Get the Right Gaff!

 

Get the Right Gaff!

By Capt. Gus Cane

Nets work well for handling smaller inshore species, but for big, powerful adversaries gaffs are the preferred tool for landing fish. There are several sizes, lengths and even styles of gaffs though, so getting the right one is important.

Gaffs handles are usually made of aluminum or fiberglass. The hook end of the shaft is often tapered for less resistance in the water. The butt end is thicker for extra strength and has a plastic or EVA foam grip for better retention with wet hands. The hook itself is stainless steel of various gauges depending on the size and type. A rounded bend hook is the most popular, although diamond-shaped hooks are becoming more common. When considering shaft lengths, take into account the height of the boat’s gunwales above the waterline. Shorter lengths offer better control, while longer ones reduce the reach. Storage aboard the boat when the gaff is not in use is another consideration before purchasing.

For smaller sized fish like schoolie kingfish or dolphin, a 2-inch hook on a 4- to 6-foot shaft gaff is a good choice. The hook’s gape or the distance between the hook point and shaft or handle should match the approximate depth of the fish’s body being landed. The smaller the gauge of hook, the easier it will penetrate. A 3-inch gaff will handle fish up to 50 pounds or so, while a 4-inch gaff is designed for big broad fish like tuna and sharks up to 250 pounds. Keep in mind more than one gaff may be needed to swing fish of that size aboard.

Specialty Gaffs are designed for specific purposes. Tournament king mackerel anglers prefer 12-foot long 3-inch gaffs to make sure “smokers” don’t get away. Flying gaffs are heavy-duty versions with large gape hooks that detach from the handle. A rope is tied to a reinforced cleat on the boat, and once the fish is gaffed, the hook pulls free, yet the rope keeps the trophy tethered. Flying gaffs are mostly used for marlin, tuna and large pelagic sharks like makos or threshers.

Gaffing requires timing, steady nerves and lots of practice. Veteran gaff men make sure the hook point is facing down and towards the boat as the fish is brought alongside to avoid breaking the line. It’s best to aim the hook point towards the head for better control and not ruin the meat. After the fish is gaffed, the angler should back off the reel drag or switch to the clicker mechanism to prevent line overruns if the fish takes off again. Communication between the angler and the gaff man is critical too. The angler shouldn’t pull the fish’s head out of the water, while the gaffer must wait patiently for a clean shot. With the proper timing and deft moves, even the largest prey can be gaffed, subdued and brought safely aboard.

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Original Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle.com 

Bait Magnets

 

Bait Magnets

By Capt. Gus Cane

Live bait enthusiasts know you can never have too much bait on board and one of the fastest ways to “black out” a live well is by chumming. Several methods are effective, but soaking frozen blocks of chum is the most popular.

Available at tackle shops and marinas, frozen chum typically consists of ground-up menhaden or shrimp trawl by-catch. It usually comes in 6-pound blocks in wax-paper boxes. The block slips easily into nylon bags with mesh openings from 1/4 to 3/8 inch and a drawstring closure. To activate, simply lower the bag into the water, give it several good shakes to start the flow and tie the bag off on a boat cleat. The current and occasional shake will do the rest. Before stashing the container box in a bucket or hatch, dip it in the water to remove any residue and add to the slick.

As the chum starts to thaw, oil and tiny particles (scales, bits of flesh, skin) will slowly drift behind the boat in the current, forming a noticeable slick on the water’s surface. The combination will soon attract different kinds of bait depending on the water depth and location. Pinfish, blue runners, ballyhoo, pilchards, herring, and sardines are the prime baits attracted by the chum. Once the bait arrives, small jigs, Sabiki® rigs or a cast net can be used to gather the bounty.

Dry commercial chum, typically menhaden pellets in burlap bags, is another alternative. Dry Chum is vacuum-bagged and can be stored indefinitely, so there’s less mess and waste.

Some anglers prefer to make their own chum using ground-up fish carcasses and frozen menhaden or mackerel. A grinder mounted to plate and placed in a stern rod holder can pulverize this raw or frozen concoction directly overboard. Although more labor-intensive than soaking the frozen blocks, this method does work well. There are also products like the chum churn.  that hangs over the side. The long slender tube is filled with fish parts, and the internal blades chop and dice as the handle is pumped.

Do-it-yourself frozen blocks aren’t difficult to make either if a large chest freezer is available. Dry cat food or oatmeal soaked with water and generous splashes of menhaden oil can be poured into quart-size plastic zip bags and frozen. On the water, put them in a mesh bag and soak over the side just like the store-bought blocks.

Mesh chum bags can be bought in bulk and then thrown away after the trip. If you prefer to recycle, however, tie the empty bag off the transom cleat, so it dangles in the water on the run back in. The waves and splashes will scour it clean for the next time you want to chum for bait.

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Original Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle.com 

Seatrout Secrets

 

Seatrout Secrets

By Capt. Gus Cane

Spotted seatrout or specks as they’re often called, are a favorite quarry for skiff anglers from the Chesapeake Bay to Laguna Madre. They can be fooled by a variety of baits and lures, they’re abundant and delicious prepared several ways. Smaller trout are not difficult to find. Trophy “gator” trout are very wary, however, and a challenging adversary. To catch big fish, try these techniques:

Start on top but stay flexible. Trout are ambush predators and big trout like big baits. Topwater stick lures are effective, especially with a “walk-the-dog” or a darting, sideways retrieve. If the lure has rattles or a cupped face to make noise or spit water, that’s added attraction. Make long casts and work the lure back with an erratic, wounded motion. The fish will often track the lure for a distance before striking.

If the trout strikes and misses, pause the lure for a moment before resuming the retrieve. Trout usually kill a bait first before swallowing it. If the short strikes continue without a hookup, switch rods and try a subsurface presentation such as a soft-plastic jerk bait, imitation shrimp or suspending plug. Live shrimp rigged on a leader under a clacker-style cork will fool big trout too. The noise of the cork’s rattles/beads mimic frantic shrimp and arouse attention. If a trout hits the cork instead, switch over to a topwater plug.

Trophy trout are also similar to realtors. It’s all about location, location, location. Ambush points like sandy pot holes in sea grass flats, oyster bars, creek mouths, and pilings are convenient places to hide before pouncing on a passing meal. Even color changes between muddy or dirty water and clear can hold big trout. Find those spots, and you’ll find the fish.

Big “gator” trout are mainly loners. They don’t get big by being stupid so hunt for them in less pressured areas. That typically means super-skinny flats or tidal creeks that don’t see a lot of boat traffic.

Big trout like freebies too. While drifting the flats actively casting, rig a live pinfish, finger mullet or pilchard on a circle hook and float and let it drag behind the boat. You’ll cover more water, and that struggling morsel often attracts some of the biggest trout in the area.

If you love to catch trout, redfish and other inshore species, the Carolina Skiff 18 JVX CC is perfect for you!

Designed with fishing in mind, the 18 JVX CC will provide you great access to shallow creeks and rivers where you need to fish.

The JVX 18 CC is a solid performer with a lightweight hull, Mod V Hull design and can carry more weight further and faster to yield more valuable fishing time on the water. With a length of 17 feet 9 inches and a beam of 78 inches, you will be able to reach all of your hot spots effectively and efficiently.

There are many standard options available including full instrumentational console, front deck 12-volt trolling motor plug, 12 gallon live well and a 70-quart removable cooler. Plus, there are many additional options available to meet your needs from a raw water wash-down to upgrades to a 24-volt trolling motor.

Check out the Carolina Skiff JVX 18 CC or better yet, you can Build Your Own Boat by adding all of the options that are important to you.

Original Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle.com

Terminally Well

 

Terminally Well  

By Capt. Gus Cane

Even the most expensive rods and reels are worthless without critical hardware. Catching coastal fish requires a wide variety of terminal tackle—the hooks, swivels, line, leader, crimps and other components that complete the rigs. You might be targeting a certain species. But in the briny, you never know what might show up so it pays to be fully prepared to capitalize on whatever opportunities might arise.

Obviously, line is needed on the reels. The choice between braid and monofilament is a personal one. Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages. Having multiple combos on board offers more flexibility and allows a quick switch from light to heavy if the situation calls for it. If space is limited, carry spare spools loaded with different line classes in case of a break-off, bird’s next or the need to scale up or down.

A similar situation exists with leader material. Multiple spools of different line strengths allow for fast changes. Monofilament leader works well for many applications. For super spooky fish or in clear water conditions, fluorocarbon leader is another option. Again, there are pros and cons to each leader type. Having a mix in the tackle bag will cover all bases. Toothy game fish like king, Spanish and cero mackerel, along with wahoo, barracuda, and sharks, often require the use of wire leader. Single-strand, coated and multi-strand cable are all handy depending on the circumstances. A mix will handle any variables.

The same holds true for an assortment of terminal tackle. Hooks come in multiple styles, sizes, and strengths. A thin-wire 1/0 circle hook nose-hooked to a small pinfish is a good match for a trophy seatrout. But that same hook would be way too light for feeding a palm-size pilchard to an 80-pound tarpon. Similarly, the treble hook on a six-inch surface popper just won’t work as a stinger hook on a kingfish rig. That’s why quantity, quality, and application are so important with terminal tackle. You could go through multiple rigs during a hot bite, and you certainly don’t want to run out or have the wrong stuff. Be prepared, and you’ll be ready for whatever you might encounter.

A good way to organize terminal tackle is by type and sometime species. Clear plastic tackle boxes with multiple (or adjustable) compartments allow loading by size or style. For example, keeping multiple sizes of swivels and crimps in one box allows a quick visual reference. Hooks and sinkers can be organized the same way. The boxes can be color coordinated or labeled with tape or magic marker. Loading several boxes in an open duffel bag makes them easier to tote.

Don’t forget the specialized terminal tackle items either. Plastic beads, copper wire, rubber tubing, dusters, dental floss, floats and balloons all have their place in special rigs. Don’t overlook the rigging tools as well. Pliers, crimpers, needles, deboners, bait knives, scissors and other accessories should be kept with the terminal tackle for quick access.

When you’re 30 miles offshore on a weed line loaded with gaffer dolphin, you don’t want to run out of the right hooks or rigs. Stock up and organize your terminal tackle and you won’t be disappointed.

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Original Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle.com 

The Versatile Ballyhoo

 

The Versatile Ballyhoo

By Capt. Gus Cane

When targeting reef and offshore gamefish, the versatile ballyhoo is an excellent bait choice. Fished whole or cut into chunks, ballyhoo will entice everything from snapper to dolphin to blue marlin. It’s readily available, either live or frozen, and can be rigged in a variety of ways.

Although common in subtropical waters around the globe, the Florida Keys is where ballyhoo first made an impact in charter circles. The most common method of collecting a well full is by anchoring near the shallow patch reefs and soaking a frozen chum block off the boat’s stern. It won’t take long for the halfbeaks to show up by the dozens. As they dart through the drifting bits of thawing chum, a well-placed throw of a large cast net can quickly gather enough for the day. Ballyhoo are somewhat delicate, though, so be sure to avoid exceeding the live well capacity or keep the excess catch in the cooler to use later.

Rig a live ballyhoo with an appropriately sized circle hook and fluorocarbon or monofilament leader for live bait trolling. Fifty- to 60-pound test line will result in more strikes. Insert the hook through the lower jaw or side to side through the cheeks and troll barely above idle speed to avoid killing the bait. This same set-up can also be used as a pitch bait for sails or dolphin cruising on the surface.

Brined fresh dead or thawed ballyhoo are probably the most popular big-game bait of all time. Who knows how many marlin—both blue and white—and tuna have succumbed to the unassuming ballyhoo. Historically rigged with a J-hook, new conservation mandates and better hook-up ratios have ushered in the switch to circle hooks. The key again is matching hook size to the bait for solid hook sets. Heavy monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders are normally used to impart realistic swimming action. Some crews switch to single-strand wire leaders to avoid cutoffs from wahoo and barracuda, however. Plain or “naked” ballyhoo are effective and are often rigged with a chin weight egg sinker to get down below the surface chop.

Running a lure in front of the ballyhoo increases the profile, adds color and most importantly helps slow the “washing” effect to prolong the usefulness. Soft plastic or nylon skirts are the most commonly used, with an Islander jet head and blue/white nylon skirt the all-time favorite. Trolled ballyhoo can be used on flat lines, off outriggers or behind teasers and dredges. The number of presentation possibilities is another reason why it’s such a popular bait.

Reef anglers use chunks of ballyhoo for snapper and grouper when bottom-fishing. A single ‘hoo can be cut into multiple pieces. Another method is butterflying the fish or filleting along the sides and removing the tail and spine. The exposed flesh adds scent, flutters enticingly and attracts smaller bait like pinfish and grunts.

Whether you catch them yourself or buy frozen packs from the local tackle shop or marina, adding the versatile ballyhoo to the arsenal will definitely increase your offshore success.

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Original Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle.com