Happy New Year everyone! We will still have all the great fishing opportunities this month as we did in December so please refer back to the December report at www.thebeachsideresident.comand select (The Holiday Issue) for that information. The only thing different from last month is that groupers are closed off until May.
I know everyone is setting goals for the New Year and I bet catching their first sailfish is a goal for many anglers. January is a great time to target sailfish out of Canaveral and our fishery for them is severely underrated. Our water temperature rarely dips below or exceeds what sailfish can tolerate so the key to narrowing your search will be to find the bait they are feeding on. Flying fish are for sure the easiest to spot but you will also find sail fish in the same area where the king mackerel are feeding heavy on suspended bait fish or color changes and current edges that always hold a variety of bait fish. Water clarity need to be anywhere from a clean green to cobalt blue and in addition to bait fish you have other indicators that will also help narrow your search for sailfish. Always be sure to keep a look out for free jumping sailfish because they are very common to see if you keep your eyes scanning the horizon. Schools of bonito, working birds, and seaweed in small or large amounts as long as it is in a formed up line.
Once you have located an area that looks promising, you will need to deploy your trolling spread. Teasers and dredges are your very best friend when it comes to catching sailfish. You can keep it as simple as you want or you can get elaborate, however you absolutely need to be pulling something that draws attention. Truth be told, the more elaborate you go the better your odds at raising sailfish. You have many options to choose from when it comes to teasers and dredges, so do a little research and experiment with different options. Natural bait will always outperform artificial in my opinion but rigging a dredge sucks so don’t suck all the fun out of it by going that route until you reach a level where you are trying to record a serious number of sail releases. Starting out I suggest artificial teasers and dredges to get your first sailfish release under your belt and to keep the frustration level down.
All of your actual trolling baits should be small ballyhoo rigged naked with mono. The one exception is the bait being pulled from the up wind side of your out rigger. This bait will need some sort of skirt to add a little weight so everything tracks correctly. Remember this is strictly to increase your odds at sailfish. Lever drag reels are preferred so you can set the drag just right so that while you are trolling no line lets out except when you get a hit or even snag grass then the bait falls back easily. The reason for this is most the time sailfish will hit the bait with their bill and the bait drops back into their mouth. You might drop and reel back a ballyhoo several times on a strike in your attempt to hook up a sail. You will also pick up the occasional mahi or black fin tuna while doing this style of fishing. If you are continuously getting clipped off from king mackerel you need to position yourself a little further offshore the reef until you start getting less king fish strikes. You also have the option to run a wire rigged select ballyhoo on a planar or downrigger for that occasional shot at a wahoo but if sailfish is the main goal I would leave the wire and downriggers in the boat.
We look forward to another great year of fishing and hope everyone makes it a priority to spend more time on the water.
Captain Greg Rapp