Have you ever seen that some anglers catch more and bigger fish than other anglers? If you’re out on a party boat, notice what the people around you are doing, and how they’re catching fish.
Here are some helpful hints to help you catch more fish when you’re out reef fishing on a party boat:
* Fish where the captain tells you to fish. On most party boats, the captains have a wide variety of electronics and often maps of 1,000 or more places where they have caught and can catch fish. The most-important electronics in the captain’s cabin is his depth finder (bottom recorder). This machine shows the captain where the reef is located; where on the reef the fish are holding; and where the biggest fish are holding. Most of the time, the majority of large fish will be holding well up off the bottom – not right on the bottom.
In years gone by, many anglers called reef fishing bottom fishing. They let their weights fall all the way to the bottom; took 10 turns on their reels to get their leads up off the bottom, and waited for bites. However, over the years, anglers have learned that most of the time the smallest fish on the reef are closest to the bottom to quickly and easily escape predator fish (usually the bigger fish). The bigger and better eating fish like snapper, grouper, amberjack, king mackerel and triggerfish will hold higher in the water.
This past week when we fished with Captain Randy Boggs of the “Reel Surprise,” based at San Roc Cay Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama, he told us, “The fish are holding at about 60 feet over a 110-feet bottom. So, let your lead fall for about 60 seconds before you engage your reel. By counting 1001, 1002, 1003, etc. down to 1006, your weight will fall at about 10 feet per second. Then if you engage your reel, your bait will be suspended in the water right where the majority of the bigger fish tend to be holding.”
* Realize when you stop your bait at the water depth where the captain says the most and the biggest fish are holding that you should get a bite within 15 – 18 seconds. If you haven’t had a bite in 15 – 18 seconds, reel in your line. You need to check and see if you have any bait. If not, you need to re-bait and drop back down. “Red snapper can snap the bait off your hook, and you may not even feel the bite,” Captain Boggs explains. “Also, as your bait falls from the surface down to the right depth, triggerfish, snapper and other fish may attack your bait before it reaches the proper depth, and you won’t feel the strike. For this reason, if you check your bait every 15 -18 seconds, after you’ve stopped your lead from falling, then if you find you don’t have any bait, you can re-bait and drop your bait back down while the fish are still holding under the boat. The more times you check your bait, the more likely you are to catch fish.”
* Don’t wait for the second bite. Often, you’ll hear anglers fishing around you say, “I just got a bite. The next time he bites, I’ll get him.” The truth is usually there isn’t a second bite. Reef fish like snapper, grouper, triggerfish and others generally will take your bait the first time they strike. If you’re holding your rod steady when the fish takes the bait and gets it in its mouth, it will start to swim off. The circle hook in its mouth will turn and catch the fish in the corner of the mouth. So, if you don’t check your bait after you feel the bite, more than likely, you’re fishing on credit – with no bait on your hook. So, once you feel a bite, reel your bait up to see if you still have bait on the hook. If not, re-bait.
Because many of us are freshwater fishermen, we often pull hard back on our rods as soon as we feel the bites. Remember to catch fish with a circle hook, you have to let the fish take the bait in its mouth, start to swim off, let the hook turn in the fish’s mouth and set itself. Therefore when you feel the bite, if you jerk your rod up to try and set the hook, more than likely, you’ve lost your fish and lost your bait.
* Bait your hook according to the deck hand’s instructions. On our recent fishing trip, the deck hand said, “We cut frozen cigar minnows in half. If you get a head piece, put the hook through both eyes of the cigar minnow. If you get a tail piece, put the hook in the back portion of the tail piece.” Then, the deck hand showed us how to bait the hook. “If you don’t put the bait on the hook the way I’m showing you, when the bait starts to fall, it will spin like the blades on a helicopter. The fish you’re trying to catch knows that this spinning motion is not the way any fish in the Gulf swims or falls, and you won’t get a bite. Also, as the bait spins, the leader from the three-way swivel will twist. The leader line will be wrapped around the main line, and it will be close to the lead. Again, this isn’t a natural presentation, and usually the fish won’t bite. If they do bite, they’ll be able to take your baits without getting hooked.”
To learn more, click on these videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGQmmVVCpUzqnVbg9ITi8EJz8Fzpz6P1W
You can call Captain Randy Boggs at 251-981-7173 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on fishing for saltwater species, get John’s eBooks “Alabama’s Offshore Saltwater Fishing: A Year-Round Guide for Catching Over 15 Species of Fish” and “Fishing Mississippi’s Gulf Coast and Visitor’s Guide.” Click here to get these books.