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Be prepared when heading offshore to fish

March 9, 2018
By GEPRGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Ready to get into the offshore bottom fishing game? The taste of fresh grouper or delicious snapper tingles your taste buds and you've finally decided to venture offshore and bring some home?

Equip your boat. Think electronics, your underwater eyes. Today's incredibly advanced sonar machines do everything but make coffee. Learning to interpret what you see on the screen is the deal, some say an art. As with anything, you get what you pay for and big time sonar rigs go for big money, but with today's technology, consumer demand and mass production, there are lots of really good useable choices in the $500 to $1,000 range.

If you aren't the Mr. Sparky type and don't know positive, ground or don't want to fool with it, have it pro-installed for best results. Simple things like installing the transducer just a few inches left or right of the optimum location on the transom can make a huge difference in the performance of your electronics.

Pick your reef location. Not far off the coast of Southwest Florida, rock piles, ledges and artificial reefs draw numbers of fish. Most of these are easily found using GPS coordinates published in local literature or found on the FWC website. Many are top secret and these GPS spots are passed down to family members and close associates only.

Go often enough and you might stumble upon your own hidden reef numbers that could provide you with years of uncrowded fishing.

Remember this - loose lips sink ships and grouper trips. If a friend makes you wear a blindfold till arrival, takes your cell phone and closely guards his electronics all day from your prying eyes, you quickly realize to some this is very serious business.

Now that you've found your dream honey hole with huge grouper below, what's a good rig to put them in the boat?

Local offshore grouper guru Roy Bennett starts off with 65 lb. test Power Pro braided line to make his fish-finder rig. Typically, a 6-10 oz. sliding sinker is used on the line. In rough seas and heavy current, that weight could double. Have a selection onboard.

Attach a barrel swivel then tie on a 3-foot piece of fluorocarbon leader material and attach a 6/0 7/0 circle hook. This is a basic rig and many combinations, including using bucktails instead of weights, are possible.

Bennett likes using ladyfish heads and chunks as bait for his still fishing (anchored) and live baits (pinfish) for drifting over the reefs.

That's right, you will have to make a choice - will you anchor and fish the reef below you or drift the length of the reef or structure below exposing your baits to more targets as it drifts along over it?

Bennet points out that grouper find a home and stay in it or close by. If you're anchored, the grouper on the other side of the reef typically won't come to you. Drifting solves the problem.

By the way, learning to anchor isn't as simple as throwing it overboard. Learning where to anchor in relationship to the reef, how much rope, chain and type of anchor are all things that must be considered and or learned.

Don't forget the ice to preserve your expensive catch during the long ride home.

When going offshore, pay attention to the regulations concerning limits, sizes, hook types, as you might be stopped by an enforcement boat on the trip home.

Actually, when going offshore, the most important consideration is not fish or tackle or technique, but safety. If you're new to the game, go first with a friend or an offshore captain and learn.

Never try to outguess the weather in Southwest Florida or overestimate your boat's abilities as the Gulf of Mexico can turn on you rather quickly, especially in summer. If it looks iffy - stay home.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or captgeoget3



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