When learning the ropes — and rods — of saltwater fishing, thorough preparation involves more than just a rich arsenal of gear and the appropriate attire. Open-water fishing is challenging and requires technique and prior research.
Research Your Destination
The key to discovering a spot rich in saltwater fish is ample research. At least a week before your trip, you’ll want to read up on fishing reports, tide charts and weather forecasts.
For instance, while a rainy morning might deter most anglers, it can also surprise you with better catches — if you know where to look.
Some areas are more crowded with fishing enthusiasts during different times of the year.
Consider whether you are traveling in the spring, summer, fall or winter and do the appropriate research. You can get some ideas of where to go at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Where to Saltwater Fish.”
Think About Your Target Species
The type of catch you’re after will dictate where you anchor your boat. Targets, such as yellowfin or other tunas, for instance, are surface feeders. Thus, you’ll want to be on the lookout for weed lines and baitfish breaking the surface.
On the other hand, some species including groupers and snappers are bottom feeders and prefer structures including reefs and wrecks. Angling for these species can require special equipment, such as a fishfinder, circle hooks,
dehooking tools, descending devices and more. MyFWC.com/FishHandling explains much of this fishing gear.
When it comes to open-water angling, you can never underestimate the usefulness of a map. Bathymetric maps are a type of underwater topographic map that indicates specific depths.
Space between lines on the map illustrates whether an area is close to a steep slope, drop off, flat or shoal. Lines that are close together indicate a rapidly changing depth in the area.
Keep in mind that bathymetric maps can be challenging to find at your local angling shop. If you have trouble coming across a bathymetric map, you can rely on other tools, such as nautical charts or satellite images.
Speak to the Locals
When you have a specific target species in mind, drop by the local bait shop for advice. Or join an online group focused on fishing in your area of interest.
Some angling hot spots have knowledgeable fishing guides who can direct you to the ideal area for your specific catch. Hop on a trip for a chance to see the area up close with an expert who can teach you how to catch your target species.
Alternatively, you can venture out into the ocean yourself and observe where other anglers are setting up shop. Just be sure to mind your distance and not crowd other anglers.