Bottom Fishing with B. Fine

Bottom fishing for reef fish. Reef fish are going to be present around
structure. There are two types of structure close enough to shore for
kayakers to get to; natural anomalies, and man-made structure. The
coordinates to these structures can be considered public and private.
If you surf enough on line you can get a bunch of coordinates to bottom
structure, but then again so can anyone else, the private numbers are
fished much less but also lead to some etiquette infractions. If
someone gives you coordinates to structure they found it’s not a good
idea to share them without the original person knowing. Paddling up to
someone bottom fishing and marking the spot on your GPS is also a huge
foul. So first step to reef fishing is finding some bottom spots to
try. Either from friends, online, or the old fashioned crisscross the
gulf until you see an anomaly on your depth finder.

Once you find a good spot you have to drop the bait down. I prefer a
conventional reel with a good heavy duty bottom rod. The smallest line
I typically use while bottom fishing is 50lb test. I usually run braid
down through a 8oz doughnut weight and to a 100lb+ barrel swivel, and
from the swivel I tie on a 4′ fluorocarbon leader and finally a 5/0
offset circle hook. The 8oz helps get the bait to the bottom fast,
which can be challenging on windy days or when the current is moving
faster. The primary baits used are cigar minnows or scaled sardines
either alive or frozen doesn’t really make a huge difference. Some
people hook the bait through the eye sockets or the tails, it’s all a
personal preference.

There is usually nothing subtle about a reef fish hitting your bait, so
make sure you’re holding on. The circle hook will set itself, the thing
you want to remember is you need to win the early fight so have your
drag set a little to the heavier side, (Not enough they make your kayak
lean!!) if you win the early fight you can keep the fish out of
structure, if you lose the early fight you’re going to lose terminal
tackle. The only reef fish I’ve found that doesn’t immediately bend
your rod over is triggerfish. If you are feeling bites, but not hooking
any fish and you’re bringing up very small pieces of what’s left of your
bait, chances are you’ve found triggerfish. Since they’re good eating
I’d suggest going down to a 2/0 hook with some frozen squid and you can
have a pretty tasty dinner collected pretty fast.

When you’re bottom fishing it’s not uncommon to end up losing your
terminal tackle to a mackerel that slices through your line or even end
up tangling with one of the numerous shark species, but if you play your
cards right you could very easily end up with red or lane snapper,
grouper, or even cobia.

Enjoy.
Barrett Fine

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