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Monday, February 14, 2011

How To Hook Up With The "Fall Speedsters"

During late summer and early fall, the inshore and near shore waters become inundated with what many people refer to as the "Fall Speedsters". I think of them as miniature "torpedoes". Oceanic Bonito, Green Bonito, False Albacore and Spanish Mackerel come in close to the shore in a feeding frenzy supported by vast amounts of small baitfish. These speedy strong fish are capable of runs that can put a bonefish to shame and they will test the endurance of the angler and his tackle to the maximum limit.

This year is no exception as the waters are loaded with bait and busting schools of these fine gamefish are a common sight. The problem many anglers have with this

fishery is that being related to the tuna family these fish have extremely keen eyesight and are extremely line shy. As a result, hooking up with these fish is difficult if not impossible with typical tackle that might be used to catch other species such as bluefish. In addition, approaching a feeding school is a difficult proposition as their senses are extremely keen and they are capable of moving in any direction at great speed.
How can one expect to be successful in catching such great fish? The answer is actually a combination of things that must all happen at one time. To narrow it down I will reduce it to two things; "Tackle" and "Stalking."

Tackle requires two very important considerations. It must be top quality and terminal gear must be almost invisible. Weather it be light or medium spinning or fly tackle, rods, reels and line must all be in perfect shape. When you do hook up, you can expect a blistering run of up to 100 yards and sometimes more. A bad guide, chaffed line or rough drag will result in an instant break-off. All tackle must be working properly and knots perfectly tied.
I have had great success with spinning gear using a Penn Power Graph rod #PG 5871A teamed up with a Penn Prion #PR2400 reel loaded with #10 or #12 Berkley XL monofilament line. This outfit gives me the casting range, extremely smooth drag and the power needed to subdue these magnificent fish.

The terminal tackle of course is most important for without an effective life-like presentation that will produce a strike the rest of the system would be meaningless. In this case stealth is most important. Fluorocarbon leader material is the heart of the system. At the end of my running line from the reel I tie a very small barrel swivel. I use a "Trilene" knot for all connections. To the other side of the barrel swivel I attach a 15 inch piece of #10 fluorocarbon leader material. I then tie the fluorocarbon leader directly to the lure. My favorite lure is a blue-silver "Crippled Herring" in ½ or ¾ oz. size. This system will not fail to produce a strike if it comes within sight of the fish.
When fly-fishing I am using a Penn International #1090 SPT Graphite rod (9 foot, 10 weight) mated with a Penn 2.5 reel. I am loading it up with as much 30 lb. backing as I can get on the reel and finishing it off with a "Rio Products" intermediate #20250 Tarpon fly line. I hand tie the tapered butt section of the leader keeping it at about 6 feet and add a 15 inch tippet section of #10 fluorocarbon leader with my fly tied directly to the fluorocarbon with a "Trilene" knot. My preferred fly pattern is an olive/white "Clouser Minnow" in 1/0 or 2/0 size. This setup is deadly with just about anything that swims in these waters and does especially well with these tough and wary fish.

With the proper tackle in order, the "Stalk" is the next most important consideration. These fish could never be approached if they were not busily feeding. When they are whipping the water into a froth in a feeding frenzy, they are preoccupied with the chase and can be approached if one is careful. Excessive noise will definitely put the fish down.
The best method is to observe the direction in which the feeding school is moving and set up the boat in the direction they are heading. Move slowly into position and get the rods at ready to make a quick and accurate cast just in front of the moving school. When the lure hits the water let it sink for just a second and make a steady rapid retrieve while holding the tip of the rod near the surface of the water. When fly-fishing I retrieve with a few rapid strips followed by a short pause then more rapid strips. I also keep the rod tip pointed right at the fly with tip at the surface of the water. Do not try to strike the fish with the rod. The constant rapid retrieve with spinning gear and a "strip strike" with fly gear will most effectively set the hook. I have found these techniques to be most effective. I have also found it necessary on most occasions to shut down all sonar recorders. The underwater "pinging" sound they make can spook the fish.
On certain days the fish are very erratic making the "line them up" method previously described very frustrating. In this case a chase will often work. Invariable there are terns or gulls following the schools of fish, waiting for the opportunity to dive in for an easy meal when they chase the bait to the surface. If you watch the birds carefully, you can determine where an unseen underwater school is located. Follow the birds so that you will be close when the fish come to the surface or even blind cast to where you think the school is swimming. All anglers should be ready to make their casts immediately when the opportunity presents itself. When the fish show on the surface, hopefully fairly close to the boat, quickly turn the boat in their direction, take it out of gear, shut down the motor and silently coast in their direction. If the school stays on top long enough you should have a shot at getting the lures in the strike zone.

When all of this comes together you will certainly hook up with these miniature "torpedoes" of the sea. When you do, you will never forget the excitement of that moment and I guarantee that you will become a devotee of this game.


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