A Simple Guide for Saltwater Fishing; Florida Style!
By Gary A. Anderson
Fishing is the work, as the catching is the fun! Everybody goes fishing but not everybody catches fish. Have you ever noticed that some people catch more than others do? Some just are plain lucky, like winning a lotto ticket, while most others catch more fish because they have an understanding with the fish, his movements, habitats and keeping alert to their surroundings. It is no secret on how to spot and catch fish; all you need in catching fish is the basic knowledge, equipment and bait. The Basics
It is possible to catch fish without a rod & reel, noodling, it is easier to have the latter. Cave dwellers used both methods of fishing, that which used a rod and without a rod, noodling. A stick or bamboo with a piece of homemade twine from cactus leaves and a piece of curved bone to catch their fish. While attaching a piece of bait made it even easier, this crude apparatus had many a draw back but this is how fishing came to be. Prior to using this first fishing rod, angler would prowl the banks and shallows of the waters by ramming their hands up into holes and cracks along these waterways in hopes of catching a fish, throwing it onto the bank and with clubs, their fishing partner would bludgeon them. This not only proved hard and slippery but also cold if you lived up north or it was winter; thus, the rod and reel was born. The stick was the rod with your line wrapped around your hand or end of the stick, your reel. CANNING
Technolog y has come a long way since those days, yet we still fish with a stick or pole and a line with a hook. Surf rods, fly rods, big stick, ugly stick, freshwater, saltwater all in a quest to catch fish. Regardless of wither you fish with a cane or a rod and reel, first you must check with your local authorities on obtaining a set of regulations or rules. Familiarize yourself with the dos and don'ts and find if you will need a fishing license, stamp or both. In most of the United States if you fish with a cane pole, a fishing license is not required but check out your area first. Though limited in casting ability, the cane pole is an undersized achievement in fishing with all the new gadgets out on the market today, the cane pole has all but disappeared from society within the USA. Canes come in all lengths and composition from real bamboo to composite, to fiberglass. Breakdowns are the norm for easy storage and cost not that much more than a straight piece of bamboo. Composites and fiberglass poles are for those with more experience and for the novice who wishes to pursue canning rather than casting. A cane pole, hook, line, split shot, balsa float and bait are the easiest combination to begin a first time fishing experience. In addition, when fishing in Florida with a cane pole, a license is not required. No matters the technology, remember 'KISS': Keep It Simply Stupid and you will catch fish. Bamboo or fiberglass, the modern poles of today are similar to long rod blanks. They range in length between 12 and 36 feet long. Most of the poles today are telescopic in that the sections all slide together. This makes for easy transporting. These poles are big, long and taper to a fine tip. Start by tying your fishing line onto the end of the pole tip using 12-pound test line but others I know advice 25-pound test line. The length of your line will be equal to the length of your pole. Attached to the line a slip bobber and a crappie hook along with a tapered type float rig, as opposed to a simple float bobber. The tapered float rig gives less resistance to the water and you well get more bites in the end. When choosing a pole float or floating rig, use the European variety; the ones made of balsa. Pole floats are recognizable for their small body, slender stem and streamlined design. The pole float body is located nearer the top of the float. This reduces the weight needed to sink it. The body made of balsa wood. This is because balsa wood is very buoyant, yet still very strong. Balsa wood also allows for many different shapes and designs. The shape and design of a body affects the way the float sits in the water, to the way it responds to a fish taking the hook. There is a special way to hold a pole when fishing. You need to use both of your hands. One hand is out behind you to hold the butt of the pole while the other hand is grasping underneath the pole out in front of you. This helps balance the pole. You can slide the pole forwards or backwards to find the point at which the pole is perfectly balanced. This is when you do not have to struggle to hold the weight of the pole with either hand. The pole will end up at an angle in front of you. If you are 'right handed' then you will probably want to use your right hand at the rear, and your left hand out the front. This means that the pole tip will tend to point out to your left. This is reversed if you are 'left handed', and the pole tip will point out to your right. Striking and catching fish requires a bit of co-ordination and patience. As with normal float fishing, the float tip will move around or sink when a fish takes your bait. Fish are 'struck' by simply tilting the pole tip up in the air and pushing down on the pole butt with your rear hand. It is important to remember to not to jerk the pole tip, to lift too quickly, or to lift with a lot of force. All you need to do is set the hook into the fish's mouth. If you use the recommended 'barb-less' or 'fine wire' hooks, then the fish will often do it themselves. Though the best hooks to use are the circle hooks for they are fish friendly catching or hooking the fish in its lip rather than down in its mouth; making a better chance for its survival when released
ROD & REELS
The variety of set ups are vast and longer than one could write about. Just remember Keep It Simple and match the hatch. If you are fishing for Bluegills, you do not need a conventional rod and reel. Vice Aversa is also to be kept in mind when fishing for large species like sharks; spinning reels need not be applied! If you are just starting out a closed faced rod & reel combo like the Zebco are a perfect match for most freshwater fishing. From experienced pros to the novice, a Zebco will catch most of the freshwater fish today. Though limited in cast ability and in line size, pound for pound this reel has stood the test of time in delivering the catch. From catfish to bass, the Zebco is great for ice fishing to the spring thaw and into the summer. It is a first step in graduating from canning. Hardware to bait this little reel is worth its weight in gold and cost pennies on the dollar. Saltwater fishing with a Zebco is not a good idea, for salt eats it up and large fish will burn or strip the gears leaving you with a hunk of plastic attached to a pole; might as well go back to the cane! Spinning: When fishing saltwater or advancing to heavier lines and open-faced rod and reel are best suited. Adjusted to your line strength, with your baits matched to your rod weight and reel, spinning reels are a great match for saltwater fishing. Though you can catch almost anything on a good spinning reel, remember you are to match your gear to your quarry. Fighting a sixty-pound tarpon for and hour and a half may be fun to you but it could prove fatal to the fish. The longer a fish battles the more lactic acid builds up into their system causing a bad taste in your mouth when either you cook them or it is a slow death to the fish when you release them. Be kind and use the right gear! A standard 10 to 15 pound test line on an open-faced reel is great for catching pan fish, catfish, bass, blues, trout, salmon, Spanish mackerels, Pompanos, Sheapsheads, and Snook. Do Not Exceed the suggested line size, found on the side of your reel spool or not only will your capacity dwindle but you may damage your reel. Putting 30-pound test on a reel designed for twenty may work but is a dumb idea, buy a larger reel. The gears, manufactured to hold the line suggested with gear failure almost guaranteed if not adhered. Not only will you be without a workable reel, it could also cause an injury to yourself. Imagine a reel made for ten-pound test with Power Pro on it rated to fifty and a large fish engaging your drag with more stress than it can exceed? This could result in you catching the fish because you got lucky or the line exceeded your reels strength and it decided to seize up or implode causing you to bust a finger or your rod snaps from the stress or all of the above. Those numbers are there for a reason. Conventional:
Adva ncing to a conventional reel is best when trolling in a boat, fishing for large game fish or beach and pier fishing for, say, sharks, for example. Again, follow the line specifications and match your terminal tackle to the fish. No generic fishing here. Again, reels come in all sizes from the standard Peen Reels, to the famed Shimano's Calcutta and with each reel designed is a specific taste. They all catch fish, just some are designed to catch bigger fish than others; like reel sizes. Penn has been around since the rock of ages. Penn's are affordable and dependable. The smaller ones like the Jig Master to the standard 4/0 cast with accuracy along with distance. Casting a 6/0 is not unheard of but to a novice it could cause a bird's nest and a burnt thumb almost every time until you master the throw. 9/0 and larger are for float fishing or from a boat and should not be used until you can master a reel of the 6/0 caliber. The Penn 4/0 will catch most any fish but again remember we do not wish to stress the fish, just catch it. The Jig Master to the 4/0 is the most compatible to beach and pier fishing. From large Snook to small sharks, pound for, pound these are the reels to start with when game fishing. The 6/0 is best for bruisers in the 100-pound class and up range with 9/0 and above reserved to the monsters lurking about.
Shimano is another great line of reels. From the Tyrnos 2 speeds for catching excellent sails and marlin to my favorite the Calcutta, Shimano is a name you can trust! The Calcutta, a round bait-casting reel, designed to spool 6 to 30 pound test lines making it a very versatile workhorse from fishing monster Snook to the lightning speeds of El Dorado and Kingfish! They are the most corrosive resistant reel on the market today and highly recommended for your saltwater fancy. LANDING EQUIPMENT
Using the right landing equipment is less stressful to the fish and ensures you a faster release. Heavier tackle spells larger fish. If fishing from a boat makes sure, you have a tailor or boat gaff handy, if on the jetties or a pier a flying or pier gaff. Another useful means of hauling in your catch from a pier or structure, such as a bridge, is a bridge net. The larger the fish, the bigger the gear is the norm. You do not fish for Crappie with a shark hook and in turn, a salmon egg hook would be useless in King fishing!
Your fishing lines are the size to accommodate your reel specifications while your leaders, if any, are to the type of fish you are targeting! The key word here is targeting. If fishing for sharks on your local pier and using a Penn 6/0; the line class might be of 50-pound test with a 400-pound test monofilament leader attached to a 200-pound wire leader with a Mustad 12/0 Circle hook and three ounce sliding egg weight. Standard equipment for shark fishing! On the other hand, fishing for Rocky Mountain Trout might just involve a split shot attached twelve inches above your salmon egg hook, cast upstream to meander its way down stream in a natural fashion with the bait of your choice. Circle hooks are the best for creating less stress on the fish. Their usage is great for kids and adults alike for one does not have to set a hook. The fish, if done right, hooks himself! Used by commercial angler for years, the circle hook will, pardon the pun, will hook anyone into fishing and the odds of hooking yourself are slim to none when compared to that of a conventional hook. When the fish "bites" ;, that tug on the line, you point your rod at the direction of the fish, slowly raise the rod just to tighten the line, while waiting for a continued tugging effect and slowly reel in your line; hook set is automatic, hence, circle turns in its mouth and sets in its jaw. If you set the hook with a circle, you have lost the fish. On the other hand, if fishing with a standard hook, you must do a hook set up in order to catch your prey. Hooks like reels, lines, rods and cars are too many types to mention so just think simple; what size fish are you targeting? Bait hooks are for bait, trebles are on lures, long shanks, short shanks, c hooks, circle hooks, and snelled and wired hooks are used to different types of fishing. Matching your hook to your fish will ensure you to a more productive fishing experience. Leaders are for better performance of your lure or bait in conjunction with its surroundings. While fishing heavy rock cover or vegetation a fluorocarbon leader might be the ticket. Wire for those toothy critters and weights to keep your bait in place or at a depth in consistency with your targeted fish. Split shots, used to give balance to that lure or to keep your bait at a depth of choice without restricting its placement, while egg weights aid the angler on that feel of the bite or strike of the lure. Pyramid type weights secure your bait in place on the bottom. Each has a different usage, yet all are the same in that they sink. THE BAIT
Again, Match the Hatch, an important basic when fishing anywhere! In contrast, it is the same when bait or lure fishing in your favorite hot spot. Keeping your eye on what is around you will aid you in catching fish. If, say your fishing your local pier at the beach and you notice Glass Minnows are about and the water is busting with fish and birds; you can bet the fish are feeding on small clear baits. That would be your queue to fish with small shinny lures like maybe a Clark's spoon or trout jig. If bait fishing, live shrimp might be the ticket, for they too are of the same size. If white bait is present (scaled sardines) maybe an investment into a cast net might be a good idea or try fishing with a Gotcha', irresistible to most fish in a feed. When Sheapheads fishing or for Pompano try using mole or sand crabs (sand fleas). Also trying new ideas like making a straw rig; Straws plus a an egg weight above a long shank number one hook and retrieved quickly in a jerking action will catch the most finicky fish!
When the mullet are on a spawn, the Snook and Sharks alike are full of mullet, not bonitos so why would I fish with anything other than mullet. The same goes for what ever is present at the time; if fishing your local stream and you notice butterflies about and grasshoppers what do, you think the fish are feeding on? Worms are always a standby for they are always in the water after a rain; think look and watch nature for she will give you a hand in your fishing bait choices. The only time I have become confused in picking bait is when cat fishing. When was the last time you saw a chicken in the water and yet a tub of chicken livers will yield you a bunch of cats faster than licitly split; an exception to the norm.