January 9 2022 - The new year was good to us last week weather wise but the fishing certainly dropped off in the blue water making it tough to get the pelagic species to bite. All last week the Gulf Stream wasn't much help to bring in the Mahi that we had over Christmas week. We struggled a bit to make things happen in the blue water so my mate Mike and I pulled a few tricks out of the hat and made trolling the reef a tasty alternative for our people.
After a bit of a struggle early in the week, it did not take long for us to make the backup plan of trolling the reef part of our day. First we would head out to the deep and see what was happening. Using the speed of the "InXS" and our desire to get back into the amazing mahi mahi fishing we had over Christmas week we would head offshore to about 400 ft and start trolling there. Often times we were making it to 800 ft of water and ultimately striking out on a pointy nosed fish or a tasty mahi.
Trolling The Reef
Leaving enough time to put together a bag of fish on the reef we would head to the shallows. Always carying lighter rods for the backup plan we employ them on the reef. The tactic is simple. Bump troll lighter smaller baits on fluorocarbon leaded line. The bites were frequent and the results are awesome.
Using the lighter rods for our surface baits we drop them way back and then put them up in the outside positions on our outriggers. Speed kills here so we pull them pretty slow. About 4.5 knots is the usual staying off the weeds but on the reef edges between 15 and 45 ft when we are targeting the yellowtail snappers. Downwind is best but they eat either way. If we troll any faster and the cero mackerels have a field day on our baits. Yellowtails are extremely visual and predatory just like a bass they will smash a bait that looks like food and hang themselves on a dinner invitation. An out of the box way of thinking for catching yellowtail snappers but super effective for us when our anglers are looking at us with dinner plans.
Don't Forget The Deep Trolling
The down riggers are super important when trolling the reef. Thats why I equipped the INXS with the best down riggers on the market. We use a pair of brand new Cannon Optimum TS down riggers to make this feat easier. There are a number of adjustments to keep the down rigger baits exactly where we want them throughout our time trolling the reef. Mike and I are always making these adjustments not only to keep from snagging the bottom but also stay in the strike zone. our goal is to be about 3 - 5 ft above the actual bottom for best results. Here we do really well catching large yellowtail snappers, grouper and tasty mutton snappers.
Pro Tip - Reel! When the deep troll gets hit our anglers need to start working on that fish to keep him from diving into the rocks. Groupers especially will take advantage of the slack on the hit and bolt for the rocks. I can usually work them out of the rocks with a little patience and some help from my mate and angler. But sometimes - sadly for us - they win.
The nice part about being able to troll the reef for a good bite is not anchoring as much. When we do not anchor, the reef wins. It can be very damaging to the reef even when we are trying to be careful.
It is easy to see that we do whatever we can to not only show our anglers a good time but to also put some fish in the box, even on a slow day..