Posted by: socalsalty | August 24, 2012

Fishing Offshore 101 – Part II

Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to striking this pose (photo courtesy of One Cool Tuna)

I posted Fishing Offshore 101 – Part I on Wednesday of this week.  Right now, there are a lot of 3/4 and full day options to get offshore.  There are also the normal 1-3 day range fishing opportunities.  Both of these posts were intended for these sorts of trips, and not “long range.”  That’s a whole another story.

Anyway, the original plan for the week was to just ride 3/4 day on Thursday.  I was going to write Wednesday night and post Part II on Thursday.  At the last minute, a boat needed a 2nd captain…so my buddy John got a call, Salty got a free trip upgrade, and Wednesday night we were headed south offshore.  I’ll try to get that report out over the weekend, but in the meantime I wanted to finish up this series so you could use the information to maximize the current opportunities to get the quality fish.

What To Bring

If it’s an overnight trip, nothing really changes from What To Bring On An Overnight Fishing Trip in terms of clothes and other non-fishing items.  The one thing that I’d say is a lot of times, even though it may be tshirt and shorts weather inshore, don’t get caught offguard.  Bring some long pants and a hoodie and/or windbreaker.  The weather offshore can change quickly and it’s usually a lot cooler than on land.  Rain is also a real possibility, so having a shell that can repel water to wear over a hoodie is a good insurance policy.

It terms of fishing gear, versatility is key.  It’s hard to gauge how fish are going to be once you get out there.  Sometimes they’ll bite anything (some captains and deckhands have told me about pinning a sardine on a gaff and having tuna bite it), and other times, they can be real finicky and you need to get stealthy to entice a bite.

In many ways, offshore fishing can be real simple and you can actually downsize how much gear you bring.  In terms of weights, you don’t need your heavy rockfish weights, so it’s a really nice thing to be able to lighten the load in your tackle box and leave them at home.  You may want to bring a variety of sliding egg sinkers and/or rubber core sinkers though.  Sometimes the action isn’t just up top and fish may be below the boat 100 ft down or more.  Being able to cut the hook, put an egg sinker on, and quickly re-tie may get you one more fish to take home…same thing with pinning on a rubber core sinker up the line aways.

In terms of sticks to bring, I like to start with a 25 or 30# stick as your main setup.  Most of the tuna that are getting caught in this range are 20-40lbs.  Yellowtail and dorado will be anywhere from 10-35lbs.  For me, I like to have a reel with maybe 60# spectra on it, and then tie on 100 yds or so of 25 or 30# mono.  It will fish like you are fishing mono…you have some stretch, you’re casting mono etc., but you have that spectra backing to give you a lot more capacity if you need it.  Or if you have to, you can take off the mono topshot on the boat and downsize or use fluoro or whatever the case may be to suit your needs on the water.  On this rod, I like to start with a ringed 2/0 circle hook.  This setup is versatile and will put you in good shape for tuna, yellowtail and dorado.  Using circle hooks are key for tuna and dorado who both have teeth that can cut your line.  The circle hooks give you that corner of mouth hookset that keeps your leader away from their teeth.

For the second stick, this would be your stealth rod.  My light combo is a Shimano Crucial 711 Heavy and an Abu Garcia Record 50 (now with 40lb Power Pro).  I will usually tie on about a 5-6 ft leader of 20# fluorocarbon on this setup and tie it off with a non-ringed 1/0 bait hook using an open looped knot.  This setup is good for when the tuna are being sketchy about biting.  The smaller hook without the ring, and the fluorocarbon really help.  Good chance you’ll lose some fish on this light combo, but at least you have a better chance of getting bit in the first place.  You can also change to a circle hook and use it when you know dorado are around (like kelp paddy fishing).

If you are trying to keep your stick count down to 3, here’s where to make some choices.  You could bring a trolling rod that is spooled up with 50 or 60 lb mono.  You want to have a heavy setup if the fish are bigger and/or things get stupid.  When the fish are really biting, and you want to maximize the opportunity to put fish in the sack, why wouldn’t you go heavy?  Or when you are fishing the gray hour bite and the fish aren’t line shy, why not go heavy?  Rather than use my trolling rod though, I prefer to use my Loomis Pelagic and Avet MXL 2 speed setup.  It’s lighter and more versatile.  Go back to the scenario where the fish are lower…would you want to do some vertical jigging with a heavy trolling combo?  I wouldn’t.  Speaking of jigs, always have 1 or 2 vertical jigs…a MegaBait or a Shimano Butterfly or an Ahi Diamond jig are good choices.  If the boat runs out of bait, or the fish are lower, you’ll give yourself a chance.

Back to versatility…with the 3 setups above, you can cover a wide range of scenarios.  I’ll get as much info as possible beforehand, and will make adjustments as needed.  Where you can help yourself a lot though, and it doesn’t add a lot in terms of weight or space are hooks and fluorocarbon.  Right now, these bluefin tuna can be real finicky.  Being able to go down to even a size 2 hook may be the difference in getting a bite.  Having a range of hooks, size 2 to maybe 4/0, rings and no rings, circle and J can be a real help in maximizing your opportunities.  Fluorocarbon can be a big deal too.  I like to bring from 15-50, but have at least 20 and 30.

Do’s and Don’ts

We’re running long so here are a few quick tips…

DO – bring circle hooks.  DON’T – swing to set the hook on a circle hook.

DO – bring your rod with you to the bait tank.  DON’T – leave it at the rail.

DO – find the liveliest bait in the handwell.  DON”T – pin it on until you are ready to throw it.

DO – set your drags or ask a deckhand to help you set them.  DON’T – thumb the line to try and slow down a fish when you are bit.

DO – call for the gaff.  DON’T – call gaff for your buddy or lift the fish with your rod when it’s getting gaffed.

There’s so much to write about this topic, but these 2 posts give you a good guideline to start off with.  Get to know your crew.  They’re there to help you.  They want you to have a good time and take home fish.  Reward them for good service and tip them out if you appreciated their help.  Tight lines!


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