Today I will post a few tips that may help some of you target the right species.
#1 Make a plan – This sounds simple right? Let’s go target everything! Heave Ho here we go. Load up the boat with 4 dozen ballyhoo, 4 dozen goggle eyes, and every lure Black Bart ever made. Oh and don’t forget the mutton rods just in case our $600 worth of bait doesn’t cut it. Also let’s spend an extra hour trying to catch threadfins or pilchards. SLOW DOWN. Here is when you call a few friends or go talk to the guys at the local tackle shops and make a good plan. Start trying to target 1-2 species and you will be surprised how keeping it simple sometimes makes for a great day.
#2 Start small – I will use kite fishing as an example because this time of the year this method can produce much larger versions of the same fish if done properly. My best tip if you have never tried this is it’s not something you can pick up at the holiday inn express or on a YouTube video. When I say start small I mean start with one kite and one bait. Learn how to fly it, practice with this kite, learn the boat and how it drifts etc. Once you can comfortably master the one kite one bait then you can add a second bait and eventually a second kite. Take your time and don’t be embarrassed. Kite Mares happen to the best of us and sometimes mother nature just wins. Avoid losing costly tackle by adding a small balloon to your kite or even helium to avoid a disaster. If you kite does hit the water don’t panic. Let your boat drift towards the kite until you can retrieve it safely without damaging it. Always rinse it off with fresh water and wait until it’s dry to redeploy.
#3 Start small part 2 – I know your probably like this guy likes small things. Well elephants do eat peanuts. Some of the biggest fish I have ever caught have been on small baits. For Tunas (Blackfins) this time of year they are feeding primarily on crack minnows and tiny baits. Make yourself a 10′-12′ long daisy chain with 40-50lb flouro carbon leader with squids evenly spaced with tiny 1/8 to 1/16th oz lead in their heads to keep them in the water. I like to space them about 16 inches apart 4-5 squids preferably pink on one chain and green on my other. At the very last one I use a silver bullet or tiny tuna plug with the hook. I fish these two chains 200-250 feet behind the boat on the long riggers at about 6-6.5 kts. If the bite is slow I drop them back another 50-100 feet. Yes I fish them that far back. You will be very surprised how many bites these get. On my shorts I’ll fish a chugger head with a ballyhoo or a split tail mullet with a skirt or chugger in front of it. on my planers it’s normally a small silver drone spoon on 40lb floro and a purple mylar on the other side with 40lb floro and a bonito strip. If you start getting a lot of bite offs or decide to play with the kingfish you can add a wire tracer about 4 inches to a small spro swivel. You may think I am crazy but the 40lb gets a ton of bites and you are certain to outfish your buddies. Maybe start with 50-60lb floro if you aren’t great on the gaff and as you get better you can work down to lighter line. I only use this floro as a tippet to my main leader line of 60-80lb mono. Use about 6 feet of floro prior to your bait. Uni to uni works just fine and doesn’t break. Once you find where the tunas are feeding it’s never a bad idea to stop and live chum with pilchards and set up a drift or two. This time of year you can expect something amazing swimming off our coast. You never know it could be that Yellowfin Tuna!
#4 Stay in the bait – I know I know, NOBODY wants to catch bonitos all day long. Sometimes it may seem like that is the only fish swimming in our waters. Well let me tell you that everything eats bonitos. Stay in the bait and be patient and that is where that 50lb Wahoo, 50lb Mahi, or giant sailfish is going to be feeding. Remember there are no fences and I’ve caught Wahoos over 100lbs in green water on the wrong side of the rip because that is where the bait was. One of the largest Mahi’s I ever caught was in 80 feet of water of Boynton Beach in green water on a turn while hand lining 3 tiny bonitos. As we slowed to hand line the last bonito this 63″ Fish came up and swallowed the 40lb florocarbon planer bait with a pink/purple mylar and strip while sitting still. All fish stories aside the moral of this part is find the bait and work that area hard. Your patience will pay off.
#5 Find the current – I’m not sure I really have to explain this to a seasoned fisherman but to the novice this can be very important to targeting billfish. Billfish especially sailfish love to stem the current to feed. At times these fish may even seem lazy until they get that hook in their mouth and the show starts. Think of the current as a conveyor belt of food for these fish. They will nose into that current when feeding and this is how you can tell which way they are headed. Look for those free jumpers when trolling around first thing in the morning while you are catching the tunas and bonitos. Look for color changes and current rips. Once you find an area that looks good or you see that free jumper head into that current about a half mile upstream and set up with your live baits. I promise it won’t take long and he will find your spread.
I hope some of this is helpful and some of you learned a few new tips. Remember to walk down the hill! and you know the rest. Feel free to email me or reach out for more tips or info.
Captain Darren Diaz