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Offshore Fishing Tips – Light VS Heavy

In my last post, I mentioned how I was fishing 20# and a small hook on a kelp paddy.  I got bit and ultimately lost one of those larger kelp yellows we’ve been seeing this year.  It was heartbreaking, but I accepted the outcome.  And next time, given the same circumstances, I’d make the same decision again.

That’s one of the things about fishing in general, but it’s a dilemma that seems to be magnified offshore.  You can be fishing all day, and you may only get a few bites for that time…

How do you balance getting bit vs. having enough to land a fish?

I’m always going to defer to the captain/crew recommendation.  They’ve been out there more than you or me.  They know what is working NOW (not last year or when you were out with your buddy on his boat).

Still, there are a lot of times where you are left to struggle with this decision on your own.

Couple articles back, I listed what gear to bring now.  You’re going to want to have your setups ready to use so you can change quickly.  Typically, the trip will go in phases.  When I fished Friday on the Toronado, we started the day fishing bluefin.  Then we rockfished for awhile, and finished out along the kelp at Clemente.  So consult the crew to know what setups to rig up, for that particular part of the day.  You can re-rig in the move to the new spot

But how do you pick which one to fish?

Here are some rules of thumb to guide your choice.

Kelp Paddies

Dodo off a kelp paddy

I’m always going to start with 20# fluoro bait setup.  You can always go up, but I’d rather get bit and have a chance than watch other people get bit and miss the opportunity.  If the fish are really biting, and sticking with the boat, then go heavier.  You’ll spend less time fighting the fish and maximize the time when you run into the better opportunities of your trip.

The Sun Factor

Darker equals heavier.  Sunnier equals lighter.  If you are starting your day in the dark, fish your 40# rig or heavier.  As the sun comes up, lighten up the line you are fishing.

Bait vs. Lures

One I pulled out of the kelp because I fished heavy on the colt sniper

Always fish heavier when fishing lures.  Whether you are fishing a light lure on the surface or a heavier one to fish at depth, I’m always going to go heavier.

For a popper, colt sniper or similar that you’ll fire into a foamer of fish, go with at least 50#.  I use one of my bigger baitcasters (Lexa 400 or Tranx 500) with straight braid to a short leader (4-5 feet, knot outside of your reel tip).

On your heavy flatfall setup for the big blues, 80# or 100# minimum.  Again, talk to the crew.

Fishing At Depth

With Capt. Bill Cavanaugh on the Amigo

Sometimes the captain will say something like, “I’m marking fish at 20 fathoms.”  A fathom equals 6 feet, so that 20 fathoms equates to 120 feet.

Similar to the sun factor, it gets darker the further down the water column you go.  Go heavier.

I like having another depth option to the heavy flatfall.  A rubber band rig to fish a live bait at depth is a good option.  I like to go at least 60# depending on the size of fish around.  At left, is a 60-ish yellowfin tuna caught on a big mackerel using a 60#. rubberband rig.  Also, if everyone is fishing the flatfall, and no one is getting bit, why not show the fish something different?

Offshore is biting.  Hopefully, these tips will help you get more bites, and land more fish.

Good luck if you get out there.