07/15/12

Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
Hatching:
1.    BWOs (Eastern)
2.    Green Sedges (Caddisflies)
3.    Cream Cahills
4.    Little Yellow Stoneflies (Little Summer Stones)
5.    Slate Drakes
6.    Little Green Stoneflies

Most available/ Other types of food:
7.    Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
8.    Inch Worm (moth larva)
9.    Beetles
10.  Grasshoppers
11.  Ants

How To Become A Better Angler - Part 4 - Black Snapper On The
Rocks
You should have picked up from yesterday's article that sometimes, and it is more often than
you think,
placing a fly, lure or bait in exactly the right spot can make all the
difference in catching fish or not catching fish
. I could give dozens if not hundreds of
more examples of bass fishing situations where the exact location makes all the difference
but I'll go to a saltwater bottom fishing situation where fishing within a foot or two of an exact
location makes the difference in catching or not catching something. With many of the
saltwater bottom reef fish, this is often the case. This story is unusual because in this case,
I'm writing about fishing water 130 to 180 feet deep, twenty-five miles offshore that, except
for man made reefs, is considered worthless. I discovered I could pinpoint rocks on the
otherwise sandy bottom no larger than the average size bedroom TV that held some very
nice black snapper.

Now, I don't intend to turn this into a how-to article on using sonar or black snapper fishing,
but I will say that after doing instructional videos on how to use dozens of different sonar
units, I learned far more about their operation than the average offshore angler or boat
captain. That enabled me to do some things few could do and most likely in this particular
case, no one ever did intentionally trying to do so.

A young captain friend of mine used to spend much of his off time fishing offshore with me on
my 27 foot sportscraft . He had shown me some rough bottom about 35 miles offshore of
Panama City Beach where we managed to catch large numbers of big black snapper. This
area was near the continental shelf and was no larger than a football field. It had some rock
ledges that went up and down about five to ten feet. The natural reef area was loaded with
large grouper and lots of black snapper. You could just drift back and forth across the reefs
with good odds of being able to get your bait within a foot or  two of a grouper or black
snapper.

The blacks are different than the red snapper in respect to their preferred habitat. They like
deeper natural bottom structure and in preference to artificial reefs. That particular area of
the Gulf has little of that type of bottom unless you go out near the edge of the shelf that
usually starts dropping from about 300 - 600 feet depths. We made many trips out there and
caught lots of big fish from the relatively small area but thirty-five miles is a long run to
bottom fish. He also took a few of his charters to the same area. The end result was we knew
we had put a big dent in the black snapper population of that area. I begin to look for similar
areas of rock bottom much closer to shore.

One thing few anglers know about a fishfinder or sonar unit is an object that appears to be
directly under the boat isn't necessarily directly under the boat. It can be anywhere within the
cone angle of that particular unit's transducer. Fishfinders send out an area of sound that's
confined within a cone shaped much like an upside down ice cream cone. Signal returns
from any object that returns sound signals within that cone appear on a
two-dimensional
sonar screen. For example, if the diameter of a twenty degree cone at the bottom is forty
feet, any structure or object on the bottom within that large area returning sonar signals
would show up. This would include any that's as far as twenty feet left or right from the center
of a vertical line straight down from the transducer on the boat. The sonar plots the returns
as the boat moves forward, not left to right. This means that the returns you see on the
sonar display using that transducer cone angle could be as much as twenty feet to your left
or right as you move forward.

When you are fishing for black snapper, you need to put the bait within a foot or two of the
fish. The fish stay right on the structure. Amberjack will swim above and around structure.,
King Mackeral will swim widely around structure, Triggerfish, vermillion snapper, lane
snapper etc. will swim near the bottom but over structure but grouper and black snapper will
hold tight to the structure. Getting a bait within ten or twenty feet of them is usually a
worthless endeavor.

Now, most everyone that fishing the Gulf's bottom regularly know what I just wrote. What they
don't know is how to pinpoint a small object in that depth of water and make certain you get
the bait in that exact spot. Doing that isn't easy. Current has a huge effect on it. If it is strong,
it's really difficult and sometimes next to impossible. In this scenario, without much current, it
is still difficult if you cannot pinpoint the exact location of the TV size rocks. Knowing that one
is within an area that's as large as thirty to forty feet in diameter, isn't worth very much..

For years I had access to sonar units that were expensive with multiple frequencies and
sonar cone angles. By using a very narrow cone angle, and the right frequency and by
plotting GPS paths back and forth across the sonar soundings, I was able to interpolate
exactly where the rocks were. Once I could do that, I could mark the spot on the GPS.
Granted, GPS accuracy during SA only put you within a circular area of about half as large
as the sonar signals but not if you back away and head towards the particular coordinates.
You could get exactly over the object. You have to get the bait (usually small live pinfish)
down on the bottom and then slowly advance over the GPS coordinates but that puts you
directly over the rock.

The bottom line to this is that every time I could find a small rock or two, even though they
were far and few between, I could catch two or three black snapper off of it. These rocks may
be fifty feet to a hundred yards apart. Without much current, It may take me ten to twenty
minutes to do it. It would take longer if there was much current; however, it would only take
one drift with the bait in the right spot to catch a four to eight pound black snapper. The
results was I could limit out on black snapper in a short time in areas of the Gulf where
catching one was rare and in some areas, unheard of. Most of these areas were within
twenty miles of the coast and that cuts the round trip time back and forth down by about
three or fours hours.

Now, I didn't write this to boast about my skills with boating electronics or saltwater fishing. I
had a big advantage over others in that respect. I could run a hundred thousand bucks
worth of electronics on a boat that wasn't worth that much because of my association with the
manufacturers. I did videos on the operation of several manufacturers electronic units. I also
had access to those that designed the equipment. I could find the rocks by using a low
frequency and wide cone angle and then changing to a high frequency and very small cone
angle to pinpoint their location.

Every evening at the dock, anglers, captains and visitors would ask  "What did you catch
those beautiful snapper on"? I would just grin and answer, pinfish.  Some would ask where
and I would answer by saying "about twenty miles offshore". None of the questions or
answers were worth a red cent.

I know many of you are wondering exactly what this has to do with trout fishing. I
wrote this to as an example of an extreme case to again, point out the importance of placing
a fly, lure or bait in exactly the right place.

In a nut shell, all other things being equal, the speed at which you can get a fly,
lure or bait in front of the fish your pursuing is directly proportional to the number
of fish you can catch in a given amount of time.
If nothing else, years of earning my
living from producing TV shows and videos, as well as fishing various types of tournaments
taught me that.

The example I gave with the Little Green Worm story occurred in the late 70's. The above
example of black snapper fishing occurred during the mid 1990's. Years of experience and
education had taught me the importance of pinpointing the location of fish and getting the
hook in front of the fish. It didn't make any difference whether it was a snapper or bass.

When I first started fly fishing exclusively in the late 1990"s, I fell like I was light years ahead
of most of those starting out. In tomorrows article, I will get to another example of where
applying this same strategy trout fishing paid off and quite frankly, made quite a few anglers
most of which was very experienced at fly fishing, look pretty bad.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh