FISHING TIP OF THE WEEK: Gear up for Sailfish Season
(Part 2 of 3)
Photo: Live goggleyes are rigged using a rigging needle pulling a floss loop through the bait’s back, to which a circle hook is attached. Photo credit: Richard Gibson.
In part one of our three-part sailfish primer we talked a little bit about terminal tackle. In this second installment, we’ll talk about the most effective types of live bait to use for sails. Although sailfish have been known to eat a wide variety of live bait species, several specific bait fish have proven to be the best over time.
The live goggleye has undoubtedly become the bait of choice for many sailfish experts. More formally known as the bigeye scad, goggleyes are nocturnal feeders that live in large schools along tropical reef lines. They are typically caught at night using multiple quills rigged along a leader, an extra-large size sabiki rig, essentially. These hardy baits are a natural sailfish food and can be fished from kites, on flat lines or fished deep on a lead. But unless you want to go out at night and catch your own goggs, be prepared to pay as much as $100 a dozen for these highly prized baits, as specialized bait fishing operations throughout South Florida get a premium for supplying the sail fishing fleet with fresh, lively baits each morning. Consider it an worthwhile investment in a great day of fishing!
Photo: Kite fishing is a highly effective way to target sailfish. We will discuss kite fishing in more detail in part 3. Photo credit: Richard Gibson.
Other baits work well too, and many of these you can catch yourself, either with a sabiki rig or with a cast net. These include ballyhoo (popular and plentiful in the Florida Keys), cigar minnows (round scad), threadfin herring, Spanish sardines and blue runners. You can mix and match as well, running different species in your spreads to see which might be moist effective on any given day.
Photo: Smaller baits like ballyhoo can be chummed and caught behind the boat using a cast net.
Live bait definitely improves your chances for success in the South Florida sailfish fishery. Experiment with different baits to see what works for you, and learn how to catch and rig baits yourself for the ultimate sailfish experience. If that seems like too much work, simply break out your wallet and call one of the many bait boats working the various South Florida inlets each winter morning! They’ll be happy to hook you up with a livewell full of goggleyes.
Photo: When fishing a live ballyhoo, it’s necessary to wire the circle hook to the baits bill.