Migratory game fish can be taken at a variety of offshore towers where schooling game fish offer excellent bottom and trolling fishing year round.
Calm morning seas greeted Kyle Coker’s fishing party including Dave Back, Jack Coker, Bucky Mims, and Doug Gies. Mike Haan was also on board who is marketing director for “Salt Life” and photographer as well. Coker’s 34-foot Fountain sports fishing boat called Liquid Diet is powered by triple 300-hp Mercury outboards, allowed navigation to their 65-mile fishing destination a walk on the beach!
Targeted fishing waters included a steep break just east of Georgia’s R-4 Navy Tower.
“Word was out that the black fin tuna bite was on at the “Big Break” and we also hoped to hook up to the winter tuna bite,” Coker said. “Our game plan was to troll the steep ledge first thing in the morning then run to the R-4 Navy Tower later in the afternoon which is located just ten miles west of the steep break. The R-4 Navy tower is always a good bet that produces a variety of saltwater pelagic game fish year round.”
Coker’s fishing party struck out while trolling a spread of bluewater trolling lures and combinations of ballyhoo and plastics. Then suddenly the steep ledge came alive with flying fish leaping from the ocean’s surface, more than likely panicking from a fish attack deep below.
“It was a wild scene,” Coker said. “Bait fish were flying from the ocean’s surface from every direction, then it happened. A massive school of blackfin tuna came up under the flying fish then continued their attack right on the surface!”
Team Liquid Diet came prepared with spinning tackle and 30-pound braided fishing line spooled on their spinning reels. A six-foot length of 30-pound fluorocarbon shock leader is attached to the braided fishing line using back to back “Uni-Knots”. Surface poppers and two-ounce butterfly jigs were attached to the business end of the shock leader by employing “Loop Knots”.
Coker went on to describe the day, “We used a “Run & Gun” approach where we would actually run up to the pods of fish and cast to them. Each time we would enjoy multiple hook ups and probably lost at least five out of six tuna that we hooked. The action was so fast and furious it was hard to keep our fishing lines from tangling. The vicious surface strikes were more than likely the culprit for poor hookups. We landed 13 tuna in less than two hours of fishing. It was very exciting catching them on spinning tackle rigged to surface poppers and jigs, which made for a heck of a fight. It was also thrilling to see so many tuna schooling on the surface at one time and simply busting out of the water on our topwater plugs. During the action we also saw three sailfish free jumping as well while feeding on the flying fish.”
“After the tuna bite had cooled off we ran some ten-miles east to Georgia’s R4 Navy Tower, hoping to hook up to winter wahoo, tuna, king mackerel, dolphin, cobia, and more,” related Coker.
Team Liquid Diet began trolling just offshore of the large R-4 Navy tower resulting in three missed strikes that Kyle Coker believed were fast swimming wahoo. Diving birds and surface baitfish activity close to the tower beckoned the Northeast Florida bluewater fishing party closer to the tower.
“We soon found a huge school of amberjack holding close to the tower,” Coker said. “The large school of jacks provided us with a huge angling challenge when hooking them so close to the large legs of the Navy Tower!”
Eight Navy towers are located offshore of Georgia’s coastline and the R-5 navy tower receives the most attention from bluewater fishermen. Hal Waters fished aboard Rusty Kennedy’s boat and landed a 63.8-pound king mackerel while live bait trolling at the R-5 Navy Tower! The R-5 Navy Tower is located some 35 miles northeast of the St. Marys inlet where a gently break from 90 feet of water finally drops off to 120 feet of water at the popular Brunswick Live Bottom. The Brunswick Live Bottom is located just eight miles east of the R-5 Navy Tower.
A mix of cigar minnows, Spanish sardines and Boston mackerel can be jigged from the legs of Georgia’s Navy towers offering excellent bottom baits for grouper, snapper, sea bass, amberjack, and cobia that hold deep close to the towers. Live baits can also be rigged to kingfish leaders and trolled just offshore of the towers while targeting a variety of striking game fish with king mackerel heading the list.
“King mackerel weighing to 20 pounds were eating dead cigar minnows drifted behind my “Wahoo” charter fishing boat at the R-5 Navy Tower, just as fast as we could catch them,” Captain Allen Mills said, “Then deep below the surface I spotted a much larger fish.”
“I tried to tempt the big fish with a dead cigar minnow, but by the time the dead minnow drifted down to the massive game fish, a kingfish would take the bait. Finally, I barbed a live b-liner that was flopping around in the boat’s cooler and tossed the livie to the submarine size shadow.”
“The big fish swam up from the deep water all lit up like a Christmas tree, it was a big ‘Hoo. This time the wahoo out swam nearby king mackerel to the barbed bait, resulting in a killer like strike!”
For the next 45 minutes the huge wahoo made three long runs, before tiring and coming to the side of the “Wahoo” sport fishing boat. The exhausted wahoo lay on its side where Captain Allen Mills gaffed the wahoo, which later weighed 92 pounds on the charter dock scales!
A deadly tower trolling technique also includes a wire fishing line attached to a five-pound trolling weight. A 20- to 30-foot section of 200- to 300-pound mono shock leader is then attached between the lure and the weight. The wire line and trolling weight allow lures to be trolled deep, where most strikes are more likely to come. Cedar plugs in the natural color pattern are the lures of choice, however you just can’t rule out “Drone” spoons that produce a wobbling injured baitfish action deep in the water column.
Fifty-pound trolling tackle is preferred for trolling surface lures including combinations of large ballyhoo rigged to black and red “Wahoo Whackers”, “Islanders” and “Jet Heads”. Other popular lure colors include white and chartreuse and purple and black. Don’t rule out the “Magnum Rapala” in the hot pink color pattern!
Florida harbors a fish attracting weather station located about 112 miles east of the popular fishing destination, Port Canaveral. Some of the best fishing action at the weather station includes trolling deep with natural colored cedar plugs for 100-pound plus yellowfin tuna.
Key West, Florida has five Navy towers within range of deep sea sport fishing boats harboring a variety of saltwater species including cobia, kingfish, permit, red snapper, grouper, barracuda, and more year round.
Offshore oil rigs located in the Gulf of Mexico are magnets for a variety of saltwater game fish year round and have literally become a financial boom for coastal fishing related businesses. Two of the most popular saltwater fishing tournaments held in the Gulf, the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo and the Southern Kingfish National Championship, often held from Biloxi Mississippi, is due in part to their success to the fishy offshore oil rigs.
Today many of the older oil rigs are being dismantled; however the old supports of the oil rigs remain intact and continue to attract baitfish including the popular blue runners.
When game fish are located close to and nearby offshore towers, or platforms, deep sea fishermen are more than likely in gaining confidence that quality game fishing is close at hand.
Angler Magazine, March, 2012
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