Fishing off the coast, also known as saltwater fishing or deep sea fishing, provides anglers with the opportunity to catch fish not normally found in clear water locations. Summer months are best for fishing off the coast because a wide variety of fish have moved closer to land. Fish during the cool of the day to ensure the fish are close to the surface. You also need the right bait and tackle.
When seawater fishing, you need the right bait for the job. Coastal fish prefer bait that comes from the sea, such as other smaller saltwater fish, clams, anchovies or shrimp. You can purchase your bait fresh or preserved (usually frozen), ranging in size between two and eight inches long. Coastal areas where saltwater fishing is popular will have bait shops stocked with a variety of excellent bait. Some bait, like scaled sardines or pogies, must be caught because they are not sold in stores.
Scaled Sardines, known as whitefish in Florida, are an excellent bait that's easy to catch. These sardines are about six inches long, have a slightly pointed, keeled belly and can be used as bait for a variety of fish. Simply use canned sardines and white bread bits for bait and catch them with a net. When using scaled sardines as bait, hook them through their nose or pelvic fin and use as you would any other bait. Freeze leftovers for later use.
Also known as menhaden shad, pogies are endemic to the Atlantic coast. Pogies swim in massive schools, providing as much bait as any angler could ever desire. They are found close to the shore, near the ocean's surface. You can usually see their tails flick against the water. Like scaled sardines, pogies can be caught with nets. Dip your net in the water when you see pogies and net all you need. Pogies are a delicate fish and must be kept in a well-aerated live well full of saltwater. Catch only what you need for the day and use them as you would any other bait.
Crabs can be purchased from many bait stores or caught by the angler on both coasts. Catch crabs with a trap. When hooking a crab, you want to ensure the crab still has movement to attract fish. Insert the hook into the crab's belly and pull it through the crab's side, one of the leg holes or a hole in the crab's top.
When visiting your local bait and tackle shop, check out the other bait options they may have on hand. Some options may include anchovies, squid, mussels, shrimp, night crawlers, blood worms or shark chum. A good local bait shop attendant should be able to tell you what bait works best at particular fishing spots.
For those new to saltwater fishing, a basic rod, reel and hooks are the only necessary tackle. Once you gain experience, you may want to invest in a selection of rods and reels. A 10- to 12-foot rod will cover most angling situations. Ensure the rod will cover the size of fish you are trying to catch. For beginner anglers, a twenty pound to thirty pound reel is suitable. To determine how much line you need, add 100 to 150 yards to the length needed to catch your targeted fish. A circle hook will allow you to catch and release your fish; determine the hook's size by your bait's size.
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