Fishing Florida

I spent the last two days on my boat. This is a sail boat with Diesel motor, so can do trolling speed. The keel is about 4 foot so can go into about 7 foot of water OK.

Mostly a decent live aboard, and rigged for sail racing, any boat is good for fishing compared to no boat.

Now this posting is NOT about my great exploits in fishing. I did not catch a thing.

It is about learning a new place to fish with different everything. It is a response to H.R. asking about my fishing…

First off, most of the time was spent sailing. Did get sail up out in the Atlantic. We are in Saint Lucie, so a long motor to a narrow pass into the Big Blue (and boy was it deep blue!). After a while in decent swells, I did get a bit queezy so we came back in. It was only on the last day I dunked a hook.

ALL my salt water poles and tackle boxes are in storage still in California. To be retrieved when we get a house. So I’ve bought a cheap telescoping pole for $18 at Walmart (including 2 small cheap lures). Added some steel swivel leaders, weights, hooks, etc. Replaced the 10 lb (nominal) cheap crummy line with 30# braided looks-like-kevlar.

This was mostly intended as a stop gap fresh water kit. But you go fishing with what you’ve got.

On the last day, I was up a 5 AM for the early bite. My buddy woke up at about 9 for morning coffee… so we started the motor about 10 AM. Motored up the St. Lucie north fork to about 10 foot of water and anchored about 11 A.M. Trolled the cheap ass 1 inch spoon lure along the way… nothing was interested in it which was not a surprise. Too small, wrong time of day, in the navigation channel.

We anchored in about 10 to 11 foot of water, in about 1/2 kt of current, that then went to zero.

Next was trying bait. The only bait I had was chicken livers I’d bought for fresh water. Seems there are no bait shops in higher end yacht marinas… who knew?… So no shrimp, mullet, sardines, etc. that work better on ocean fish.

The pole got an added plastic worm about 2 feet above the lure, a bobber with depth of lure at sbout 7 feet, and set adrift about 40 foot off the stern.

A 50# Nylawire spool of line got a #1 hook with steel leader, 1/2 oz lead on the bottom about a foot below the hook, and a chicken liver. Then to the bottom. Cleated off so a big fish could not run off with it, nor would I cut my hands… It was picked clean in no time…. later we motored around and saw several crab pot floats, so likely crabs are the bait thiefs.

Realizing this was a waste of bait, I added another hook 18 inches above the first, 2 new livers, and lowered it to about 2 feet off the bottom. We then sat for about 2 hours, through lunch. Nothing happened.

My guess is that it was “all wrong”. Wrong time of day (high noon). Wrong bait (not ocean fish or shrimp). Wrong place (no structure preferred by bay and inshore fish). Wrong tide (predator fish like to lurk at narrows during moving tides to pick off bait fish). Wrong lures (dinky randoms). Wrong gear, clearly. And who knows what all else, including at least no local knowledge.

But I did get to set up my rigs and wet some hooks.

After lunch, stripped the tired liver off the hooks, made some crabs happy, reeled in and stowed everything. Then practiced turning, backing, station keeping and more in wide open still water.

In all a nice day.

But clearly I have a lot to learn about local fish, habits, St. Lucie, baits, etc. etc. And I need more appropriate gear. Any and all advice and suggestions appreciated (excepting those involving the anatomically impossible or not fishing ;’)

My Florida off shore fishing was one Gulf side outing years ago. A 2 foot shark, hardhead catfish and about a foot long “something sort of bass like”.

I have only fished the Pacific ocean: once from a party boat (2 nice salmon!) and a couple of times from over fished piers or shore with small stuff to show for it. I did catch some foot or two tiger sharks in San Francisco Bay and various small stuff near the boat. So very limited ocean experience anywhere, and that in cold water with different fish.

Suggestions on fresh water places, rigs and baits also appreciated. Almost all my fishing has been inland creeks, streams, and rivers of California, plus a few ponds.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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11 Responses to Fishing Florida

  1. philjourdan says:

    Blood worms! Works every time. Those salties are not stupid! Just hungry! ;-)

    Want to teach a friend? This afternoon I went to a “retirement” party (at work, but since I am WFH, I had to go to the office where the celebration was – with alcohol!) of a guy that has been at this company since before they opened the office in this town. (He commuted about 1 hour each way in the early years). He OPENED this office. A very good man. But we just did a mega merger (bought a company that was about 75% the size of ours, so technically we be bought them), and the merger (sans a couple of minor holdings now since sold off) was blessed by US and EU regulators on 2/28/22. And the first to go are the App folks.

    He is about 10 years younger as he still has a child “in school”. Oi! I take it in college because she comes home for weekends, Still, I told him my youngest is going to be 30 this year! So no more school for mine.

    Anyway, his plans for now (he got a golden parachute) is to learn to fish (he has a boat), and decide whether he wants to retire now or later (well, I figure once his severance runs out in about 2 years, he will look for work because his retirement is in the market and it aint going nowhere until the great gropey pretender is a roadkill on the history path)..

    So If you need a real newbie, his name is Shawn Ryan and he is going to get bored a lot sooner than that! But at least he will not be wanting for money for awhile.

    Best of luck to the both of you!

  2. Ossqss says:

    Wrong, is the right answer :-)

    In Salt, try getting some colored Jig heads of medium weight and some varying color tails to try. Jig/bounce them across the bottom in a variable pattern.

    Leaders with clips don’t do well in most places.

    In Fresh water, try some 10″ June Bug colored Culprit worms (or others) on a medium size worm hook with no weight to start to see how well you cast. Then move to a Texas style rig if needed with bullet sinkers. If done right, you can be weedless and hit the weed lines safely. Try the same technique with variable patterns like the jig head above. Live shiners are always a hit too. Jig heads can work too.

    Get a small cast net (4′-6′) and learn how to use it to get your own bait too. Local fish like local foods. Just watch out for rocks and coral and sticks and other stuff you don’t want to have to remove that, will bite you! Nothing like having to remove a softshell, snapping turtle, or small gator out of a net, let alone a Cotton Mouth. LOL

    Good luck!

  3. H.R. says:

    E.M. – Part of boat fishing offshore is knowing you are over fish. I’m sure you have a depth sounder, but an electronic fish finder will let you know you are over fish if you are just drop-fishing in deeper water.

    If you don’t care to add a fish finder to your boat, look for reefs, artificial or natural in 30′ – 60′ of water, or deeper. They hold the yummy species such as grouper, snapper, tilefish, black seabass, and the bluegill of the sea, grunts.

    If you fish deeper water, look up a video on venting fish. Bringing them to the surface when fishing is sort of, but not exactly, like divers ascending too fast. The swim bladder of fish gets messed up and there are a few cheap tools you can make or buy to take care of the problem.

    The rigs are simple. You can put a 6 or 8 ounce bank sinker at the end of the line and put a hook on a short spur line a foot or two up from that. You can do that with or without using a 3-way swivel.

    Another popular rig is an egg sinker with swivels on both ends. Tie a short leader to go to your line on one end and a 2.5′ to maybe 3′ leader on the other end. For reef fishing, you’ll be using 5/0 to 9/0 hooks, or larger! depending. I like this rig because you just drop until you hit bottom, the reel up about a foot. The bait, live bait fish, cut bait, or chunks of squid, sways around the bottom on that nice leader and the fish can take the bait without feeling your sinker until it’s too late.

    You need a stout, short boat rod and 80# to 100# test braid. The leaders are mono or fluorocarbon line and should be 30# 60# test. You’ll hang the sinker up in the reefs, so you want to be able to just break off the sinker line. You will lose some hooks and sinkers, but it is devilishly difficult to break off 100# braid.

    Hmmm… too wordy. Search on reef fishing rigs.

    Also, I have bought a few boat/pier rigs at a place called Gator Jim’s. It’s on the North end of the Skyway bridge. They sell all the top brand stuff as well as some good quality, more modestly priced poles and reels. But they also buy those returned, factory reconditioned rods and reels. They often have name rods and reels such as Penn for half price or even less than that. I got two nice heavy pier/boat rigs there for around $80 each, rod and reel.

    There has to be a tackle shop or two like that on the Atlantic side.

    Oh, get some Sabiki rigs to catch bait fish if the conditions aren’t favorable for a cast net. They have six #8 or #10 or even #12 hooks on them tied like trout flies. I use a TINY bit of squid on each hook and soon you’ll be hauling in pinfish and greenbacks for bait.

    I like fishing with whole, live pinfish. But when mackerel are around, I’ll filet a pinfish, leaving the sliver skin on, and use one of the filets on a single hook. The mackerel jigs imitate the same thing. Mackerel are crazy when they are on a feed and hit anything shiny and silver. I just use the pinfish filets because I don’t like buying a lot of spoons and jigs. I do have 2 or 3 single-hook spoons that I’ll dress with a pinfish filet. It gives the spoon some real flavor and a little extra flutter.

    Oh! Oh! Your current lighter outfit is just fine when Spanish Mackerel are around. Check out a few videos on the where and how of catching them. They swim by in schools and if you leave that light rod rigged for them, you can just grab it and start throwing when they come around.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @H.R.& Ossqss:

    What color is a “June Bug”? (And what is one… native Californian, remember?….)

    There are lots of tackle & bait shops I drove past… before I found out that high end marinas have fancy restaurants with valet parking, and coffee shops with $5 expresso, but not bait shops with live shrimp… but by then I was on the boat… had planned to use the liver on the way to the boat, not on it, but got out late so didn’t stop at rivers or lakes. Now I know…

    Thanks for the pointers. I have a couple of good ocean rigs … in storage in California… (stout, with pully on the tip…) so the big question is do we get a house soon (so I pick them up with moving stuff) or do I explain to the spouse why I need Yet Another Pole :-)

    I’ve also used Sabiki rigs, but with only minor success in California. Nice to know they work better here. I’ll pick one up.

    Untill I break the 50# line, I’ll stick with it (just because I already bought it and I only buy more when what I have isn’t enough… for almost anything I buy…) Besides, spyderwire is pricy! But when the need shows, 100# it is! (May I be so lucky!)

    Fish Finder… I’ll need to see if there is a portable version. Not going to add one built in to a fast sail boat… (it already has too much electronics) so needs to hang off the swim deck when needed…

    The rig described sounds like one of my usual. But different. Dumping the swivels & clips is an odd twist. I’ve been known to put a weight on clip at the end, on a breakable leader, then two hooks spaced a foot or two above (on swivel leaders, mono tied leaders, or just tied on loops in the line). When lots of snags, the hooks are on a breakable leader. When low snag risk (and short line out so not risking 100 yds of $18 fancy stuff) I’ll just put a loop in the reel line and add hooks & weight…


    I use the clip swivels so it is easy to change weight and hooks to find what is right in a place… but can easily dump them if the fish here are smart to them….

    I often make disposable breakable leaders out of monofilament:

    LINEwSwivel/clip then clipped to it, the leader:


    Then just clip a weight to the bottom, clip to the line swivel at the top, and tie hooks on the middle two loops as desired. Loss of the whole thing just 2 hooks and a weight, but usually hooks and weight break off as a single due to lighter line attaching them or a low strength clip to the weight… often I leave out the swivel clip to the weight and just tie it.

    For a bottom bait floater, I clip the weight to the line clip along with leader end, then have three loops for hooks and bait below that which can float near the bottom. I may make up one of these with just one hook below the weight and a longer leader….

    BUT I was concerned that here “things with sharp teeth” would just cut through mono line. Is that irrational? Ought I forget the steel core leaders & hooks unless going for a particular fish?

    I’ve typically always been a bait fisher (though have caught a couple of nice bass on a yellow lure…). Folks here seem to use plastic “bait” and lures a lot more. (Lots of catfish & trout in California, and the catfish there are tasty due to cold water so no algae flavor – but they are smell and taste driven, while the trout liked salmon eggs and the tiniest of hooks…)

    So one lesson to learn is all these lure terms… and things like Texas Rigged as salmon eggs or a red worm on a hook don’t have a term of art for the rigging…

    OK. I think I now have a few things to work on. More appreciated as you think of them.

  5. H.R. says:

    E.M. – You’ve got the drop rigs down pat. What you’ve done in Kalifornia is the same here. And you have a stout boat/pier rod, so you probably should make do with what you have unless it will be a year or more before you can fetch it.

    I don’t do much freshwater fishing here. I can do all I want at home. I just do 98.5% salt because I can’t do that at home.

    I have learned much from watching videos. There are a lot of short videos out there, short because the guys making them would rather be fishing. :o)

    Pick how to fish on a location or how to catch X species, and you’ll get plenty of info.

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    So about my questions….

    Steel leaders not needed? Not using swivels & clips? (I thought someone said that….)

    Yeah, I do drop rig fresh water ok… it is all the Ocean / salt water and rigs for reefs where I’m a bit noob. Well, that and all warm water species behaviours… Pacific at SF Bay is 45 F on a good day. So very different fish and behaviors. No Aligators or Aligator Gar.

  7. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – The drop rigs for saltwater are just bigger and heavier. What you described is good.

    I don’t usually use steel leaders unless I expect to be catching sharks. Even then, like the other day, 30# mono leader is just fine and won’t get cut by fish teeth, particularly when using circle hooks. Those hooks catch right in the corner of a fish’s mouth some insane percentage of the time.

    I’ve only rigged up for sharks a couple of times. I used a ready-made rig of 60″ of piano wire and a 12/0 hook. Never got the big one. The best I ever did was a little over 3′ and weighed about 25#s.

  8. John S Howard Jr says:

    Florida Fishing?
    Where, when and how… and with what.

  9. Ossqss says:

    And if you don’t want to pay. Here ya go for 2k videos on their Utube site. Some I have viewed over the years are pretty good.

  10. H.R. says:

    @Ossqss & John S. Howard Jr. – Those are some good links!

    There is so much to learn about saltwater fishing. You can fish from boats in deep water or on the flats or back bays., and you can troll for the big bruiser gamefish.

    You can hit the beach and fish the surf for everything from whiting to pompano to reds, flounder, snook and big sharks.

    Then there are the bridges where you’ve got a shot at anything and everything that moves through the passage under the bridge.

    That’s the fun of saltwater fishing. There is so much to learn and best of all, when you are out fishing for something in particular, something totally unexpected will hit out of the blue and put a grin on your face.

    Ya never know what you’re gonna catch.

    P.S. – Went fishing at home in the Midwest for the first time today. I caught 3 black crappie. They are cold and slow. I was fishing too fast for the water temperature. So much for Global Warming. When I slowed w-a-a-y down, I finally started to catch them.

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