Stuart Offshore: Feb. 2018

The Landt family with Kristen’s 35-pound bull dolphin that swam up to us while bottom fishing aboard Off The Chain. Photo credit: Capt. Scott Fawcett.
Fred Church with a 30-plus-pound dolphin caught on fly while fishing a board Off The Chain with Capt. Scott Fawcett. Photo credit: Capt. Scott Fawcett.

Coming off of one of the best sailfish seasons we’ve seen in quite a while, fishing in general should continue to be excellent this February. This is the first year in many, that our winter season was mostly made up of the northwest winds like it should be. Cooler waters to our north have pushed down great numbers of sailfish, dolphin, blackfin tuna, king mackerel and everything else that swims you can think of. With the Outer Banks literally being frozen in mid-January and Charleston having record amounts of snow, the recent cold weather has pushed almost all the pelagic fish south of the border.

Trolling small ballyhoo on Mustad circle hooks for baits and mullet or horse ballyhoo dredges as teasers may be my favorite way to target offshore fish this time a year, but we have had a ton of bait schools showing up off our coast again and it’s sometimes difficult to complete with so much, especially as the month comes to an end. Whether you opt to troll or set out with a spread of live baits hung from kites or even bump trolling them out of your riggers, all are great ways to enjoy your day on the water this month. As a rule, our Six Mile and Eight Mile reefs are typically where we focus targeting the pelagic fish, but with conditions how they’ve been, don’t be surprised to see fish moving closer to the beach attracted by the big bait schools.

R&R Tackle makes a wonderful Sabiki rig with a few extra hooks on it all tied to fluorocarbon, allowing you to get your bait catching done quicker and move onto your target species sooner. They also offer a great bait net which will keep your baits in much better condition and increasing your amount of bites for the day. It’s always a good idea to use a de-hooker when unhooking your bait and try and drop them right into the livewell so you don’t touch them until putting a hook in them.

Traditionally February has always been the best month for cobia, sight casting to manta rays as they migrate down and up the coast and I’m expecting this year to be the best we’ve seen in about a decade. A RonZ® eel jig is one of the best ways to target them and a good pair of Costa sunglasses go a long way. They just came out with a silver mirror 580 lens which allows the most amount of light in, while still protecting your eyes and creating the largest color differential I’ve ever seen which really causes the fish to stand out dramatically.

Bottom fishing should start to get good again as the nearshore water cleans up. Check out Capt. Rocky’s Deep Sea Fishing forecast here in the magazine for more information on that.

Whatever you decide to do this February, I hope to see you out there and hope your trip trip is Off The Chain.

FORECAST BY: Capt. Scott Fawcett
Off the Chain Fishing Charters
Phone: (772) 285-1055

A nice catch of dolphin and a couple sails for the Grants while fishing aboard Off The Chain with Capt. Scott Fawcett. Photo credit: Capt. Scott Fawcett.