Trolling Bluewater Lures
Every August marks the unofficial start of the bluewater trolling season. As the water
begins to warm up to its annual peak in the New Jersey offshore areas, hundreds of boats
start heading out to ledges and canyons between 60 & 120 miles off the coast. Deep ocean
species such as the yellowfin, albacore, bigeye & bluefin tunas, white marlin, swordfish &
wahoo becomes the quarry for the hard-core New Jersey captain.
For some vessels this is a five hour haul, so in most cases the trolling time takes place
between 4 PM and sunset, after which, it is time to anchor for a night of chunking &
chumming until dawn. At sunrise the trolling begins again and can last until noon if the fish
are cooperating. The sea conditions and weather will typically dictate the amount of safe
fishing that can be done, however many a captain has challenged eminent thunderstorms
and high seas to troll up "just one more" ultimate game fish. Fuel management is also a
key concern. Sometimes the reports of fish on the radio will lure boats further east in
pursuit of trolling action.
A good arsenal of heavy tackle consists of at least one 130, 2 - 80's, 2 - 50's and 2 - 30's
with an extra wide spool of line around 600 yards on each reel. Lighter tackle can be used,
but when you fish offshore, you will learn that it is better to be prepared in order to land a
trophy fish. Outriggers & a fighting chair with harness is also almost mandatory equipment
to have at your disposal. The fighting chair is for stapling yourself onto the boat after an
hour of fighting so you will not be pulled in during the second hour. The outriggers are
used to set up a "spread" of top-water lures that you troll between 8 and 10 knots.
There are many strategies to a spread. Sometimes hook-less daisy-chains of rubber squid
called "teasers" are set out furthest from the back of the boat. This helps to attract species
like white marlin and wahoo into the area where your lures with hooks are. When using
teasers, set them out as high up the outriggers as possible and keep them about 150 feet
off the stern. Keep your eye on them too, because many times the marlin will pop up right
behind them, with their fin out of the water. If this happens, reel in your teasers until they
get closer to the center of your spread. Another strategy is to let out more line to get them
behind the marlin, who will then move into your spread.
When trolling in the early morning or late evening, dark colored feathers and squid lures
are better to use, but when the sun is shining high in the sky, the brighter colors seem to
be more effective. Cedar plugs should be fished from the back of the boat, without an
outrigger, no farther than the first mound of water in your wake. Feathers or squid are
then flanked out to the sides on the outriggers. Position them from the second or third
mound of water in your wake. You can adjust the assortment of lures to cover as many
areas of your spread as feasible. It's a good idea to change the lures and the spread every
half hour or so, until you catch a fish, at which time the color and type of lure should be
noted, and change all your lines to resemble that lure.
Once you are fighting a fish, it's a good idea to slow the boat down to an idle and start
reeling in the other lines. The teasers should be first because they will have the most line.
The reason for bringing in the other 6 or 8 lines is obvious, because your fish probably will
become tangled in them if you do not. The boat should turn with the fish, keeping the line
at either side or behind the boat. Take your time when fighting. Even a small albacore can
weigh 30 LBS, so it is important to wear the fish to have better success with the gaff. If
it's not tired and you get the fish next to the boat, be prepared for another violent run,
these fish are strong and very fast.
Once you see the fish in the water, get the gaff and gloves ready. Do not try to land the
fish alone. Someone should grab the leader and steer the fish so that it can be gaffed in the
head. This is also a good time to be on the lookout for large white sharks or tiger sharks,
who would just love to engulf your fish, as it tires next to your boat.