Captain Ron's Fishing Tips
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Your can talk to 100 fishermen and get 100 different answers on how to tie knots, select hooks, change line, etc. The tips on this page are just to let you know what has worked for me. Many came from my dad who always had time to take me fishing as a kid. If you've got a kid my first tip to you is, "always have time to take your kid (or somebody else's) fishing." Fishing is a great alternative to the other things kids are doing these days. Many of the tips you find on this page I have gotten just like you are getting these. From other fishermen. If they work, use them. If you have a better way send me an email and I'll include them on this page for others to use. Let's start out with the basics.
Line Size: Pick your line carefully. Don't get line that is heavier than you need. When I am fishing on the flats I like to use 8 and 10 pound test line depending on the reel and its capacity. Obviously, as you fish other areas, like offshore you adjust accordingly. Remember, however, most people think too big when choosing line. With your drag set properly, an added leader of say 20 pound test, and a good knot, you can do battle with most of the fish you will catch on the flats. (You might also need an hour or more of leisure time to spend bring em' in, but isn't that what its all about?) Upgrade accordingly for other applications.
Rod and Reel: Select a rod and reel that will adapt to the kind of fishing you do most. If possible, you should have several combinations depending on what fish you are after. The most popular combo on the flats is without question a spinning reel on a matched rod. There are many popular brands that will do the job for you. Just remember, you usually get what you pay for in rods and reels. The higher the quality, the higher the price. The one piece rods will give you better performance and "feel". Spool one reel with 10 pound test line on a 7 ft. rod, another (smaller) reel with 8 pound test line, also on a 7 ft. rod.
In addition to the spinning outfits, you might want a baitcast reel that you can spool with a heavier line. I like to have one ready with 25 pound braided line for fishing around docks and other structure. This is also a great place to use a fluorocarbon leader. The fluorocarbon leader becomes virtually invisible under the water and is less of a detractor for the fish.
Leader Material: I have gone almost exclusively to the fluorocarbon leader. Why? It just catches more fish. The fish are not always picky, and any leader will do, but when they are picky , I don't want to be tossing something out there that is a detraction to the bite. It is more expensive but it pays off in the long run. The only other choice is what size to use. On the flats I use a 15 to 20 pound breaking strength leader. You need to learn several knots to join your leader to the main line, depending on the size of the leader material and the line itself. I recommend you visit Gary's Central Florida East Coast Fishing and learn several of the knots he has displayed on his page.
Hooks: I think the same thing is true with hooks as it is with line selection. Most people use a bigger hook than they need. To begin with, I like the red hooks. I usually use Daiichi Bleeding Bait Hooks. For dead or cut-bait I like the circle hooks. They also work with live bait, but I prefer to go with the octopus type hook with my live bait. Select your hook size to fit the size of the bait you are using and the size of the fish you expect to catch. These hooks are very strong, so don't "super size" unless you have a good reason! Remember, with the cut-bait (and a circle hook) you are going to let the fish "eat it for a while" and then just start reeling. Normally you will hook the fish right in the corner of the mouth as the tension pulls the bait from the fish and the angle of the hook changes as it leaves the fishes mouth. You need to experiment with hook size until you get a feel for what you need in different applications. Again, I think the red hooks improve the bite but they are not needed every time. Sometimes the fish are hitting anything you throw at them, but until I sense that, I want everything on my side so my first hook is always a red one.
Natural Bait: Most people who use natural bait will agree, shrimp probably catches more fish than any other bait. Shrimp are great baits for beginners to professionals and there are as many ways to hook them as there are fishermen. Some tear off flippers the make them more aerodynamic, while others use them just as they come. A popular way to hook them is shallow in the top of the head being careful not to hit the brain (the little black spot). This method is often used under popping corks. My own favorite way to use them is to start the hook at the base of the tail and run it towards the head and out the bottom so the shank of the hook is completely embedded in the tail. Then, I free line the shrimp towards where I think the fish will be. Your twitch or retrieve will then move the shrimp backwards, as he does naturally when frightened. This is the signal to the fish to strike!
Mullet, or other swimming baits like pogies or sardines have their own best way for hooking. All can be hooked through the upper lip and out the top of the head. Try other methods and record your success in terms of how long they live on the hook, how well they cast, and how many hook-ups you get with the various methods. You have got to experiment.
Crabs are another excellent natural bait. The single best way to hook the crab, is to use the hook like a drill bit and slowly work it through the pointed part of the shell on either side of the body. Hooked this way, the crab will normally live very well. The same method can be used on large crabs that have been smashed and cut in two pieces. These large crab halves, fished on the bottom near bridges and pilings, may produce one of the lagoons huge black drum or even a big red.
Artificial Bait: My all time favorite lure is the top-water variety. Any lure that will allow the fisherman to "walk-the-dog" across the water will produce an explosive strike and adrenalin pumping action. Chugger type baits are also good top-water choices. When it comes to color you have to think variety. One of my favorites does not look like another fish at all, its the white body with a red head. I use the Zara Spook and Top Dog lures in the red and white combination with good results. Modern lures have realistic looks using all the hues of the rainbow and many of them work well. I always want something in green, white, silver, chartreuse and then a couple of very dark colors.
The plastic baits are the ones I catch more fish on than any thing else. This is partly because I use them more, but I use them more because I catch more fish on them. Its sort of like, which came first the chicken or the egg. These lures are relatively inexpensive, they come in a multitude of colors, shapes, and sizes, I especially like the plastics when I am prospecting, because of the ability to change color and/or shape very quickly. Sometimes the fish are sluggish and you have to fish them slow with a straight tailed jerk bait. Other times you need an action such as produced by a swimming bait with a paddle tail. By changing styles and colors you can determine what the fish want and then stick with it.