5 Tips for a Successful Offshore Fishing Trip
As we come into the heat of the summer, we also make our way into prime offshore fishing season. The water temperatures are warming and the billfish and are coming in to locations closer to the shoreline. This weeks blog is going to discuss how to make the most of your next offshore fishing trip.
1 - THE BOAT
Here in Texas, you have to battle the treacherous and turbulent Gulf of Mexico while making your way offshore. It is very important to have a boat big enough to handle the weather conditions as well as have proper communication devices to reach out to the coast guard if you are in distress. This past weekend we were 40-50 miles offshore and listened to several cases where people were way too far out with too small of a boat. One individual was a distressed kayaker, who was 5 miles off shore. The coast guard was able to locate and bring the kayaker to shore, but this is not a good situation to put yourself in. Another situation was a boat who ran out of gas. Some of these situations are hard to avoid, but it's very important to be able to reach out for help.
2 - NAVIGATIONAL GPS WITH SONAR
One of the most important tools you can have on your boat while offshore fishing is a navigational GPS and fish finder. This can be used to plug in coordinates for fishing locations, the sonar can be used to find cut off rig platforms and reefs under water, and the fish finder can be used for imaging what lies below you. The picture below shows the sonar picking up the location of a cut off oil rig which was about 50 feet below the surface.
The most important task is to pre plan your trip with a good set of coordinates you've found from a friend, Texas Parks and Wildlife, fishing forum, or any other source. This will put you in the right location, the rest can be used for further optimization.
3 - HAVE THE RIGHT TACKLE
While offshore, everything is bigger. The fish are bigger, the waves are bigger, the boats are bigger, the ocean is bigger, etc. Most of all, it is important for you to have bigger tackle that is rated to handle even bigger fish. Our fishing poles are set up with a minimum of 30 lb test line on the smallest pole used to catch red snapper, but the typical trolling pole has 100 lb test line or better. It is also important to use steel leaders because most of the fish you will catch have very sharp teeth which will cut most monofilament line. An example of sharp teeth is a few of the red snapper we reeled in over the weekend. Only half of the snapper made it!
4 - HAVE THE RIGHT TACKLE CONTINUED - USE A GOOD LURE
In addition to steel leader, it is important to use bigger lures to catch bigger fish. For trolling, rigging ballyhoo as bait and trolling works well but can be expensive since you have to buy bait every time. The cheaper option is finding a cost effective lure and run a variety of different types. We run skirted lures and diving lures that are particularly shiny or bright in color.
5 - TROLL ON
A good trolling speed for offshore fishing is about 5-9 knots, which equates to about 6-10 miles per hour. This might seem too fast for beginners, but remember the fish you are targeting can swim at speeds in excess of 30 mph. A lure typically does not have any scent, it is purely visual deception. If you troll too slow, you risk the fish sniffing the lure out instead of hitting it hard with a quick jolt. The harder the fish hits the lure, the more likely they are to stay hooked.