25 Tips for Saltwater Fishing

Make sure your tackle and your techniques are ready for tough saltwater fish.


Tough Knot The Bimini Twist (also known as the Twenty-Times-Around knot) is the only knot that maintains 100 percent strength under all conditions. Use it to double the line for a strong leader connection. 

Lures That Look New and Bright Fish bite best on lures that look new and bright. Buy only lures you know you will need, and buy just enough to last a few trips. Rinse used lures and dry them before returning them to the tackle box.

Cut Back that Front Part Change monofilament often. Once it begins to look dull or feel rough, it is no longer strong. At the very least, cut back that front part of the line to remove the weaker section, then retie the leader. 

Soak It In a Bucket Before storing a reel for any length of time, soak it in a bucket of fresh water for several hours to get all of the saltwater out of the line and the interior corners of the reel. 

Big Fish With Rough Lips Big fish with rough lips require extra-heavy monofilament. It takes 80- to 100-pound test to land 100-pound tarpon, or 50 to 80 to land a really big snook. But casting a long length of that stuff is difficult, so divide the leader into two stages. Keep the heavy stuff short -- 12 to 20 inches, for example -- and use lighter (e.g., 30- to 40-pound-test) for the secondary section that is essential when fishing around heavy cover or structure. 

Set The Hook Many anglers set the hook before the fish has the bait or lure well inside its mouth. Better to wait an extra second or two if you cannot see the fish, or wait until you actually see the bait or lure disappear inside the fish's mouth. A good way to time this is to wait until you feel a lot of pressure on the line from the fish. 

Understanding Tidal Currents Understanding tidal currents and how they affect the areas you fish is critical, because the movement of water does not always precisely follow high and low tides. In many spots, especially inlets and channel entrances, the tidal current may lag the actual tide by an hour or more. In areas like this, fish often respond more to the direction and speed of water movement than to the actual height of the tide. But in open water the height of the tide can be most important. 

Marine Charts You'll find fish in places where food is readily available. The mouth of a creek, channel, inlet, or estuaryuring falling tide is a prime example. Structure of almost any type is another. Marine charts and maps are indispensable for locating such potential hotspots. 

Noisy Lures When fishing turbid water, try noisy topwater lures. Lures with a rattle or pop worked slowly are easy for the fish to locate. Smaller is sometimes best on calm days, but bigger is better in choppy water. 

Quick Sinking Gel braid lines are more sensitive than monofilament. They also have a smaller diameter that offers less resistance in current, which makes them an excellent choice for fishing lures that sink quickly, especially jigs. They have become very popular with heavy jigs in extremely deep water. Some anglers fish them in depths in excess of 300 feet. 

Lubricate a New Reel Lubricate a new reel to make sure no critical areas were overlooked at the factory. Lube it again at the end of the fishing season or every six months if you fish throughout the year. Baitcasting reels may need a touch on the levelwind gears more often. Always use light oil in those areas where grease is not required. 

Use What You Know Use only brands of fishing line that you are familiar and comfortable with. Unknown bargain lines will often let you down at the worst moment. 

Don't use a Wire Leader Don't use a wire leader if you can get by with monofilament. You will get more strikes this way. Wire also kinks easily, which may cause it to break. Even toothy fish like Spanish mackerel and bluefish can be caught on mono leaders if the material is heavy enough (at least 50- or 60-pound-test), and if you cut back the mono whenever it begins to look gnawed. 

Skip the Swivel If you must use a wire leader, skip the swivel if possible. Make a loop in the wire with a Haywire Twist, and tie the doubled mono to the wire loop with an Albright knot. 

Larger Diameter Line The Connector knot is the best way to attach a larger diameter line to a smaller one because it slips through guides easily. 

Circle Hooks Hook sizes and shapes are critical with all types of bait. Circle hooks, for instance, are popular because they very rarely hook fish in the throat, and their hookup rate is as good or better than the conventional J-hook. Treble hooks are a poor choice for baitfishing since they are easily swallowed and do far more damage than when attached to a lure. Any fish that escapes with a treble hook in the throat is a dead fish. 

Live Bait Stays in Top Condition Live bait stays in top condition longer if kept in a well with good circulation. Incoming water is always best, but if that's not possible, use an aerator. Warm water cannot hold as much oxygen as cool, so temperature is critical. In an aerated, noncirculating system, the water must be changed every few hours to remove waste material that replaces oxygen in the water. 

Lures Work Better Most lures work better if attached to the line or leader with a loop knot. This allows a more natural action for bait as well.. 

Feel It Move A fish that appears tired and lethargic needs some help. If you simply toss it back in the water, it will likely sink and die. Moving it back and forth in still water or facing it upstream in current will get its respiratory system back in operation a lot faster. Wait until you can feel the fish beginning to move on its own before letting it go. 

Shrimp Crabs and Curstaceans Shrimp, crabs, and other crustaceans can be kept alive and healthy for many hours in an ice chest if they are packed in wet newspaper or damp vegetation so they do not make direct contact with the ice or ice water. 

Three Ingredients for Chumming Chumming requires three ingredients: fresh or fresh-frozen material, a current to carry it, and judicious use. The idea is to create a line of food that draws fish from far away. Toss in too much food over a short period of time, and the fish may hang too far back and simply enjoy a free lunch. Too little chum may not move them at all. Start slowly and gradually increase the chum until you get results. 


Article by Field & Stream Online Editors

"25 Tips for Saltwater Fishing." Http://www.fieldandstream.com/articles/fishing/saltwater/2006/12/25-tips-saltwater-fishing. Ed. Field & Stream Online Editors. Field & Stream, n.d. Web. May-June 2016.

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