Episode 1 - Targeting Sailfish In The Southeast Region With Capt. Jimbo Thomas
April is usually a pretty decent month for targeting sailfish in the Southeast Region, although the sailfish bite has been pretty off this entire season. If we get a north current, you can expect the fishing to be good, but we’ve had a severe lack of north current lately.
Ideal sailfishing conditions in the Southeast Region include a north current, blue water and even some north wind thrown in. When you have those conditions you get a swell built up and those are the best sailfish conditions where you get a lot of tailers on the surface.
In my region we fish in anywhere from about 80 to 300 feet of water, with the best stuff usually in the 100 to 200 foot depths. But if you find a little current edge or rip don’t be afraid to fish out as deep or 400 or 500 feet.
In the Miami area we use threadfin herring for bait the most, but if you can get Spanish sardines, goggle-eyes or pilchards they will work just as well. We typically use 20-pound tackle--conventional gear for the kites and spinning for the outrigger, flat lines and pitch rods. On the kite rods we use 12 feet of 60 pound monofilament leader and a 7/0 circle hook. On the spinning rods we use a shorter leader so we can cast to fish if we need to.
I use a Gerry Rig on the baits, which is like a bait clip that you can find in a lot of the tackle shops. You can also bridle the baits to the hook using thread, dental floss or a rubber band, but these Gerry Rigs work really well and are quick to change out. In a pinch, you can always hook the baits through the nostrils or back.
Any time we’re targeting sailfish we fish two kites, with two to three baits per kite (usually two), and then have a couple of lines out of the outriggers and one or two deep lines. We have seven lines out on most days, and have a spinning rod ready to hook to a pitch bait if we see a fish coming by the boat.
The thing to remember with circle hooks and live bait for sails is not to set the hook. Just reel down until you come tight to the fish, then lift the rod while continuing to reel and the fish will just take off with the hook in the corner of its mouth. And any time you see one sailfish there’s the chance that there are more around, so don’t reel in all your baits when fighting a fish.
We release all the sailfish we catch, but anglers are allowed to harvest one fish per day with a 63 inch minimum size limit measured from the lower jaw to the fork in the tail.
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