I’m not talking about fishing in rough water. I’m talking about the waves of fish showing up in the chum slick. Of course, the old standby yellowtail snapper is normally willing to play, but changing up approaches to how you’re targeting them can pay big dividends in relation to the age classes (size) you end up catching.
Starting off with a block of chum is cool, but to really get their attention I will power chum with chunks (threadfin hearing, pilchards, squid, or ballyhoo) cut down to manageable sizes. Then give them some time for all that stuff to do its job, centralizing the targeted species.
While waiting on the chum to do its job, drop some live baits or chunks of bonito to the bottom for grouper or muttons. I normally wait until I can see the snapper, or 20 minutes before dropping a free-lined bait back. To “free line” is to free line, but your bait, hook, or jig can make all the difference between catching 13 inch yellowtails and much larger models.
Nothing is set in stone in regards to what to use. Every day I have to mix up the style or size of the hook/jig, along with the size of the bait. To start off, normally we will use a light jig, 1/32 or so, with a sliver of bonito or glass minnows. A word on glass minnows/mahua; if you get a single bump or bite and miss the fish, your bait is gone. Now bonito on the other hand, hooked through the skin, you can catch a couple fish on one chunk. Guess which one I like? But some days, it pays to have several baits as the moody snapper may only like one thing.
Under normal conditions, the keeper-sized yellowtails will be visible behind your boat, but the larger fish will hold behind them, so, on deployment, get your bait farther back or go to a hook without weight to get it into those big snappers. Along with the yellowtails, you will have also gotten the attention of other species. Mutton snapper will be patrolling your slick along with the leader-shredding cero mackerel.
To kill a problem of lost hooks before it starts, I’ll rig a spinner with a foot of light, single-strand wire with a heavy jig, ¼ oz., or heavy enough to do the job. You can put any normal bait, dead or alive, on said jig. Drift it back and down, but not as fast as you would for yellowtails. Stay connected and let the line slip through your fingers slowly. When you feel anything different, slap the bail shut and get busy. I haven’t had issues with the muttons turning it down, but the ceros can’t cut it off.
The next couple things to show up in the slick are completely dependent on the depth of water you start in; with that I prefer 80 feet or better. Seeing a sail, tunas, wahoo, king mackerel, or even a mahi shouldn’t surprise you. The key is to be ready for these pelagic. Having a couple spinning rods handy, rigged with the appropriate leader material and hooks, gives you a shot.
Remember, don’t get too hung up on the yellowtails. There are a lot of other things swimming around back there just asking to get in your fish box.
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