A nice family chartered the Happy Day Today with the Top Shot Sportfishing Team out of Ft. Lauderdale looking to target a Sailfish, so I went to the drawing board to plan for the day. Considering the time of the year being winter and January, one of the better months to target Sailfish, we were excited to accomplish this for the group. Conditions are important when deciding what, when and how to fish for Sailfish. That day we had very light wind with little current, so the option to kite fish with live bait was scratched off the list. Trolling dead Ballyhoo is a good method, but the most effective is live baiting, so I decided to fish live Ballyhoos. Sailfishes are already laser focused on feeding on the Ballyhoos, and when presenting a spread of livies, if there is a Sailfish within close proximity, they will absolutely feed.
We headed out of Bahia Mar in Fort Lauderdale where we are docked. It is a short ride to the inlet, and within 15 minutes, we turned the corner and started heading to the mooring balls where we catch live Ballyhoos. The mate quickly got us connected to the mooring ball, and with the chum bag in the water, a large school of Ballyhoo showed up. We used light line with very small hooks and a tiny piece of squid to catch them, and just like that, we had a livewell full of bait, ready to head off searching for a Sailfish.
I ran down to the southern waters of Fort Lauderdale where fishing can be very productive and there is good reef and bottom structures, often having clean bodies of water moving through. The mate rigged up the spinners with light leader and circle hooks - we were also fishing a teaser, which is an artificial strip of hologram baits. I started fishing on the shallow side of the drop off. There are no fences in the ocean, and these fish will travel up in the shallow flats searching for Ballyhoo. The mate staggered the baits with one center shot gun bait, two long and two short baits and one positioned behind the strip teaser. The spread of baits looked killer - now we just needed a fish to come along. I slowly moved the baits along the reef and went from the top of the reef, along the drop off and out to deeper waters. The mate was continually changing out baits, as needed, as well as clearing them off of any weed. We recently had a cold front move across the state, and whenever we have a cold front, the Sailfish bite turns on. These fish are migrating south, and the front will move a body of fish through the Fort Lauderdale fishing grounds. Sometimes we will see the bite turn on the next day and at other times, it will take a few days.
I moved the baits out to 200 feet of water where there was the slightest movement of current. Once I got into the current, we started to see some fishing action. The first bite was a double header - a pair of Black Fin Tunas were caught on light line and spin tackle, which was a fun fight. The anglers got the fish along the side of the boat, and the mate gaffed them and put them into the box. The mate sent back out two fresh Ballyhoos. Next, we got a nice rigger bite. The line came down, and the anglers started fighting the fish; it turned out to be another nice Black Fin Tuna. There certainly was some life along this edge, and we were still in search of the target fish. The area started looking better and better, as now there were some frigate birds circling above us. Frigate birds, which have 6-foot wing spans, have excellent eyesight, and can spot a fish from a mile away. We got another Tuna explosion on the surface. The anglers had the program down and jumped on the rod and got the fish in the boat. As we were preparing a bait to send back out, suddenly, a Sailfish pops up behind the strip teaser. Right behind the teaser was the fresh and happy Ballyhoo. The Sailfish crashed the Ballyhoo and started swimming away; the mate fed the Sail and then hooked him up. The angler got the rod in the standup fighting belt and started fighting the Sailfish. This fish made a bunch of runs and jumped all over the ocean. One of the coolest things to watch is a full-grown Sailfish going berserk. After an exciting fight on stand-up spinner tackle, the angler was able to get the Sailfish safely along the side of the boat. The mate reached down and brought the Sailfish in to remove the hook, then a quick photo before releasing the Sailfish.
Everyone had an awesome day on the water with an amazing finale, and now it was time to head back to the marina. If you are looking to book a fishing charter, contact Capt. Dave Zsak with the Top Shot Sportfishing Charters and the "Happy Day Today" at 954-439-8106.