Deep Water 101by Capt. Terry Rand
There are periods of time throughout the northeastern summers where in-shore fishing isn’t as productive as it was earlier in the season. As the shallower waters warm the oxygen levels often become depleted, forcing game fish and bait fish in search of deeper, cooler waters. Instead of flogging the same old waters to find few fish, head to where the fish have gone, the deeper reefs.
Reefs are essentially nothing more than an underwater hill with an uphill side and a downhill side. The trick to fishing reefs are finding the productive areas which are usually the areas that provide the most structure like rocks, rock piles, weeds and wrecks. The easiest way to do this is to drift over the reef with the tide. Have your baits in the water and watch the depth finder. Notice the bottom structure on the screen and mark areas on your GPS when you get strikes, hook fish or see fish holding around structure. Time will prove that fish will often revisit these same areas so keep those way points stored on your GPS for future use.
One thing about fishing these deep water lairs is that live bait or fresh cut bait is usually the best choice for striped bass and bluefish. Presenting these baits properly through fast moving currents and deep water can be a challenge if your tackle is not up for the task. A stout rod that is able to handle dropping a large bait and a sinker as heavy as 10 – 20 ounces is required for this job. In years past, extra thick fiberglass rods were the standard tackle along with heavy duty reels with very large spools to accommodate heavy monofilament lines. Fortunately, things have changed.
With the recent advancements in braided fishing lines, life has become a lot easier on deep water anglers. Due to the smaller line diameter of braid, there is no longer a need for the heavy, clunky reels of years past. As long as a reel will accommodate a couple of hundred yards of 30 – 50 pound test braid along with a small amount of mono backing, then that reel will likely serve the purpose just fine. Just make sure the drag system along with the other reel components are up for the task of landing large fish.
Braided lines have also spurred great advancements in fishing rod manufacturing. Carbon and graphite provide for an incredibly light fishing rod that can easily be balanced out with one of the smaller sized reels we were just discussing. Composite rods made from both graphite and fiberglass is another good choice for a light rod that can handle the pressure.
Extremely light rods built for speed jigging, one of the newest deep water techniques, are fantastic choices for presenting large live baits in deep water. The rods are usually short and stout with a very fast tip and are made for deploying baits and jigs up to 16-20 ounces. They are also built light for all day use making them very comfortable to fish. Freshwater musky rods are another great choice as they are also built stout for handling very heavy baits while still being light enough for long marathon fishing days.
When the fish move out of their normal shallow haunts, they usually haven’t gone far. Adjust to the conditions and adjust your tackle for a deep water presentation. Braided line, along with smaller conventional reels and light, stout rods are the key to fishing comfortably and efficiently while becoming a successful deep water angler.