Imagining what is down there, dreaming of what monster of the deep could be sitting on a pinnacle or peering out of its cave, going deep always gets maximum points for anticipation.
Then the bite – it’s more of a pull – and then the action is on! You know you have a quality fish and spend the next couple of minutes thinking, ‘What is it?’ Then you see colour, as a huge shape appears below. Although fewer fish are caught on an outing, every time a fish does hit the deck, it’s high fives, and, ‘Well done.’
So why not just go deep every time you launch? Well, the major problem is current. Naturally, the deeper you go out to sea, the stronger the current gets, especially as you near the major warm Mozambique current that flows from north to south.
With the increase in current, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a bait on the bottom of the ocean. The friction on the line and the bait as you drift causes a drag, and the sinker lifts off the bottom of the ocean where the bottom fish live and eat. Although thin-diameter braid has helped greatly in this department, when the current picks up and it is really deep it is simply impossible to keep the bait on the bottom. In this case, while fishing deep, you would move to a shallower spot, say 20m shallower, and see if you can get down to the bottom at that depth. If you still cannot get down, well, you have to go shallower. This affects the quality and species that you can target. This is also why there are more fish in deeper water – they have had less fishing pressure. Commercial fishermen seldom go very deep, for the time it takes to get up and down means fewer fish, and winding up 100m of line with a 20oz sinker can only be managed by the crew for a short while, even if they are very fit and strong. These obstacles mean more fish on deep reefs, which creates a hope that the current will be slack and that the deep untouched reefs will be accessible.
So how deep is deep? Well, I am sure that this will vary from area to area, and with some anglers the ranges would vary as well. Shallow fishing is up to about 25m. This is often the depth fished when there is a very strong current, or while you drift for couta. Then up to about 50m or so would begin to be deep. After that – 60m or so – the fishing changes, and from 80m onwards you are going really deep. Over 100m and you are then fishing in proper deep pinnacles, where any monster of the deep could be lurking.
What tackle should I use to go deep? There are really only two options – the traditional ‘KP’ or Scarborough, and the more modern ‘coffee grinders’. The KP is an economical option, is very strong and durable and can handle large amounts of line. It is advisable to change from nylon to braid, to decrease the diameter of the line and decrease the drag. I would suggest that you use 50lb to 100lb braid.
The thing about these reels is that they have no drag, and so they can be a bit dangerous. If you cannot hold the fish, the reel will spin off and if you are hit by the spinning handles, you will have a bruise to remember as well as
a story to tell! These reels really do handle the up-and-down nature of deep fishing very well as they have no gearing system to engage, and one reel will give you many years of service – the only attention they need is the occasional bearing change, which is easy and inexpensive.
The second option is to use a coffee grinder. You’ll need something of quality – a quality drag to stop the fish heading for a cave or structure, and a quality gear system to handle the up-and-down. Having a 20oz sinker and a big live bait plus 100m of water for drag makes the end product very heavy. So retrieving your line is an effort and also places your reel under pressure, especially with multiple downs.
Make sure you look after your drag system by pumping the fish, or trace upwards, then lower your rod to take up line that is under less pressure. This is essential for the longevity of your fishing reel and it means that fitness comes into the equation. Going deep is tiring and really hard work, but the reward is worth it. So when the back burns, the forearms feel like they are falling off, and you sweat and grunt – don’t complain, that’s part of the ‘fun’.
What bait should I use? The major factor with going deep is that it takes time
and effort to place the bait in front of
a fish. So you do not want a bait type that can be removed by peckers, or smaller fish. Smaller fish in this case include 2kg bottoms! For this reason, I like to use big, durable dead bait, secured with lots of nylon, like whole chokka or big fillets, or
I also like big octopus legs. This I secure onto a 9/0 or 10/0 hook. My firm favourite bait type, though, is live bait. Nice big mackerel or shad are great –
no little pecker will eat one of these baits. This means that I can go down and wait for the big pull without wondering if I still have bait on.
If you are using braid, you will need a leader. The leader will create some elasticity in your line, and protect your line from rocks and reef. We often get a fish back, and find that the line was scuffed up by reef. This would cut the braid. Leaders of 1mm to 2mm are used, depending on the strength of the braid. Using wind-on leaders also works very well. They pass through the eyes of the rod well, and are a good option if you are cautious about tying a leader knot.
The trace itsself is really simple – three-way power swivels, long 1m to 1.5m link lines and a really good high-quality hook. Preference comes in here, but I like to use one hook. Sinkers will
be between 12oz and 20oz.
We have found that the ‘saddle trace’ is very effective in presenting the live bait. This is an attachment to the hook that allows a cable tie to be passed through the eye cavity of the fish and then through the saddle that is attached to the hook. This means
that the fish is unharmed, and
Fish stay alive for ages like this. It also means that the bait fish is harder to remove from the hook, compared to hooking the fish through the mouth.
We also find that we lose less bait off
the hook with this method. We have used circle hooks with this system to great effect, and highly recommend using them.
You do not have to use circle hooks, but it seems that the quality of the hook-up is best with circles. Dean Pretorius and I had a competition one day, and the circles won the day!
With good bait and good equipment, all that is now needed is to head out
to your deepest mark on the fish finder. Locate a deep mark and let the boat make one drift in the current to see the direction that you will drift.
Then position the boat to drift over that mark, and make your drift. Finding a good pinnacle or showing, drop your bait down deep, deep, into the mouth of a monster.
Fishing deep does not get a massive haul of fish, but each fish that you do get will be a quality fish. It’s great to hit the beach, and know that you only have two or three fish, and that you have not removed many fish from a local reef.
There is more than enough meat
on one good fish to feed the family
and the crew.
Please remember that it is a criminal offence to sell or buy fish from any ski-boat angler. A commercial market places pressure on the ocean – rather wait for the commercial fishermen to come in, and support their work.
Now go get that ‘big pull’.
Call Wayne ‘Hengelsman’ of ACE charters to hook up with the monsters of the deep.