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Old 21-06-2015, 06:52   #1
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Help! Need fishing advice...

Can someone who actually catches fish while sailing please give me some help?

For four years I have been trying to catch fish. This year I made a determined effort, but still am failing. I have read both The Cruisers Handbook of Fishing by Scot Bannerot, and Secrets of Sailboat Fishing by Dick McClary. They have been helpful, for sure, and this year we have actually caught six fish. But they still don't give specific advice, eg. what tactics to use in what types of weather and sea conditions.

Six fish caught was initially encouraging, but none for the past month, and that is more than offset by the lures we are losing.

So, what are we doing wrong, and how do we actually catch some fish? And also, what should be our expectations as to how often we catch fish?

Here is the background:

We are on a sailing catamaran. We are currently in the Med. We sail at 2 to 9 kts and we motor at 4-5 kts.

When we are moving I put out between 2 to 4 lines off our sterns. Usually these comprise of:

1) a green bird teaser, followed about 2 feet back by a 4" green muppet, followed by various different lures, currently a 6" muppet, at between 6 - 10 feet back. Not once (in two years) have we caught anything on this line, which is normally about 20-30m behind the boat. We bought this on the recommendation of a friend who catches tuna on it EVERY time he goes out.

2) a single line with single diving lure, usually about 30-50 m behind the boat. The ONLY time we have had success with this has been with the Rapala Magnum diving lures, but at 18 euro each it is getting too expensive to keep replacing them when they get lost. The current diving lure is some cheap Chinese (Techno 2000) stuff from the local fishing store that hasn't caught anything yet.

3) a diving planer or a paravane, followed by various lures. This was the most successful at the beginning of the year. We caught three fish on it, each time under the same conditions with the same lure: the conditions were overcast skies, off the wind sailing at about 5-6 kts with maybe 80cm following waves. The lure after the paravane was a small diving lure (I think it was a Rapala, about 3 inches long). It caused too much drag for the paravance, with the result that the paravane would surface, then dive again, then surface again and so on. It seems that that up and down motion worked with the fish! Then the whole rig was lost and I have not been able to find a similar lure again. Today I lost my last paravane when the swivel broke. The previous one was lost when a dolphin swam through it, and the one before when the snap clip corroded and broke.

The diving planer or paravane when consistently underwater did catch some small fish twice when drifting at 2kts. I used a 3 inch silver spoon on each of those occasions.

4) a series of 4 six inch silicone squids in a row, the last with a single hook, towed 10-30m behind the boat. Never caught anything on that.

So, in summary, when we were offwind with some waves and no sun we had some catches with the one rig, and in drifting conditions with overcast skies we had some success with a spoon on a diver.

Never had any luck on sunny days.

We troll pretty much every time we sail, which is pretty much every day.

Problem 2: We keep losing gear. In the past this was probably a problem with knots slipping. I think that is fixed. Sometimes it appeared to be the line breaking, though without any apparent sudden force being applied to it. A mystery. Now it seems to be a problem with swivels and snap connectors corroding and breaking. It seems that none of the stuff you buy in the local fishing stores has any kind of durability to it. We have lost 3 paravanes and countless lures - well beyond the economic value of 6 fish, even if one of them was 2.7kg!

Mostly we are using a handline setup with bungy cord snubbing. We have one rod and reel. The line to the divers is 400lb monofilament. The line to the lures is usually 120lb mono. (except when I use the little spoon in light winds on a 40lb line).

So, what are we missing here?

1) What connectors should we be using, and where do we get them, so that they don't keep breaking?

2) On a nice sunny Mediterranean day, either motoring at 4kts in a flat calm, or sailing at 4-5kts with a gentle breeze, what do we tow to actually catch something?

3) Any other advice?

In desperation! Thanks!


Noel Swanson

Life is too short to live in ugly places.
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Old 21-06-2015, 07:07   #2
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

The best luck we had in the med was trolling a single squid type lure, red and white, or a red and white feather type, but mostly for mackerel and tuna. You will probably see a lot of tuna jumping and playing around this time of year, but we found they didn't really start biting till July. Usually best results were sailing at 7+ kn. The main reason we like the feather or squid lures is they don't pull on the line much, or skip out of the water at higher speeds.
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Old 21-06-2015, 07:12   #3
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

For knots, try the app called Knot Wars. You might try making your own lures. They're all made by people out of stuff. You have stuff...
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Old 21-06-2015, 10:19   #4
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

I have heard on this forum that cedar plugs work good, never used them myself, I always have used feathered jigs with good results, but that is on the pacific side. For gear, they make a all stainless steel barrel swivel that is very strong, don't know where you would find them in your area, also a steel leader is a good idea, most ocean going fishes have sharp teeth. If you can find a commercial fishing supply store, they usually have the really heavy duty non corroding stuff you need. Snubber is a good idea for the hand lines.
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Old 21-06-2015, 10:52   #5
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

Bad Luck Fishing While at Sea?

Make sure you:

1. Don't have a banana aboard.

2. Don't let a dog near your tackle.

3. Don't cut your hair or nails at sea. (= "cut lines" & "lost hooks")

4. Don't let anyone tell you "good luck" before you go to sea.

These are traditional (superstitious) causes that sailors have suspected for the cause of bad luck fishing.

Notice to Mariners: This was added for a bit of good humor. Bad luck fishing is seldom funny to those fishing. On the other hand, catching a small fish and telling a whopper of a fish story is funny.
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Old 21-06-2015, 12:25   #6
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

I would suggest that you add a wire leader in front of your lures. You are likely having your lines cut by toothy fish and that is why you are loosing so much tackle.

Rinse your gear in fresh water to prevent corrosion and the resulting failure of tackle.

Try using light colored lures on sunny days and dark colors when overcast, don't be shy about switching around colors and sizes of lures and keep track of what works and when.

And always try to get advice from local anglers.

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Old 21-06-2015, 14:17   #7
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

Others have said it, but I will repeat it - steel trace/leader!
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Old 21-06-2015, 15:32   #8
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

I can't speak for the Med, but if you were here I'd say you were trolling on the slow side for tuna. I think 6-8 knots for those, and even faster for wahoo. Here, you'd be getting a lot of barracuda and some sharks at slower speed. Cuda won't hurt your line, but sharks can. And a lot of the pelagic stuff that hit lures out in deep water have really sharp teeth. You need wire from the hook up to a swivel far enough ahead of the lure that the biggest fish you expect wont be able to bite anything but wire.
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Old 21-06-2015, 19:53   #9
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

The Cruiser's Handbook of Fishing Paperback September 16, 2003
The Cruiser's Handbook of Fishing: Scott Bannerot, Wendy Bannerot: 9780071427883: Books

The Cruiser's Handbook of Fishing (Opinions) - SailNet Community
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Old 21-06-2015, 20:56   #10
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

Sevenstrands tuna clones are killers. Cedar plugs catch anything as well.
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Old 22-06-2015, 04:17   #11
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

The difference between your failure and your friend's success is likely due to boat speed. Bare hook lures without ballyhoo are typically trolled at seven knots. A short wire leader is good but buy it prerigged so it runs correctly. Only fish when it looks productive, such as near a rip, temperature change, weed line or when you see flying fish. Green machines are great for tuna, but with a ballyhoo at your speed. It is hard to mess up a cedar plug. Good luck!
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Old 22-06-2015, 04:37   #12
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

I'd toss out one word of advice. Talk to local fishermen, especially the professional charter captains.
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Old 22-06-2015, 06:54   #13
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

Landed this bad boy off Mallorca last August, on a pink squid.
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Old 22-06-2015, 08:25   #14
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

If you're dropping 4 lines, make them different lengths and try to set so they're rolling off the wave faces.

Use 4 different colors; 3 different types of lures. I love squid.

Sail through hot areas and let others tend to the steering if you have a fish on.

Look for floating debris like doors or seaweed slicks; you'll often find mahi there.

Most importantly - follow the birds and run right down the middle. They feed on smaller stuff, and larger stuff is right below them!
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Old 22-06-2015, 10:31   #15
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Re: Help! Need fishing advice...

I'd suggest setting the drag on the reel lighter when trolling than you would if casting. I have good luck setting it just tight enough so that line doesn't click off when at trolling speed. Sure, the fish is going to run initially but gives you time to handle the boat, reduce speed, heave to and respond to the hookup. Of course, doesn't matter much if you're not getting strikes.....

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