by Captain Tim “SGT” Peterson
Migratory fish will be in high numbers as the month goes on. Summer fishing season is in full swing! Unfortunately, that also means more sharks. Reel fast.
An angler’s best bet inshore in May is to catch Spanish mackerel and king mackerel. Spanish mackerel can be caught closer to shore. Look for schools of bait fish. They may even be jumping out of the water. You can catch them on Gotcha Plugs and spoons. Really anything fast and shiny will get these guys in the boat. Tube jigs, or shiny long shank hooks with pieces of straws also work. In a pinch, a jigging with Berkley Gulp will work.
Always keep a pitch rod ready for mackerel even if you are anchored up for bottom fishing. In addition, always, always have a flat line out between May and November. You never know what you will catch around here. Someone caught a billfish 12 miles offshore this way last year. But kings and big Spanish mackerel for sure can’t resist the flat line. If using frozen bait, make sure the bait looks perfect. The picky kings won’t touch it unless it looks live. Usually the current will give a little motion and you can slowly reel it in and the kings will hit it.
Slow trolling, also known as bump troll works too. I can’t tell you how many times I leave the flat line out when I leave a fishing spot just to see if something will hit it when we start pulling in the anchor, and BANG fish on. You can just bump the boat in gear for a few seconds at a time and just go less than a few miles an hour. Chumming with oily fish will ring the dinner bell for kings. Menhaden milk and oil are also great attractants. Some anglers mix it with oatmeal so it sinks to the bottom. Don’t use bloody chum or the tax man (sharks) will be sure to come.
High speed troll, using cedar plugs, 3 oz casting spoons, and all kinds of skirted baits all work for kings. They are not as picky when the bait is moving fast. Troll them as fast as you can while keeping them in the water.
An angler’s best bet offshore in May is to catch king mackerel. Fish water color and tide changes especially when they are offshore in 40ft plus of water. I have caught some of my biggest kings in dirty looking water 3-10 miles offshore when the current is ripping, especially just before sunset, and on cloudy days.
Blue runners and cigar minnows are everyone’s favorite, but any live fin fish will do. Frozen cigar minnows, and Spanish sardines also work. Use light wire, small hooks, and small swivels. Always have a casting spoon or jig ready for king and Spanish mackerel and possibly a school of mahi mahi that come by. If you are catching white grunts, you are not on the spot to catch grouper. If you want to catch grouper, you can’t be lazy. Move the boat.
Try fishing for bait around makers, or floating debris. Find small depressions and peach fuzz on your bottom machine screen at least ¼ mile away from big structures, or you will just lose your Sabiki rigs to a grouper. To get the best bait, make sure you are in 40ft+ of water.
Watch for what looks like rain on the top of the water. This is usually fin fish being chased by king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, but it can be a billfish or a wahoo if the conditions are right so get ready. Cast or slow troll right into these bait balls.
Most offshore rods around are 8000-8500 series rods rigged with 10-30lb test and 35-65lbs test wire bronze leader. If you ask around, you will hear a wide range of what people like to use. When you get offshore on reefs, I would bump it up to a 8000 series rod at least if you are using spinning set ups. Not so you have enough drag to pull a fish off a reef or wreck, but for when you hook a large king, billfish, or wahoo and they try to spool you.
Offshore, we use 20-25lb test mono filament top shot for the first 50-100 yards, backed with 30-50lb braid on the spinning tackle on reefs or towers. You desperately need the monofilament for its stretch as the kinetic energy that these pelagic super fish hit with often will tear the hooks directly from their skin. They often strike the back of the bait to wound it, then come back to eat it. This means you often get the stinger treble hook in the side of the fish’s mouth.
The braid is used for three reasons. One, so you can keep more line on your real. Two, so there is less friction on the main part of the line for very long runs and fighting the fish back to the boat. Three, so when you get an inexperienced person trying to reel one in, they don’t twist up the monofilament very bad by reeling when the fish is taking out line. When you twist mono, it stretches more and can break easier. I always tell my clients to pretend they are reeling in their favorite child, as a baby by the lips. The trick is people often think the fish fell off. What they don’t know is that fish that just made a 300-yard run to the side of the boat, and is now running directly at them. You need to make sure your drag is set super low (I mean like 2lbs) when they hit. If it is too high, they will break you off after they hit. Keep tension on the line while slowly tightening the drag.
The Spinfisher 8500 has more than enough drag to pull a grouper off the bottom, so if you lock it down say good bye to your fish. I once had buddy of mine throw out a flat line with a 6000 series rod that we use for jigging that only had braided line on and of course he had the drag locked down as he was new and had seen how big they get. After hearing what sounded like a shotgun go off, we needed a new rod. A king had hit it so hard; it broke the rod at the base where it sat in the rod holder. Make sure you have it in a rod holder that is easy to get to, well out of the way of other lines. When a king hits, it’s all hands-on deck. Get all of your other lines out of the water, or you may have a snarlfest.
A reel with a high retrieve ratio is very important so you can get the slack out of the line. This is one of those instances where you need to reel like your baby depends on it to survive. The one good thing about kings and wahoo is the sharks don’t seem to go after them. Now if you hook a Spanish mackerel on a flat line or slow trolling, you better get him to the boat asap before a King mackerel or wahoo disembowels it. It will happen so fast, that you will barely see it.
Until next month, practice your Fish Jitsu.
Captain Tim Peterson
Captain ‘SGT’ Peterson’s - “More than just fishing”