Fort Lauderdale, Florida (PressExposure) February 16, 2007 -- Four pros reveal secrets for scoring double-digit releases!
Southeast Florida is the sailfish capital of the world! There is simply no denying it. If you're not convinced, consider this...
Some anglers fish a lifetime without ever landing a single sailfish. Many travel to foreign destinations like Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama where sailfish action is reportedly the best in the world. Granted, in these foreign destinations double-digit days are a common occurrence, but what about releasing over 400 sailfish in a single day? Is such a staggering number even possible? It is if you were fishing the recent Florida Yachts International Sailfish Kickoff, held right here in Miami in early December. The tournament posted what has to be an all time record. Sixty-five of the area's top teams successfully released over 400 sailfish during the first day of competition alone. The fast and furious action set a precedent that will undoubtedly be hard to ever match. Tournament radioman and committee member Capt. Dan Kipnis explained, "Release calls were coming in constantly with many at the same time. We didn't even have time to take bathroom breaks."
Day one of the prestigious event started with lines-in at 8:00 am and ended at 4:00 pm. After the astonishing numbers we're finally tallied, on average, a sailfish was released every minute and ten seconds. The bite was so 'red hot', L&H, skippered by Capt. Neal Orange, Jr., even released a swordfish; a billfish species not typically caught during daylight hours or this close to shore. The day ended with Orange atop the leader board with a staggering 18 confirmed releases, a number comparable to the best days anywhere on the globe.
Such incredible sailfish action doesn't happen every day, but when ideal conditions all come together, and the fish are in the mood to cooperate, the bite can be monumental. To take full advantage of these and every opportunity, accomplished captains have fine tuned their approach for making the most of each and every outing. Let's hear what the pros have to say. Their livelihood depends on their success!
Capt. Dean Panos Double D: Miami, FL.
Location, Location, Location.
--Off southeast Florida, the fishing kite certainly reigns supreme. While our fellow fishermen to the north prefer to troll rigged ballyhoo, and our angling buddies in the Florida Keys experience great success pitching pilchards to 'tailing' fish, here off of Miami a kite-fisherman will have the greatest opportunity to capitalize on red hot bites. You too can take full advantage of the super action as long as you come prepared, and you're fishing the right place at the right time.
--Hungry packs of aggressive sails are pushed down the coast as wintry cold fronts roll in to our north. Knowing exactly where the bulk of the fish may be located on any given day will be a major key to success. In the past few years, the area south of Fowey Light to Pacific Reef has been consistent during both January and February. Dependent on water quality, sails may also be plentiful from Haulover to Key Biscayne.
--Fish sharp color changes in 80 ft. to 300 ft. and work both sides of the break. Although this early in the year, the majority of sails will be found roaming the cleaner, blue side.
--Keep kite baits right on the surface and if the wind is up and the waves are cresting, keep a sharp lookout for sub-surface cruising fish heading your way.
--Lastly, no matter how hard you try, you can't catch 'em standing on dry land. Get out there and give it your best shot - I'm sure the rewards will be worth the effort!
Capt. Cory Burlew Reaper: Pompano Beach, FL.
--Multiple release days are all about proper presentation and precise execution. The common goal is obviously scoring the greatest number of releases. To make that happen, the best guys understand the fish's habits and cater their approach's accordingly.
--Sailfish encountered off northern Broward County are always on the move, unlike the numbers of fish which have taken up temporary residency off Stuart and the Florida Keys where huge concentrations of ballyhoo, sardines, and other baitfish are incredibly abundant.
--Ideal conditions include a north to northwest wind. Stiff breezes generally force sails toward the surface; hence known as 'tailing fish'. Northeast to southeast winds usually push sailfish deeper as they continue on their southerly migration. In other locales, these easterly winds may be best, but not here. Optimum conditions wouldn't be complete without a strong northerly current which often brings with it a constant flow of fresh fish heading south, setting the stage for a banner day.
--Fishing a 55 ft. Ocean, my most impressive release numbers have been accumulated through a combination of kite and rigger fishing. I hang two baits from a single kite, with two more high on the surface off outrigger clips. I finish things off with two goggle-eyes or blue runners deeper in the water column. With this approach, I can quickly find the exact depth and location of feeding fish. Plus, my maneuverability is increased with only a single kite in the air. I can chase down hooked fish quickly, resulting in healthier releases and more time with baits in the water. When everything comes together, release numbers add up quickly.
--Fish different baits. Goggle-eyes, ballyhoo, and threadfins are local favorites, but don't rule out tinker mackerel, runners and speedos. Fish the ballyhoo on the rigger rods right on the surface. As sailfish swim into the spread, any smart ballyhoo will leap-frog out of the water in an attempt to escape becoming lunch. The commotion usually entices already excited fish into an unstoppable charge. Remaining baits, depending on exactly how they're rigged, are equally effective both on the surface and deeper in the water column.
Capt. V.J Bell Bone Shaker: Stuart FL.
--For us guys up here, finding sailfish off the Treasure Coast is most often accomplished by trolling rigged baits with dredges loaded with natural or artificial mullet or ballyhoo.
--The best hook baits are small ballyhoo rigged to swim with 1/8 oz. leads on 60 lb. leader material with either a 9175 Mustad or Eagle Claw EL 2004 circle hook.
--Run offshore looking for 'fishy' water which can include distinct color changes, temperature breaks, birds, flying fish, and other forms of prevalent structure or suspended bait. Pay close attention to current and wind conditions, and keep additional baits in the water as long as possible when hooked up so you can turn singles into multiples.
--Smooth drop backs with a patient retrieve and easy setting of the hook is the best way to make a solid connection.
--Pay attention to your exact location at all times and thoroughly cover and re-cover productive water. Make smart moves and anticipate how the existing conditions will affect your presentation. An appealing trolling spread which encompasses multiple hook baits and a pair of teasers is dependent on a hard working mate. It takes a lot of effort to make sure everything is 'right'.
--Treasure Coast captains appreciate the effort and rewards of dead bait trolling, though clearly understand the importance of being ready for any situation. When the bulk of the sailfish are stacked south of St. Lucie Inlet, we'll often switch to live bait. Like our buddies down the coast, we'll fly a kite or two and drift appealing areas. Hook baits will be whatever we were able to net that morning. If the bait is lively and presented properly, regardless if it's a herring, big sardine or runner, it will usually get slammed.
Capt. Vinnie LaSorsa Margaritavich: Palm Beach, FL.
Small details make big differences!
--Focus on temperature breaks. If you're serious about sailfishing this season, you better hope your boat is equipped with a temperature gauge. Monitor it closely and look for variations when searching for an ideal stretch of potentially productive water. When you notice a change of at least a degree, there is a good chance sailfish won't be far away.
--Healthy baits are a must. Hardy, small to medium blue runners are my favorite and often much easier to come by than goggle-eyes which have skyrocketed in price. Use soft cloth bait nets instead of the stiff mono type. Soft nets do a much better job at protecting the bait's fragile slime coating.
--Bridle baits. Avoid injuring baits as much as possible. The small difference will make a big difference
--Fish with high speed reels for your kite baits. Fast retrieve reels loaded with fresh line are perfect. The extra speed allows you to quickly crank the slack out of the line when a sailfish grabs one of your baits and pops the line out of clip. Come tight quickly to avoid potentially harming the fish with a damaging gut hook.
--I am sure you've heard this fundamental before, but let me reiterate. Sailfish bite best with a fast moving northerly current. Once on scene, stop and keep a close eye on the latitude and longitude numbers on the GPS. Determine exactly which direction you're drifting and how fast. Then reposition accordingly.