Scott Rickert and Brian Turner have decades of experience fishing off Florida’s western coast, where they chase marlin and other pelagic game fish species hundreds of miles from shore. We spent a few minutes with them to learn their insider tips and techniques for fishing this virtually untapped region.
Both captains spend days or even weeks prior to an offshore trip studying the motion of the Loop Current, which is the primary body of water affecting the fishing along Florida’s Gulf coast from Clearwater to Sarasota and beyond. As the Loop Current shifts closer to shore, it brings with it nutrient-rich blue water, which is then forced over the depth contours along the gently sloping continental shelf. This produces optimal fishing conditions. However, the current also produces warm-water eddies that spin along toward shore as well, which can also mean great fishing.
Without a traditional bluewater charter fleet or even very many private boats venturing out this far into the Gulf of Mexico, it’s critical to begin each trip knowing where productive water can be located. Once on the fishing grounds, many captains prefer to begin their search with a spread of artificial lures, because they can be trolled at faster speeds. This allows captains to cover ground and locate the eddies, rips and boundary currents that can lead to good fishing. Once good water is found, dead bait like ballyhoo and mackerel is then deployed and trolled at slower speeds. A ‘mixed-bag’ spread can equally target blue and white marlin, sailfish, yellowfin and blackfin tuna, wahoo and more. Versatility is key because these trips also can span several days and nights offshore.
The runs to the fishing grounds can be far but if you’re up for a non-stop piscatorial adventure then you should head to the wild west coast of Florida.