Where water depths reach one hundred feet and deeper, fishermen expect to catch larger than average size game fish, and they do!
How many times have you heard the saying, “I caught the big one while fishing in a deep hole.”
In many cases, deep sea fishermen frequently relate to deep water as the place where the really big fish live and, more importantly, are caught on a more regular basis. Simply said, deep water structure is a magnet for better than average game fish where an abundance of larger than average bait fish becomes the main attraction.
It’s not secret; the further you travel offshore, the tendency of locating large bait fish is always greater.
For this simple reason, Gulf Coast fishermen often run far offshore to the deep water oil rigs and hard bottoms when jigging up large blue runners, also called hard tails, which are typically found in water one hundred feet deep and deeper.
Water temperatures are also more apt to remain more consistent in deep water where passing cold fronts will have to remain for several days before the water temperature is severely affected. Water clarity is also a huge factor since deep water habitat normally harbors clean water conditions. Keep in mind that shallow water structures can become extremely discolored during severe fronts where high winds are more likely to stir up the shallow bottom.
Catching quality game fish including billfish, king mackerel and similar pelagic species requires special angling tactics. Without saying, finding the right deep water structures requires special fishing skills plus proper electronics and the knowledge to use them. For example, a small piece of bottom in one hundred feet of water can become a huge magnet for pelagic game fish. Learning how to recognize these deep water fish havens with your fish finder is the first step for success. For many deep water fishermen, the bottom structure may be deep, but their fishing applications are almost always focused on the upper portion of the water column.
The loud cracking noise of the outrigger clip releasing eighty-pound trolling line immediately caught the attention of the Long Haul fishing party including Al Nelson, son Bob and friend, Tony Raines from Bremen, Georgia. The Yulee, Florida based blue water fishing team had already enjoyed an excellent day of trolling offshore of Northeast Florida with a catch of six dolphin and a released sailfish.
“Bob Nelson grabbed the deeply bent eighty-pound class trolling rod, placed the rod butt in the rod holder and soon prepared for a long and hard battle,” Al Nelson said. “By now we were all extremely pumped as a big blue marlin began to Greyhound from starboard to port and right across our trolling spread of lures and baits.”
“It was typical havoc for a few minutes as Tony and I retrieved fishing lures and lines, all the while chasing down Bobby’s hard running blue marlin.”
The threesome of Northeast sport fishermen settled in for a long hard battle, hoping that the large saltwater hook had a good hook-set and their terminal trolling tackle would hold up to the saltwater challenge.
“Bob’s blue marlin hit right at the tail end of a large weed-line,” Al Nelson said. “It was kind of funny as all morning we really were not marking any bait, or seeing any flying fish. The fish were just there and we just happened to be in the right spot at the right time, with the right trolling pattern and the right lure combination. In fact, Bob’s blue hit a blue and white C&H Stubby rigged with a large ballyhoo. The water temperature was quite warm at 81 degrees.”
Most of Bob Nelson’s blue marlin battle took place deep under the surface while the 125-pound billfish occasionally wallowed half way out of the water attempting to dislodge the large saltwater trolling hook.
“I actually had to drive our boat alongside of the hooked marlin to keep the billfish from spooling Bob’s eighty class trolling reel,” Al Nelson said. “Finally after a forty-five minute fight, I was able to secure the bill of Bob’s blue marlin and dislodge the saltwater hook.”
“Paired with Tony Raine’s sailfish that enjoyed a quick release right off from the transom of our trolling boat, six dolphin weighing to thirty-one pounds and Bob’s 125-pound blue marlin, we had one heck of a good day blue water fishing off from Amelia Island,” Al Nelson emphasized.
Al Nelson is no stranger to success when it comes to saltwater fishing.
Al Nelson entered team Un-Winder into the 1983 Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament and took first place big fish honors with a stud of a king mackerel weighing forty-eight pounds and change. The big mack gobbled up a large silver mullet.
Al Nelson also won the 2002 Fernandina Beach Kingfish Tournament. Once again, his winning forty-three-pound king mackerel gobbled up a large silver mullet.
“If there is one factor that I can relate to our fishing team’s success, it would have to be finding deep, clean water and fishing with big baits or lures,” Al Nelson said. “Our fishing team is also very persistent in that we are always checking our trolling spread, making sure that our lures and baits are tangle free and trolled exactly perfectly in our trolling spread.”
The family fishing team including Rube McMullan, sons Brant and Barrett, along with lady angler Amy McMullan and Jr. Angler Caroline McMullan have amassed a huge SKA tournament regular in recent years. Included is first place 2009 SKA Championship with a 74.10lbs. record breaking king mackerel, first place 2010 Onslow Bay KMT – 40.07lbs., first place 2010 Brunswick Islands Kingfish Classic – 43.60lbs., and first place 2010 Marshes Light KMT – 42.9-lbs.
Consistently winning highly competitive Southern Kingfish Association king mackerel tournaments requires a bait well full of fishing knowledge. Primarily the knowledge of live baiting large baits in deep clean water, which team OIFC has certainly mastered.
The McMullan’s operate their fishing business called Ocean Isles Fishing Center located in Ocean Isles Beach, North Carolina. If you would like to sharpen your own kingfish skills, particularly in deep water, the McMullans offer a kingfish school called Live Bait King Mackerel fishing 101.
The kingfish class is guaranteed to make you a better live bait fisherman. Spend two or three hours one evening making rigs, cast netting, and learning other technical skills to become a better king mackerel fisherman. Then fish with Capt. Brant McMullan aboard the OIFC World Cat as you go through all the motions from catching bait, to picking a spot, to setting the lines, to gaffing fish. It’s a hands-on classroom on the deep blue sea. For more information visit http://www.ofic.com.
Certainly a huge key to your fishing success where water depths drop off dramatically into one hundred feet and deeper includes your fishing team’s ability to present large live baits or lures both on the surface and deep as well.
Slow trolling large live baits including bluefish, hard tails, goggle eyes, silver mullet, and Spanish sardines from T-top rod holders, flat lines and right in the wheel wash is key. A mistake many deep water fishermen often make includes live bait trolling with just one big bait and not going the extra mile when gathering enough big live baits for a full day of deep water fishing. How many times have you listened to fishermen tell, “Our largest fish hit our largest bait fished way back on a flat line?” Now, you have to wonder how many big fish they may have caught if this same fishing team would have been live bait fishing with a full spread of large live baits!
Keep in mind that trophy size game fish of any species are super spooky, requiring special fishing tackle adjustments. A growing trend for many deep edge saltwater fishermen includes live bait trolling with a full fluorocarbon leader. This entails splicing a fluorocarbon leader onto your terminal fishing line so that the invisible leader is long enough so that none of the terminal fishing line is in the water.
Downrigger fishermen should also replace their cable with 100-pound test fluorocarbon fishing line as well. This not only eliminates the humming noise created by the cable, but also makes the line invisible.
Concentrating your fishing efforts where a deep edge greets bottom structure will certainly increase your fishing team’s odds in not only winning a major SKA kingfish event, but also producing sizeable game fish.
Angler magazine, July 2011
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