By Capt. Joe Kent
I have been looking forward to this first article for the Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine ever since the invitation was received to write the fishing articles. First, let me tell you something about my background in fishing.
Fishing has been a life-long passion of mine. One of the reasons I decided to take an early retirement from the legal profession was to devote more time to my passion in life.
I have been a licensed captain and fishing guide for over 15 years, operating Sea 3 Charters Guide Service and writing daily fishing articles for the “Galveston County Daily News” and several magazines. My wife and I live on the water in Galveston where I have easy access to fishing upper West Bay and other spots including the offshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
I have fished both offshore and inshore waters along with the surf and jetties. With that, let’s get started with the fishing column for “Mariner Magazine”.
By the time most anglers read this column, we are going to be entering the 2013 offshore fishing season. Beginning Memorial Day Weekend and going through much of September, our migratory pelagic species of fish will be roaming the waters of the Gulf not far from shore.
This time of year, especially during July and August, is prime time for the smaller boats, collectively referred to as the Mosquito Fleet, to make Galveseton offshore fishing trips. The Mosquito Fleet will venture well within its fuel range to spots that offer action on a variety of fish including king mackerel, ling, Dorado, bonito, sharks and many varieties of reef fish.
Not all boats are suitable for making journeys beyond the jetties; however, those that are can, find action as close as eight to ten miles out. So, what does it take to go deep-sea fishing and what will you find in the way of fishing spots within 10 miles of shore?
First, the boat needs to be seaworthy, meaning that it can handle a sudden squall with strong winds and choppy seas. The length is not as important as the style of hull. Boats as short as 17 feet fall into that category. Flat bottom boats and others designed more for inshore waters are not safe at anytime in the Gulf.
A whole article could address what is considered a seaworthy boat and discuss the equipment needed to make it offshore. One of the best approaches is to make a trip in tandem with another boat.
Offshore anglers generally target structure whether visible like wells and platforms or subsurface like rocks and reefs. Weed lines and anchored shrimp boats are other popular destinations to find fish.
Within 10 miles of shore mostly wells and platforms commonly called oil rigs are the top choices. Beginning in July anchored shrimp boats and weed lines add another dimension to the offshore selection. Each area has its own unique way of being fished. More on that aspect will come in a future article focusing of offshore fishing.
For now, the objective is to give an overview to the small boat operator who has not ventured beyond the jetties.
The required fishing equipment will be heavier than typical trout and redfish tackle; however, the big rods and reels that are commonly associated with offshore fishing are not needed for a short run offshore.
Most of the surface fish, such as king, ling, Dorado, bonito and sharks, are going to range in size from close to 10 pound to 30 pounds. There will be that occasional hook-up with a really big fish well beyond that size range.
One of the keys is to have enough line on your reel to play your fish. For this type of fishing, line strengths of 20 to 30 pounds are the most common.
There are lots of structures in the waters off of Galveston and around them are concentrations of reef fish of all sizes. For this type of fishing, anglers normally use heavier equipment in the 50-pound category for mainly dragging the fish from the structure, as most everything that has been underwater for a while is covered with sharp barnacles that will easily cut line that comes in contact with it.
Your choice of bait will differ from inshore fishing where live shrimp is one of the top choices. While live finfish such as piggy perch and mullet are top baits, frozen Spanish sardines, ribbonfish, squid, ice fish and cigar minnows are widely used.
Trolling is a popular way to fish for the kings and other surface fish; however, newcomers tend to prefer drifting natural baits (mentioned above). The key here is to keep the bait close to the surface.
If you are new to fishing the offshore waters, once you make that first trip and hear your reel scream with a strike, you will be hooked. It is music to the ears of old salts. Have fun and put safety as your number one priority.