StrayLine Fishing 101: The Best Technique for Catching Big Fish.
What lies behind the eyes?
Why is your fish bin empty?
StrayLine fishing really is the best technique for catching big and quality fish. This article will help to improve not only your catch rate, but also your fishing knowledge and habits. If you don't already employ straylining, then this 'How To' guide will get you thinking about fishing smarter for surface, mid water or bottom feeding species. Throughout it I refer to the fish species Snapper, that is because in the oceans surrounding my country (and preferred fishing spots) this is one of the premium species. Having used straylining in many places around the world, I can assure you that irrespective of where you fish this technique works very effectively. Do also note that I refer to using burley (or chum) that is because it is used to bring the fish to you, on your terms and thus aides the process.
A cruel fact: Wherever in the world you are; 10% of fishermen catch 90% of the fish. Ask the 10% and you will find that the methods employed to consistently fill their bag limit; are very simple. The first common denominator that you will also find; is that top anglers take their fishing seriously, take the time to plan effectively and do not rely on luck.
Serious anglers have also taken the time to learn as much as they can from other serious anglers; about the art of fishing and filled that knowledge gained with hours of crash testing. The prime benefit attached to being a 'serious' angler, is also a very simple one: You enjoy your fishing a whole lot more when you know that you are going to catch trophy fish, or provide your family and friends with a special meal that is often beyond their budget; often retailed above $30.00 per kilo.
What drives us to do this?
We are driven by an anticipation of what might be.
If you enjoy fishing:
The First Tip: Forget Everything You've Learnt: About Not Catching Fish.
Snapper tend to be bottom or reef dwelling fish. However, they also frequent inshore beaches and rocky coastlines; as a consequence of their insatiable feeding habits. Wherever you choose to fish for snapper or indeed any other species; it is important that you understand Why they have a preference for a particular place or terrain. In this article I am going to cover a fishing method that is by far; the most skillful and the most enjoyable. Welcome to my preferred boat fishing method; it is called: Stray-Lining.
From the personal experiences of having fished all my life and meet so many who go home empty handed; the first thing that I would tell you is: Forget Everything that you know about Not Catching Fish. If that means that you would need to give up most of you have learnt; even better, because catching fish is easy; when you adopt a simplistic 'tried and true' approach to it.
There are many people who will tell you; “You can't do this and that,” or “You need to hold your mouth to the left,” or, “Never eat bananas while you're fishing,” “Fish on the starboard side of the boat,” or whatever. This sort of advice is generally offered, rather than asked for and realistically it is just clutter; that will only help you to Not Catch Fish! Another thing that annoys me is that there are so many self promoted 'Experts' that consider others to be obtuse enough to accept that they are merely 'Novices' and therefore aren't capable of learning the 'secrets' of consistently catching their supper. I guess that comes from a human need to be (in one's own mind) better than someone else.
For me: I'll always support the 'little guys' in their inspirations to believe in themselves; fishing or otherwise. If you are continually told that you are a novice; then you will always believe that you are. Enjoy fishing: one of the most relaxing and therapeutic things that you can do with your spare time. You probably deserve a good day; so here is the best advice one fisherman could give another: The reason you go fishing; is to enjoy yourself, your friends/family, the environment and the anticipation of turning an 'I Hope' into a 'Yes!'
Now; if you agree with that recommendation; then maybe you can learn how to catch the type of fish that the 'experts' only dream about: The Big Ones. Wouldn't that change the ‘Novice Stakes?’ If you want to catch Big Snapper; then you might as well target them: Solid fighting fish in the 10 - 25 lb range. Go after the ones you never believed that you’d be lucky enough to catch. Well; In fact forget the ‘Luck’ also. Luck has little to do with catching trophy fish. If you know what you are doing; you will always catch them!
The Simple Tools of an Expert.
Well Priced Tackle Options:
Plan Your Fishing Trip.
Firstly, take your trip seriously because doing your homework and preparation are the two most important things; if you are going to seriously catch fish. Always plan a fishing trip and know what you are going to target before you leave home. If you are boating, then prepare your boat and equipment and ensure ‘Everything’ is in top order, fueled, life jackets, flares, first aid kit, charts, anchor warp, fishing gear, food, bait, burley (chum), everything. Do this the night before, so you can get up and just go, before dawn.
When all that is done; take the time to study the marine charts of the area you have in mind. You will be looking for areas of 'foul ground' (rocky outcrops or reefs) and 'drop-offs' (where the terrain depth alters significantly, like holes etc.). Ideally, when you find the reefs, keep looking. A high producing reef will have several things different about it than average spots. Look for an expanse of foul ground that has pinnacles rising sharply above the standard terrain. Now look at the area surrounding the reef, what type of bottom is there? Think about what natural food sources live in that type of terrain; for example; shellfish, worms, crabs etc. What are the high and low water depths there? You want an area that has open water on at least one side of the reef and has a good tidal flow (current) running past the reef.
These spots are where the real fish are going to frequent. Snapper are relatively lazy when it comes to chasing food; they prefer to congregate around the pinnacles in a current that will bring the food to them. Their favorite foods are crabs, shellfish, sea-urchins, smaller fish and big messy baits. Effectively snapper are scavengers, which means that the younger school fish of the species are migratory; in that they travel from spot to spot, every day at the same phase of the tide. The big fish tend to be territorial and will find a more permanent home in terrain which produces their favorite food choices. When targeting big snapper get to understand the habits of the fish, as a reef complex like this is going to always be home for the better fish.
For your trip you are going to need to make up or buy a burley or chum, which you need to be frozen. An onion bag or similar to put the frozen burley in and a light rope cord approximately six feet long; which you are going to tie your ‘burley bomb’ sack with. Personally, I prefer a burley of crushed mussel or shellfish; but minced up ‘oily’ fish frames are just as good. Remember this: You do not want a bloody burley, unless you are targeting sharks. The ideal burley will be fine snack bits of solids and enough natural oils in it, to set up a slick on the surface.
Mixed Tackle Specials.
Proven Lures and Baits.
Preparing Spot X.
Now that you are fishing seriously; you need to be on the water at about 4.00am and try to be anchored up at least an hour before first light. This may mean that the first time at your ‘Spot X’ you may not get right onto the spot until light; but that doesn’t matter as much as you would expect, as long as you are in the current that flows towards the reef. If you want to always find your Spot X in the dark, then do a day run out to it and other than taking in the sights; load the grid references into a GPS (a great tool). The reason that you want to be out there before sun up is: that you want your burley trail to be working and carrying the slick in towards the reef, during the change of light. Anchor off about 50 – 70 yards away from the reef or submerged foul ground.
Attach the burley at the stern of your boat, so that it sits just below the surface and therefore the current will flow through it, slowly defrosting it. Ensure that the current is doing this. You will know that it is perfect when you start noticing the first of many curious visitors; the small ‘bait’ fish darting about for the burley chips. Oh did I mention that these little guys are your Best Bait? So, start fishing for your bait, either with a hand line and tiny hooks, or if you have a small rod and sabeki rig (little Flies), you are going to need quite a few of these guys, so the sooner you catch them, the better.
By setting your stage this way; you are now ready to test your skills against the fish by a method called stray-lining. Don’t expect to be a ‘hot shot’ from the start with stray-lining; you are going to find out that fish are pretty smart after all, after years of schooling. Stray-Lining is in my opinion; the most skillful way of catching fish, because it relies on ‘touch’ along with ‘timing’ and patience. The fish know that you are there, but they want to see what you are prepared to offer them, before they give up their lives. (Wouldn’t You?)
The Wand: Shamano Taipan 70 Spin Rod.
Perfection: Shamano 6500 B Baitrunner casting reel.
The Lethal End: 6/0 - 10/0 Beak Hooks.
All the Weight: 1/16 - 2oz Ball Sinkers.
Let's look at the ideal gear.
The basic equipment you need for stray-lining is as follows:
A fine tipped 6-7 foot flexible rod. Either an overhead free running and casting reel, or a spinning reel like I prefer to use: the Shamano 6500B Baitrunner reel, spooled with braid attached to an 18kg monofilament leader line approximately 10 metres in length. (My reasons for that later) A ball sinker of 1/16oz – 2oz (the lighter the better and depending on the current). 2 x 6/0 – 10/0 Beak hooks. Bait (which you should have caught by now). That’s it, nothing else gear-wise except perhaps a large winning attitude.
You are going to tie your hooks directly onto the leader line. To do this, thread on the sinker and take your first hook free-sliding it up the line to the sinker, this hook is called the ‘keeper’ hook. Tie the second hook onto the mainline and then slide down the keeper hook. Don’t be in too much of a hurry – the burley is bringing the bait fish and target fish to you as you set up your gear.
Alright, you have just caught your bait fish. Stun it; don’t kill it, but knock it out. Take the front hook and this hook is to be positioned on the upside of the bait just above the gills. Once through; it does not matter how much of the barb is exposed on the exit side. Slide the keeper hook down and position this hook centre and under the dorsal fin. Slide down the sinker and tie the line around the tail in a half-hitch loop. Your bait is facing away from the rod. Now you are ready to cast.
Look at the direction of the current by observing the burley trail. Set the drag on your reel at almost its lightest setting, as you are going to want your line to free run (with no resistance) when a fish picks up your bait. Cast a long cast down the trail. As your line starts to sink, start feeding out your line gently in sections of about 18 inches at a time. As the current tightens up your line, feed another section out, making sure that there is no slackness in the line. With your free hand; ‘Feel’ the weight of your bait and current in the water, with your thumb and index finger.
Now when your line has ‘tightened’ up, shut your eyes and focus on that weight while your eyes are closed. In this way you have set in your mind’s eye, the ‘touch’ weight of the untouched bait. Concentrate on this and still with your eyes closed, ‘sense’ when you feel you need to feed out more line. Ok have you set that in your mind? You are going to need to know exactly what that weight is, throughout. Effectively, your thumb and index finger are always going to report what is happening at the other end of your line. (You can open your eyes now!). Feed out, stop, feed out, stop, and feed out; gently.
Remember this: Initially, the big fish always hang back in the furthest distant from the boat. Between you and them are going to be smaller fish; which you may also catch, before you get the chance to wave your bait in the strike zone of the big guys. When you start catching the smaller fish, you will find that the larger fish will explore what all the fuss is about.
How Do You Consider Yourself as an Angler?
This is what being hit by a 25lb snapper looks like.
This is what most of the so-called 'Experts' take home after a good day!
Saltwater Fly Fishing.
Let Me Know This.
Have you found this helpful?
At the business end.
Very soon you are going to be ‘hit’ by a snapper. Because you are ‘in touch’ with your line with your free hand, you will feel the fish hit your bait. Sometimes they just ‘mouth’ the bait gently; when you feel this, feed out a little bit more line, so the fish thinks this meal is going to swim past him and reacts. When you feel the fish pick up your bait, he will run with it for a short distance. Don’t You react, other than making sure that he can run without any resistance from your reel. Feed out more line and Be Patient. You will feel the fish start to move off again dragging out your line. He has picked the bait, but is just as happy spitting it out; if you try to take the bait away, or strike him. Let him run with your bait; he will usually want to run twice.
The first run that the Snapper makes is to just move away from the strike zone while he is turning the bait to swallow it head first. So don’t disturb him, let him run a second time, because this time your fish has taken in the bait and is in the process of swallowing it. Let him run as he moves off looking for the next snack and get ready; because next you are going strike the fish, to set the hooks. Gently wind up any slack in your line and then start winding faster as you now lift your rod upwards sharply. This called ‘striking’ the fish. Now the fun starts.
You are going to know this is a snapper, because you are going to feel thump, thump, thump on your line, as he realises that he's fighting for his life. Keep the line tight because you have just hooked your snapper and he is going to want to spit this bait out while he's fighting with you. To win that fight you must play (tire) him before he plays you. Lift your rod tip up and drag him towards you, without winding in line. Drop your rod tip down; ensuring that you wind in the line on the downward stroke. Lift, drop and wind, lift, drop and wind.
While you are doing this reset your drag on the reel, but not so tight that he can not pull line off the reel, let him run in mid water and when he is finished, go back to lift, drop and wind. By keeping your rod tip high, you are maintaining directional control over your fish. In this way he can not run to the safety of the reef and ‘bust you off.’ But, believe me many will outsmart you this way.
Bring your fish up to the boat, ensuring your line stays tight. Don't gaff your fish; use a net to lift him into the boat. Reason: Respect this fish, he is probably older than you and after your first couple of trophy fish; it is good for future fish stocks, if you let them go again. Who’s a novice now? Photograph your success. You’ve just caught your supper. Well done: Enjoy your new skills!
If you have taken the time to read this article, How To Catch Big Snapper: Stray Lining With Burley; by Pearldiver, then I hope that you have gained some valuable knowledge. Oh yeah; one final piece of good advice is: I always prefer to use a mussel based burley, when I target Bigger Snapper.
Copyright © 2009 - 2015 Art of the Diver with all rights reserved.
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