees in the fishing world (as they say, “that’s why it’s call fishing”), your marlin chances are good in that part of the world year round but especially in late summer.
Are you hoping to y some meat home with you? Some resorts will help you through the process of packaging to U.S. customs standards. Of equal importance is researching multiple lodge options within your budget. Pictures of the facilities and online reviews will help you get an idea of the quality of service you are going to be paying for.
But anglers setting out to pursue these Pacific trophies should always be flexible.The possibilities are truly endless. When in Panama, we took a break from marlin shing to catch dolphin from a floating log we stumbled upon. I’ve caught dolphin countless times, but the most memorable of all is the 70 pound bull dolphin we landed that day on aYo-Zuri Hydro Popper. When you do your research, hire the right guides, in the right place, at the right time, you’re in for a great experience, even if the fish you catch were not your intended target.
If you want a fishing experience that will stick with you the rest of your life, then consider venturing south of the border.There are options for every angler, and on just about every budget. If you haven’t done much international travel, get your passport and get outside of your comfort zone. It will make for some priceless memories.
Fall offers some of the best fishing of the year. Kingfish are starting to show up off the beaches offshore, Snook are starting to move up on the flats, Red fish continue to school up on the flats and Trout fishing really begins to take off. Whether you’re an offshore fisherman looking to catch Grouper and king fish or you like targeting Snook and Reds on the flats, this is some of the best fishing of the year!
King fish has to be the featured fish to talk about this month, as water temperatures ease into the perfect range for them. Look for big King fish to run up the coast in search of bait. There are numerous ways to target King fish. My favorite is to anchor up and chum them in. Look for the fish to be as just off the beaches cruising around the hard bottom areas. My favorite method to use when King fishing is to anchor up and chum a bunch of Scaled sardines to draw them in. The tackle of choice is very simple, I like to use a Stinger rig with 30 lb wire. Just bring your Tarpon Spinning gear and you will be ready for King fish. Snook fishing will also improve as we head into the later part of fall. Look for fish to stage in the creeks, river mouths and deeper mangrove cuts, as they get ready for winter. Remember Snook are ambush feeders so finding areas with good tidal ow makes a good starting point, as the bait will flush in and out with the tide. Greenbacks are, by far, the best bait to use when targeting Snook in the Tampa Bay area and you can find vast schools of them around the flats and markers. There are several ways to get bait, but the easiest and fastest way to ll your well is to throw a cast net. Having a quality net that will open and have the adequate weight to get down is a must. I have found both of these characteristics in a Humpback net. Look for the BIG Snook to start making the journey into the rivers and residential docks.
Trout have been excellent all year, but fall is when the trophy fish move up on the flats. Throwing artificial baits for Trout is one of my favorite’s ways to sh. Tossing the Zman pearl white paddle Z hooked to a 1/8 once jig head is a deadly combination that will put the big one in the boat. If you are fishing thick grass it is essential to go to a weedless rig like the 5 inch scented jerk shadz rigged weedless with the Trigger hook. If live bait is your gig, then try a greenback suspended under a Cajun Thunder popping cork. Not only are Trout fun to catch, but they are a great table fare. Remember only keep what you are going to eat.
Last but not least, is the red sh. It has been a great year for red fish and while most schools have split up, you can still find plenty of Reds on any given day. Look to target creek mouths, river edges and docks. These areas will all hold good numbers of sh. A live shrimp on a #1 Daiichi wide gap circle hook soaked on the bottom is a great way to fish these areas. If you are looking to target them on the flats, I like to go with a Ca- jun Thunder oat and a live Greenback for bait. Whether you are looking to venture Offshore for Kings and Grouper or getting up on the skinny water flats for Snook, Reds and Trout, with a little planning and luck you will have some great days of fishing.
Captain Jason Prieto, of Tampa is owner of Steady Action Fishing Charters. Catch him on the radio by tuning intoTampa Fishing Outfitters Radio Show on Sunday Mornings from 8 to 9 AM on 1040 Sports Talk the Team.
The weather is hot out there and so is the fishing! Most of the Keys residents anxiously await the fall cool down and it’s just around the corner. For me, I love the warm stable weather of late summer, but those first couple of cool down periods, which usually occur in the month of October, drop the water temperatures on the flats and the fishing can be phenomenal.
Now is the time to fish the Florida Keys, if you want to fish for the big three. October is one of the magic months down here big bone fish are on the flats in good numbers, tarpon are still consistent and loads of permit are available as well. This great fishing will continue until we start getting severe cold fronts that drop the water temperatures more than these more “tropical” species prefer. All three are catchable throughout the winter, but it’s not as consistent as it is right now and in the weeks to come. If you can’t make it down before the north blows cool off the water, don’t worry, even the cool cold front days will have plenty of action on the flats with our more “wintertime” species.
Right now my typical day starts as the sun is coming up searching for the early morning rolling tarpon. As the sun gets higher I move onto the flats in search of bones and permit and then usually back to the dock not long after lunch to beat the heat. October will bring a transition into a more fall like pattern and the early morning starts aren’t quite as critical. Once the water temperatures on the flats start to fall a few degrees, I base trips primarily on the tides. I always try to be fishing somewhere at the tide shifts. Some flats are better on the high falling, some are better on the low incoming, some are good at both, the key is to be fishing somewhere when the shift occurs. Time and time again, I find that there is a “magic” time in the tidal stage. We may not be seeing much action, then all of a sudden for that magic hour, it seems there are fish everywhere.
The trick is to figure out when these magic times are for each at and where to best experience it. Anyone that has ever spent much time sight fishing for bone fish, permit and tarpon will tell you it’s not an easy game. In truth, that’s what keeps me doing it. I’m not sure you can ever fully figure it out in a lifetime, but for me that’s where the fun is the thrill of the hunt. It is a type of fishing that connects the angler to the fish in ways that few other types of fishing can.
So, now’s the time to come fish the flats of the Florida Keys. The crowds are small, the room rates are low, the tarpon are rolling, the permit are tailing and the big bone fish are cruising!
Captain Danny Clark of Torch Key Charters, operates out of Little Torch Key, Florida and can be reached by calling 305.849.0532 or by visiting his website at www.torchkeycharters.com.
Like rod and reel anglers, spear fishermen all have a small handful of go-to stories that they will tell for the rest of their lives. We have all had those catches that you realize are the catch of a lifetime. I had one of those moments recently while diving a murky Southwest Florida reef line in around 100 feet of water. After ducking in and out of several large ledges and holes, I spotted a pair of boulders that created a small cave. I peered in, allowed the dive light to give me some visibility and was greeted by a set of teeth that was almost cartoon-like. Without thought of how I would get this beast out of his lair, I pulled the trigger and hoped for the best. After several minutes of tug-o-war, I finally was rewarded with a 50lb Cubera Snapper and a lifelong memory.
Pursuit of these seemingly prehistoric beasts does present a unique set of challenges, but it is worth trying as long as you have a good game plan. Cubera Snapper reach sizes in excess of100 pounds and every ounce is pure power.
These fish hide well from divers and know how to use structure to their advantage. They rarely give a spear fisherman a second chance to get off a shot, and knowing where to search is the first challenge.
Cubera Snapper are very cautious fish that do not like a lot of attention. If divers commonly hit an area, Cuberas will probablnot be around. Even when you are only a few feet from one, chances are you have no idea. They will hide in the smallest of caves, cracks and crevices. A good dive light is essential for getting visibility in the hole and on the fish. While peering into holes and caves, you search for the great silhouette pressed tightly against the structure. The ominous fangs will usually stand out, if the fish is of any real size. These monsters can shred other reef dwellers with one quick snap of their jaws. Their teeth are not unlike those of their close cousin the mangrove snapper, except much larger!
Due to the nature of a Cubera’s habitat, locating one in its hideaway gives you the best chance of successfully landing a shot. In open water, these fish are shy and quick, but in the protection of a cave they gain confidence in their camouflage and are comfortable to stand their ground.
Once you have spotted your target and taken your shot, the challenge has just begun. Chances are, you just pulled the trigger on a fish that is in or very near a crevice that only he can t in. That spear you were counting as a tool to gain leverage on the fish has now become your greatest obstacle. The spear can act as a barb, lodging itself into the cave walls as the fish tries to retreat deeper into its safe haven. Nothing is more frustrating than having eyes on your prize, but not being able to get it out of a hole because the spear is locked into the side of a rock. The best advice I can give you here is to get your hands on the end of the spear and use that as your pulling point, at least until it clears the structure. Pulling from the end against the fish will increase your chances of bending the shaft, but at least you can keep it from working against you.
Also, make sure you have a trustworthy dive buddy with you. A lot of things can go wrong when your face down against a cave in deep water. You need someone close by to watch your back for other predators, as well as to be available in case you get hung up on the structure or need an extra hand extracting your catch.
I never dive without my Cressi dive knife and there is no better application than the moment you finally get your hands on your prized Cubera. Swiftly sink the knife into the top of the fish’s head and you will end the struggle. This will bring a quick end to any suffering for the fish, as well as keep you from being dragged around the reef by your stringer from a stubborn snapper.
The obstacles to successfully locating, shooting and retrieving a big Cubera Snapper are great, but there are some benefits to pursuing this species as well. Here on the East Coast of Florida, their primary hunting grounds are the warm tropical waters of south Florida, as well as all over the Caribbean. I’ve also taken many in Central America. This means off with the 5mm and 7mm wetsuits, and on with the Cressi Rash Guard or 2.5mm Summer Man Wetsuit. Even in warm water, if you are diving near the reef, I always recommend a rash guard. Incidental contact with coral should be avoided, but from time to time it may happen. It is wise to put a barrier between you and the coral or jelly fish by wearing the Cressi Rash Guard or thin wetsuit; it can make all the difference in the world.
Running a successful Cubera hunt and filling your Grizzly Cooler with tasty snapper takes a lot of planning, team work and still a bit of luck. The reward however, will be great tasting fillets; great pictures with what could easily be most hunters’ largest catch, and life long memories. These prehistoric bottom dwellers do not make it easy on anyone that thinks they have what it takes to bring one home, but with the right set of circumstances, you too could be telling your own story for years to come.
Captain Jimmy Nelson called me up a couple months ago and told me about an opportunity to catch some big fish in Louisiana. I had actually visited twice before while lming as a cameraman for Jimmy’s Extreme Fishing Adventures, so I had witnessed firsthand how large and abundant the red fish fishery was there. My journey this time started in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a 14-hour long drive that proved to be well worth the effort. Venice, Louisiana holds many fishing opportunities both inshore, near shore and offshore. One of the most impressive things about the place is the close proximity to the amazing fishing grounds. Just a few miles from the Venice Marina is a marshland loaded with monster bull Redfishing that can be caught year round, as well as, a Red Snapper fishery within 6 to 9 miles from shore.
I met Captain Jimmy Nelson and Luiza Barros from Fishing with Luiza at Venice Marina that night. We stayed in one of the lodges right on the marina. The next day we headed down the stairs and walked a few steps to meet Blake Rigby, from Tripletail Charters, at the dock, he runs both an inshore and an offshore boat. Today he pulled up in his custom 24ft bay boat. We ran just a few miles from land and stopped at the rst gas rig, where we immediately noticed the strong, ripping current. Blake kept the boat in gear as Jimmy and Luiza dropped their lines in the back. They were sporting the new Shimano Stellas on Terez rods. Jimmy likes to rig a uni to uni knot with 65 lb Mustad Wish braid to 80lb Yo-Zuri ouro to an 7/0 Mustad hook. Due to the heavy current, an 8oz sinker was a necessity. He put on a huge chuck of squid and allowed it to drop about halfway to the 300ft bottom. After feeling the light pecks of smaller fish, he decided to let it drop down a bit further and sure thing it worked. Within minutes, Jimmy and Luiza were both wrestling fish in as Capt. Blake threw the boat in gear to help pull it away from the rig. They landed a pair of nice 20-25lb red snapper. Using the same successful setup, Blake rigged up a dropper line with a pogy and a squid attached to a 10lb weight on a 50W Shimano Tiagra. Luiza cranked up a few monster Red Snapper on it before going back to the Stella. Within 15 minutes, we caught our limit of Red Snapper, so we picked up and decided to change the game plan to target Mangrove Snapper. Capt. Blake moored up to a gas rig and started chum- ming squid and cut bait and then he tossed a free lined chunk into the mix and let it sink. It didn’t take long till he had a monster Man- grove Snap- per. He ran to the stern of the boat to help pull it away from the rig. Jimmy and Luiza took note of the Captain’s techniques and began mimicking his style as they dropped their lines. Time passed quickly as rods began to bend and lines tightened as 5-10lb Man- groves were hooked up left and right.
The next day, we met up with Captain Louis from “Fish Killin Charters”. His Uncle has a very successful fishing business in the area and he had grown up working for him. Captain Louis is one of the very few captains that doesn’t use or need a GPS to navigate the labyrinth of treacherous marshes in Venice. He took us to the first spot of the day along a grassy shoreline. Jimmy was throwing an Egret Baits Vudu Shrimp and Luiza was throwing a shrimp on a popper; both are equally appetizing to Red fish. Jimmy managed to cover lots of ground with the lure, expertly tossing it in between schooling mullet. As recommended by the captain, Luiza would pop the cork every 15 seconds or so. Later in the day we moved to a sandy shoreline in- between a sandbar. As the sun started to set in the evening, the lure action started to win over the live baits and Jimmy successfully boated his best Red of the day on an Egret Baits Wedgetail Mullet.
The Mississippi river empties into the Venice marshes, bringing a large supply of nutrients for all types of fishing. This bounty of nutrients, which mullet, shrimp, pogies and other bait-fish prey upon gives Venice a vast ecosystem; allowing largerfish (like Red fish, American Red Snapper and Mangrove Snapper) the potential to grow to a very large size. Louisiana al- lows anglers to keep two Red Snapper over 16 inches per day. Most anglers will also get their five per person bag limit of red fish with one over slot sized red fish (16-27inches). This fishery regularly produces red drums in the 30- 50lb ranges and that’s all we saw that day. Venice also has a healthy Trout fishery as well as Cobia and Tripletail. The possibilities are almost endless.
It’s highly recommended to bring some sort of Bug repellent during the summer months, like Sunsect. On any given day, especially early light and near dusk, the bugs attack quickly. The only thing that attacks more quickly than the bugs in Venice is the fish.
Now is the time to book your trip and catch a few fish for yourself!
When a fish hits your lure at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour and your reel starts screaming as it dumps a couple hundred yards of line in a few seconds, you’ll quickly understand why they call this bullet-looking fish a “Wahoooooo”.
The initial run that this extremely fast fish makes is the reason why wahoo fishing provides anglers with one of the most exciting fights they will ever experience. The Wahoo’s speed, strength and taste make this pelagic one of the most highly prized sport fish in the world.
Wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri) are found worldwide in tropical and sub- tropical areas. Besides its speed and strength, the wahoo is also known for its delicious meat. They have one of the most desirable, firm and mildtasting white meats you will find in the ocean. Whether you are putting it in a sushi roll or eating it as sashimi or ceviche, this fish is best served raw. When preparing wahoo, treat it as if it were yellow fin tuna; or if you decide to cook it, then be sure you cook it quickly because this fish will dry out fast and it’s easily overcooked. When properly prepared, the wahoo is considered to be one of the best eating fish in the world; however, you’ll have to catch it first!
One of the most common ways to target “hoos” is trolling. There are a few different tactics used when trolling and this varies depending upon the ocean conditions, bait in the area and how the fish are behaving on a particular day. Some trolling methods include: typical wahoo lures with speeds of 6-9 knots, hard baits and lip lures at 4-6 knots, high-speed C&H lures and downriggers at speeds up to 18 knots, or bump-trolling live bait.
If you are using hard bait, such as the deep-diving Yo-Zuri Hydro Magnum lures, or the Yo-Zuri Bonito, your speed should be 5 to 9 knots. Wahoo go crazy over deep diving lures! These types of lures are best trolled over wrecks and other large structures; it will significantly increase your chances of getting hit. Another advantage of using this lure is that it can also attract other very desirable species of fish besides the wahoo, like tuna, king fish and dolphin. Lipped hard baits are also a great choice when the fish are deeper and you want to get your lure 20 to 40 feet below the surface. Midday and high-sun situations generally call for a lure like this because it’s easier for a wahoo to see the bait when it is deep in the water column, instead of looking up into the blinding sun.
If for some reason the fish in your area are being picky and you happen to have plenty of ballyhoo around, then a good tactic to try would be bum trolling with live rigged ballyhoo, goggle eyes or the most abundant bait in your area. When using live bait, move your boat slowly or just bump it in and out of gear, so you don’t drown your bait. Make sure you are rigged with at least 15 inches of wire leader and a 10/0 Mustad “J” Hook, which is a very strong hook necessary to bring this powerful fish to the boat.
Another popular method of trolling for Wahoo is high-speed trolling at 10-14 knots. A very select crowd will even troll at speeds up to 16-18 knots, which might not be as effective as 10 knots, but it still works since the wahoo can swim at up to 60 miles per hour! One thing is for sure; you are not going to drag your lures faster than a wahoo can swim. The reason trolling at slower speeds is more effective is because you keep your bait and lures in the strike zone for a longer period of time. Wahoo, like most other fish, pray on weaker and injured bait. For most anglers, the only time they use this method is when they are unsure of the fish’s location or are trying to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. Once you find the fish, the best thing to do is to slow down and troll at 6-9 knots over that area; you want to try and pick up fish that may be less aggressive and aren’t willing to chase a lure down at 18 knots.
After selecting the technique that works best for you and hooking into a wahoo, make sure you keep the boat in gear and do not slow down until the angler is completely ready to fight the fish. After the Wahoo’s initial run, it is not uncommon for the wahoo to swim straight towards the boat; it will most likely shake its head aggressively trying to throw the hook. The angler needs to keep the tip of the rod up the whole time while fighting the fish; “Let the rod do the work”, if the rod is pointed directly at the fish, chances are good that the hook could pull loose. When the fish starts to get close, the boat should be moving at about 5 knots and the angler should bring the fish to the side of the boat to make it easier to gaff. Once the wahoo has been gaffed, swing him directly into your Grizzly cooler, but watch out for the razor-sharp teeth that can do some serious damage!
It doesn’t matter where you are fishing, targeting this powerful fish requires heavy tackle, so make sure you have a few heavy-duty Shimano rods and 50W or 80W Tiagra Shimano reels that can hold between 600-1200 yards of 50 to 80 pound mono line. This amount of line will help you survive the initial hit and run from this awesome fish. Regardless of the trolling method you prefer, we are all after the same thing, getting the fish in the boat and onto the dinner table.
photos by Captain Jimmy Nelson
In mid-march, I drove to Venice to take a job as a first mate with a Captain I had never met, in a place I had never been, to jump into a world that I had never experienced. I tend to do well in situations that consume me with the anxiety of the unknown. I continuously throw myself into poorly planned adventures, skimming the line of stupidity and propelling myself into success. Although this formula has been sound so far, I can never rely on it fully and am usually jumping into it full of fear.
My experience in Venice has proven to be one of the best decisions of my life, despite all the signs that it was an iffy situation that most people would have shied away from. I came to stay with Captain Brett Ryan for one week, based on his invitation, and I have stayed here ever since. When he left town for a few weeks, he allowed me to stay at his houseboat provided that I was working on my fishing career. I worked with a few amazing captains in his absence, including Captain Travis Mayeux.
Captain Travis is a wonderfully charismatic fellow who never ceases to make those around him laugh. He is one of Captain Brett’s closest friends and when I got to know him, it was instantly clear that he was the type of person that I wanted to fish with. When Captain Brett left town and I started looking for work, Captain Travis offered me a job. I was more than happy to work with the most bubbly and energetic fisherman I knew. I mean, this guy has a way of making people laugh that I could never pull off. He can say the most offensive words to people, but he does it in such a digestible way that everyone adores him.
I was so excited to work for my friend who made me laugh everyday, but as I soon realized, Travis, aka trav-a-ho, is not the same person as Captain Travis. On our first day fishing together, the weather was awful, the clients were sick and the fish were not cooperating. This Captain, who usually works without a mate, was beyond stressed about not catching fish. The jokes had stopped along with all conversation and communication and this boy was focused. We tried everything to catch fish until the vomiting clients finally called it a day and made us retreat to the dock empty handed. I had never seen this carefree fisherman so upset and I was nervous about fishing with him again.
Reluctantly, I gave another shot to fishing with the Captain who fishes without a mate. I accepted feeling totally useless yet again. I did not know enough to run the back deck without asking specific permission for everything I wanted to do and when we were not catching fish, he did not have the patience to explain what he wanted. Fortunately, our rhythm got better and on a at calm day when we were murdering fish, the happy-go-lucky Trav-a-ho began to show his pretty face.
The Captain, who couldn’t smile without a box full of fish, took advantage of the perfect offshore day and collected us a variety pack to be envied. We spiced up techniques and switched locations and in one day we caught a myriad of sharks, yellow fin tuna, black-n tuna, mahi mahi, scamp, amber-jack, almacojack, red snapper and we even lost two blue marlin. It was an incredible day. The energy, the fishing, the weather, the people and even the tips were all the best I’ve ever had, all rolled into one 12 hour shift.
There was a period of time where Captain Travis and I had no work for a week, so he drove back with me to my homeland of Florida. Since he was kind enough to hire me as a mate, on the charters he usually runs alone, it was wonderful to be able to give him a new fishing experience, as well.
I took him to Lake Ida to fish with my buddy, Patrick Gonzalez, for Peacock Bass. It was a 16-hour drive in each direction, but it turned out to be beyond worthwhile. Captain Tra- vis, who was a bass fisherman long before he was an offshore captain, finally got to catch his freshwater dream fish; the Peacock Bass. It is a rare privilege to put your Captain on fish he wants to catch, but nothing beats putting him on a potential state record.
He caught two new species that day, Peacock Bass, and the rare, invasive Clown Knife fish. We did not have anything to weigh the fish and everyone on the boat wanted to revive it and set it free quickly. We all regretted this decision when we realized that it might have been the state record by a few head lengths. This baby was easily over 10 pounds!
The Clown Knife fish was released in this area and has been thriving ever since. Its original origin is south Asia and Thailand. The Peacock Bass, which was also released in this area, originates from South America. Both of these species were caught on live shiners, with a 1/0, 2/0 circle hook on light tackle. The Clown Knife fish were found in open channels and docks whereas the Peacock Bass were caught along seawalls, docks and other cover.
Captain Travis Mayeux
I made a conscious effort last year to not fish the “popular spots” for tarpon; at least I avoided those spots as much as possible. In fact, I only cut bait one time at Bean Point all season and that lasted about 1 hour before my clients asked if we could go somewhere else. It wasn’t that we hadn’t been catching fish, alongside everyone else, for the previous several years. It just got crowded and stressful; even when we were catching fish.
Maybe I’m just getting old or maybe my definition of success has changed throughout the years, but at this point in my life, I’d rather hook a couple of Tarpon, than 20 Tarpon if I can do it all alone. There’s just something special about not following the pack and going against the flow.
So, last year I decided I was going to do things differently. I was going to watch everyone head one direction in the morning, but I was going to head the other. I was going to watch everyone else throwing the net, while I skipped that and just rolled out with a dozen crabs. I was going to work hard at finding my own fish, while every one else flocked to the massive schools of tarpon. Even if it was just schools of 5-10 fish, as opposed to the thousands that school up at Anna Maria on the big tides, I was determined to avoid the crowds. I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but you know what? We had a blast all Summer long and we caught tons of fish.
We didn’t have a lot of 20 fish days last Summer, but, we also didn’t have any of those days where we were passing off rods to other boats, work- ing our lines under boats to try not to get broke off, or having other people’s fish get tangled up in our lines. It was peaceful, exciting and it was successful. It was the way Tarpon fishing was meant to be. Just you and the fish.
I’d love to say that I figured this all out on my own, but I didn’t. Long time Tarpon guides like Jim Lemke, Glen Taylor and Tommy Ziesmann have been preaching this style of contrarian Tarpon fishing to me for years and I was absorbing it but, until last year, I really hadn’t put it into practice.
You wanna know the secret that they had spent years trying to drill into me? Well, here you go. There are fish everywhere in the Tampa Bay area from May through the end of July; not just where the other boats are. There are fish up in the bay, around the bridges, in the passes, on the beaches, in the ICW, in canals, in marinas… all Summer long. Of course they move around with the tide and the bite changes with the tide as well, but you can find fish on your own every single day if you really look and put your time in. Also, you don’t need a school of 1,000 fish to hook a bunch of fish. All you need is 10 schools of 10fish to wear your- self out. You can hook just as many fish out of 10 pods of 10 fish as you can out of 3 herds of 1,000 fish, if you fish them right and you can most likely do it by yourself, because everyone else will flock to the big herds of fish.
There’s nothing wrong with the party type of atmosphere of fishing around a bunch of folks. In fact, at times it can be exciting. When you hook up, everyone gets excited and starts cheering anglers on and it really is like a big party. There are tons of fish at those well known spots and when the bite is on, it’s really on, however, I think for the next several years, my clients and I will be going against the ow and chasing after those fish that are typically left alone in search of that one bite that will make our day. There won’t be the cheer of the crowd when we hook up, but oh how we’ll enjoy hearing the drag sing and sound of the splash of the “Silver King” as it hits the water.
Captain Clay Eavenson