How Many Rods??
When I load the boat in the morning and I empty the cart containing at least 17 rods, people often ask why I have that many rods on the boat. My best straight faced answer is because that is all that will fit easily in the upright rod holders. It all boils down to the fact that with my severe case of fishing ADD I am never quite sure what I will end up doing on the charter from one hour to the next.
December is one of the worst months for an ADD afflicted angler. A day that starts out as a reef trip can easily be turned into an offshore trip with the appearance of a few ballyhoo in the chum line. That offshore trip can morph into a wreck trip if the slow trolling for sailfish with the ballyhoo brings me near the wrecks. Dropping on the wrecks often turn into a fast troll on the way home for wahoo...and the trolling for wahoo can turn into deep dropping if we happen over some promising bottom structure out in the ups and downs. You get the picture.
I like to start a December day on the reef for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it’s the last chance to pick up a fat shallow water grouper on the patch reefs for several months.
Chumming the patches also offer a chance at a great variety of some of the tastiest treats of the season. There are cero mackerel, mutton snapper, mangrove snapper and of course yellowtail.
For the reef fishing I use Penn Spinfisher 750SSV loaded with 30 lb mono. That accounts for the first six rods on the boat.
I always start the day with a well full of live pinfish which is a great second choice in the live bait category. To go with my first choice it takes a bit of patience for the ballyhoo to show up. A cast net full of these while being the absolute best choice for both live and fresh cut bait on the reef, will have the siren call going off in my brain to take the bounty outside of the reef and slow troll for sailfish. This method is both simple and productive. An eight to ten foot fluorocarbon leader and a circle hook and you are fishing for a world class game fish. Keep the boat moving just fast enough to keep the baits straight. I like to have two on the flat line and one on a down rigger. Do not be surprised if you end up with tuna, dolphin, wahoo or king mackerel. If those toothy critters do show up you can Albright a foot of single strand wire to the hook for a way to keep the party going. For the slow trolling, I like to use Penn Spinfisher 750SSV but load these with 50 lb braided Spider wire. This accounts for another three rods.
When or if we get to the wrecks, I like to drop two live pinfish down for amberjack, almaco, grouper, mutton snapper and African pompano. Sharks and barracuda often invite themselves to the party as well. If feeling energetic, the vertical jigs come out and besides the above listed fish we often get the tuna going. So to add to the party of invited tackle guests, a pair of Penn Spinfisher 950SSV with fifty lb test braid is included. The jigging is done with the same braid loaded 750SSV’s that we used for slow trolling.
Since the deep wrecks are somewhat far to the west from my home base, getting back to the dock is a good run. Never wanting to pass up an opportunity, the conventional trolling gear is employed for the only slightly out of the way home trip out to the ups and downs. Wahoo, dolphin and tuna can all be found by trolling. Dead ballyhoo are great for the majority of fish here, however artificial lures should be employed if you want to troll at faster than seven knots. As for gear for trolling I will have to apologize to Penn for not using the best and latest conventional trolling reels. It is their own fault though, as the 1960 and 70’s vintage International reels are holding up too well to consider replacing them. This accounts for another four rods in the arsenal.
Last but certainly not least is deep dropping. Frankly I am guilty of wasting years of fishing opportunities by not taking advantage of this fishery. I was convinced by the conventional wisdom that you needed to employ electric reels to successfully fish in the depths over six hundred feet of water. Boy was I wrong. With a pair of Penn 1050SSV reels loaded with spider wire and some Carnage Jigging rods I have had great success with tilefish, barrel fish, snowy grouper and hake. The process does necessitate a depth finder that will read to the depths that you wish to fish. Namely the 650 to 850 range for what I like to do. I just troll around until, with my depth finder zoomed into the last 30 or so feet of water, I find what appears to be fuzzy bottom. I mark the beginning and end of the structure and plan my drifts over that bottom. Cut bait does work well here but I prefer the ease of using squid for most of the fish that I encounter in December. Until January, when the snowy grouper season opens up I keep my baits on the smallish side. Once the season on snowys opens I then put a bait down that will fill the appetite of these big mouths.
If I have done the math correctly this accounts for the 17 rods loaded on the boat every morning. I may be afflicted with fishing ADD but there is method to my madness.
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