As you all are well aware, there are a number of different methods of fishing offshore because different fish require different approaches. As a charter boat captain, it’s important to be skilled in said various techniques, so you can keep your clients entertained. Many a day, when Plan A doesn’t work out, you may have to move on to Plan B, C or D. Because I have spent years bottom fishing both charter and commercially, I was asked to do a ‘how to’ on anchoring. So, here it is.
Anchoring can be the key to a number of fishing methods.
Once properly anchored, you could bottom fish, kite fish or chum and free-line, sometimes all three at once. In most cases, positioning the boat properly with regards to structure is going to determine the level of fishing success.
When anchoring, it is important to know where your spot is so you can determine your anchor heading. The least technical approach is deploying some sort of marker buoy on the spot you wish to anchor. A one-gallon bleach bottle and a couple pound weight tied to enough line to reach the bottom works well. Tie the line to the handle of the bottle, wind it around the bottle and attach the weight to the end. Then, when you go over the spot, you can just throw the whole thing in the water and it will unwind itself and mark your spot.
Once you have your spot marked properly, you can pull up and make a drift. When stopping the boat on the spot, make sure you stop the boat completely so you get an accurate drift. As you drift away, you should be able to see your drift course by watching your marker. I like to drift a fair distance to get a true drift (sometimes .05-.10 nm). While making the drift, you can prepare your anchor for deployment. Once you have drifted sufficiently enough to determine your heading, all you have to do is head back towards your marker buoy and that’s going to be your heading. Just keep going past the marker to a distance about 3-5 times the water depth. For instance, if you were anchoring in 20 feet of water, you would want to be at least 60′-100′ up drift of your marker.
Once you’re far enough ahead of the marker buoy, start letting your anchor out as you slowly drift or back up. When you let the anchor out, make sure to let it down slowly or stop it often to try and keep the chain from outrunning the anchor. If the chain gets wrapped around the anchor, it won’t hang and you’ll have to pull and reset it. Once the anchor is on the bottom and you have a sufficient amount of scope out, you can try and get it set. You can do this by holding it tightly in your hand or wrap the line one time around the anchor bit or cleat. If you don’t feel the anchor fetching up quickly, you may need to let out a little more line to reach the proper scope.
Once it’s hung, you’re ready to fish, just keep an eye on your marker or GPS to make sure it doesn’t lose purchase. Should it break loose from the bottom, it could get fetched up in the structure, making it difficult to retrieve. One negative to this method is the fact that the line on the marker can get in the way of fighting fish. More than one fish has been lost this way.
The other method is the preferred but more technical approach.
Using the GPS to mark the spot, stop and drift just like before, only you’ll be using the electronics instead of a marker buoy. After you have drifted sufficiently away from your spot, your heading back to the spot will be your anchor heading. So, now that you have a proper anchor heading, you can set everything up like the paragraph above.
Sounds easy, right? Well, on days with perfect conditions, maybe so. If you have one or more of those days, catalogue them in your brain so you can remember it on those days when conditions are less than optimal. Over the years, I have found my anchor to be of Irish heritage and governed by the ever-present Murphy’s Law, namely something like “If it can go wrong, it probably will”.
Your anchor heading is determined by two factors, which are wind and current. If you have some of one and none of the other life is good. If you have some of both and they’re moving in the same direction, life is good. If you have some of both and they’re moving in opposing directions, life is not so good.
- Some of one and none of the other. This is called rainbows and unicorns. These would be the ideal conditions for anchoring and either of the methods listed above should work well.
- Wind and current moving the same direction. This may not be rainbows and unicorns, but still a home run. Provided the current isn’t too strong, these circumstances can be dealt with easily. Not to mention, a little bit of current can be a good thing for feeding fish. Both anchor methods of anchoring will work here.
- Wind and current are moving in opposing directions. This is what I refer to as change of plans. If you’re intent on anchoring in these conditions, you better have more patience than I do. These conditions are a veritable crapshoot to get set up properly. There are so many variables; I don’t have time to list them all. Even if you do get it right, a slight change in wind and or current will push the boat right off the spot. Also, the boat is likely to have a large swing radius, which will minimize the time spent over the structure. Your best approach here is to drift fish, which is a whole other article in itself.
So, if you decide you’re going to fish on the anchor, do yourself a favor and maintain a sense of humor or it might make you pull your hair out, like me.
Remember my anchor motto, “40% of the time, it works every time”.