Getting Back to Basics Offshore

By Tim Barefoot

I can remember when I was a young angler fishing with my dad, we would catch grey trout and seabass on a double tackle (Chicken Rig) until our arms hurt and/or the big coolers were full. Those days are long gone but the entertainment value of this style fishing for young (and mature) anglers remains the same.

There is a lot to be said for diversifying the species you’re fishing for to come home with a cooler of fish for dinner(s). Don’t mistake what I’m getting ready to say, but I love catching grouper like “Peter loved the LORD”, but with all the reduction of limits and seasons, we must learn how to catch different species of fish to fill da box. I call this offshore fishing “organic grocery shopping.” Yes, it takes switching the tactics and downsizing the tackle, but effective just the same for harvesting fish and making memories with your children that will last forever. Granted, photos are worth their weight in gold, but video footage of your children catching these fish, two at a time sometimes, with the rod bent over double is PRICELESS!!!

Check the regs for creel limits on the grunts, pinkies and seabass so you are legal when you get back to the inlet, but a double tackle or a triple tackle can be crazy effective for the triggers, beelines, pinkies and more when you find them. It’s best to anchor or put the “spot lock” on a school of fish when you mark them rather than drifting over and away from the school, but drifting will work just the same in the deeper water if you don’t have the spot lock trolling motor.

Small circle hooks work great for this style of fishing. You can replace the bank sinker on the bottom of a “chicken rig” with a 2, 3 or 4 oz jig with a circle hook a circle hook for the ultimate tackle (in my humble opinion). A level wind reel, like an Ambassador, works best for this kind of mid water column fish. Click the reel into free poll with you thumb on the spool and start letting it go towards the bottom slowly. Personally, I count the number of rod length strips to the desired depths (See video). Look at your recorder and it’ll tell you how deep the fish are. Once you find the magic depth, it’ll get automatic.

Don’t just wind the first fish up when it bites, because it’s a circle hook, keep it right there with very little to no winding, and let the second or third hook get loaded up with additional fish coming up, then bring them all to the boat. Please use a dehooker instead of trying to remove small circle hooks from these snappers and/or triggers, as it will often result in punctures and cuts.

Always keep (properly fitting) outer waterproof clothing stored for everyone, and an eye on the weather, but take the kids and start a tradition that’ll last for generations to come of “offshore organic grocery shopping.”

All the best fishing,

Tim Barefoot