Looking for Clues in the Blue

Before heading out into the open sea to fish, it is important to check tide, weather, and even the moon phase to ensure you’ll have a good time on the water.

Venturing out into the blue water can seem very daunting for some people at first. With limited knowledge it can be hard to pinpoint where to start. The more knowledge and experience you gain with a specific species, the better angler you are going to become. After this, you become more consistent in tackling the big game. Working in the tackle industry I quite often get asked “Where do I even start?” My response is usually:

“Use your resources”

We are very fortunate that technology is evolving so fast, that for us as anglers there are many resources at our disposal to help in the planning process. One tool that I find myself using on a regular basis is the Navionics maps. This great tool can be accessed via the Navionics web app, Navionics smartphone app, or for those people who own quality electronics on board, the Navionics electronic charts. These charts show incredible detail not only in the form of navigation for travelling into and out of ports or safe passages around vast array reefs, but they also give detailed information for likely fishing areas.

Following the contour lines and observing any dramatic rises or depressions in the sea bed can often indicate some form of structure in the area, which could be a raised patch of reef, a large rock, or bommie and/or even a sink hole. Another useful feature is the way Navionics maps highlight sunken wrecks via a little symbol on the charts, which can be productive areas to fish when holding large quantities of bait.

Insight Genesis is another great resource when it comes to gaining greater understanding of what is actually going on below the surface. You can access the Insight Genesis social maps via the Gofree website and if you create an account and are running a Simrad or Lowrance unit, you can begin to log the area of your favourite fishing locations. With the information gathered and downloaded, you can create your own detailed maps with contour lines depicting all the rises, falls, ledges, bommies and much more. This allows an angler to look at the maps and form a predetermined idea of where the fish will be holding on the structure.

Water temperature charts are also a useful resource that I take note of before heading out into the blue water. The slightest difference of 1-2 degrees can sometimes make a massive difference between success and failure, especially when it comes to pelagic species. I use a website called ‘Ocean Currents’ which allows me to understand where the warmer and colder water is and in which direction the currents are pushing that water. This all comes into play during the planning process of a trip and often has a large part in deciding which direction I head out in.

Align the Conditions

The next piece of the puzzle is making sure you try to “align the conditions” with factors such as the tide, moon phase, seasonal change and even wind direction. Tidal influence is an important factor in the blue water; as the saying goes, ‘no run-no fun’. From personal experience, the building tides on the lead up to the moon have produced the greatest results, especially on pelagic species. On these building tides, larger quantities of bait seem to congregate around areas of structure, thus drawing in the predatory species from far and wide in a feeding frenzy. On the falling tides, the bait seem to disperse and spread out into what I call the paddock, spreading the predatory fish out. The moon phase also has an influence on the fish’s moods and feeding habits as certain species react differently to the varying moon phases. A good example is the snapper, best targeted during the day time during the new moon period because under the cover of darkness, it is harder for the snapper to locate and feed; whereas on the full moon period, there is ample light for them to locate and feed at night making the day time bite often much tougher.

What to look for! The most important factor, whether targeting pelagic or reef dwelling species, is to understand that all predatory species are drawn to congregations of bait and bait is drawn to structure. You must locate and target some form of structure.

Structure comes in many forms, some visible to the eye and some requiring a quality electronic set up to locate. These can include Island headlands, isolated rocks, reefs, bommies, ledges and ridges just to name a few. At the right times, these will hold a bait supply with predatory species lurking close by. Current plays a role on all these structures and during the main run periods, pressure edges and back eddies are formed and most prominent. A Pressure edge is the first point at which the current hits a structure pushing it either up or around, trapping baitfish being washed around by the current for larger predatory fish like GT’s and Spanish Mackerel to come through and devour. Back eddies are essentially the dead water formed from the current hitting the structure and rolling off it, making a great ambush point for predatory fish to wait for distressed bait fish struggling in the strong current line or rip to be swept past. A pressure edges is best indicated by disturbed water and back eddies are best indicated by the patches of slick water on the surface.

Birds circling or dive-bombing the water are another very good indication of activity, and is always worth a look as they are there for a reason and that is feeding on bait balls of small fish which are being forced to the surface from predatory fish like tuna from down below. One piece of information I was told from an experienced angler, as a guideline, is that the height the birds were hovering at was the depth that the bait was holding. Spending some time watching and observing the birds feeding patterns is very important, as when you become competent in reading the birds behaviours you can predict where the predatory fish are going to force the baitfish to the surface and the feeding frenzy begins, placing you in position to get that perfect cast away.

Other factors to consider and pay close attention to is water clarity, colour and water temperature. The colour you are searching for out in the blue water is self-described and variances in colour can make all the difference. Colour changes in the water can be good fish congregating areas particularly in the absence of any structure.

Stay tuned for part two when I go into techniques, tactics and lures to get you connected with some of the blues hardest pulling critters.

Dane Radosevic

Navico

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