Fishing in Fort Lauderdale for Sailfish or Mahi Mahi provides an exciting charter for any angler. On a fishing charter there are many different variables when deciding what is the best method to use to maximize the best catch. Time of year, weather, wind, current, and migration of fish will all come into the decision-making process when fishing in Fort Lauderdale.
When the bait fish are in the area, we will catch and use them to target pelagic species. Live Ballyhoos are excellent live bait, especially when targeting either Sailfish or Mahi Mahi. We will start the charter at one of the areas known for catching live bait. It can take 5-10 minutes for the chum to get the scent trail going until these bait fish come into the spread. Once they arrive, we throw a cast net. Now that we have a few dozen live baits swimming around in the live well, we start running out to the fishing grounds, which is a short run as the shallow side of the reef starts in 75 feet of water.
I like to fish a spread of 5 live Ballyhoos baits all staggered at different distances behind the boat. One bait is sent back the farthest, which is the high line or captain's rod. The right side and left side are set back to the long and short distances as to create a fence. This fence, as it is called, will not leave any gaps in the spread - a fish will ultimately pass one of the live baits when entering the spread. I also like to fish a hologram strip teaser, which further attracts fish. This hologram teaser gives the appearance of a school of fish. You can also use a couple ounce break away lead getting the 6th bait lower in the water column. This 6th bait will be fished down 20 to 30 feet, which helps attract any species traveling in the lower water column.
When fishing the baits, we are looking for any rip currents, bait schools, birds diving or fishing over structures, which are located off Fort Lauderdale. The first indication is the Ballyhoo will start to jump out of the water, as he’s being chased. There will be a boil, splash or the Ballyhoo will start tail walking. The outrigger line will also start to pull the rigger clip. Now, the Sailfish is behind the bait and about to engulf the Ballyhoo. Then the angler goes over to the spinner, opens the bail, starts to feed the fish, giving the Sailfish a drop back and starts to reel the slack tight planting the circle hook in the corner of the mouth. It is not necessary to rip the rod up too hard so as not to pull the hook out of the mouth. This is the best part of the fight, when the Sailfish starts to rip off line and breaks the surface. Most of the time, the Sailfish will come up jumping out of the water, getting a dozen jumps or more from the fish. While the angler is fighting the Sailfish, the mate will try to hook a second Sailfish, if there are more back in the spread.
A Sailfish on light weight spinning tackle is a very exciting fight. You will get more action from the Sailfish, and the angler will enjoy the fight more from spin tackle. Spinning tackle gives the angler the ability to stand up and fight the Sailfish with a fighting belt, and the lighter lines just gives the angler a better fight.
Another good option when using live Ballyhoo is heading offshore and casting live baits to Mahi Mahi. The best part about fishing for Mahi Mahi in Fort Lauderdale is that when presenting a live bait to a Mahi Mahi, there's a 99% chance the Mahi will eat the live bait. They are programmed to eat anything and everything, especially when a live bait is swimming right in front of them.
I look for anything that will hold fish, such as a large raft of weed, a floating object, or a weed line. Birds are another great indicator of where the fish are - if you find birds, there is a good chance there are some fish below.
Once you find the spot, the first mate will have a few spinners ready and cast out a live Ballyhoo. If there are any Mahi Mahi’s in the area, they will find the live bait. Adding a chum bag in the water and tossing additional chunks in the water will help excite the fish. Fighting Mahi Mahi on spinning tackle is also a lot of fun - customers get to fight multiple fish hook ups, and they put on a great fight. We will keep the school of fish close to the boat by keeping one of the Mahi in the water while continuing to cast the live baits in the water. Once the frenzy has settled down, we will troll a spread of dead baits searching for other Mahi Mahi’s that are in the area and repeat the process when a new honey hole is located.
Deciding what and where to fish in Fort Lauderdale can be challenging at times; however, having a game plan and sticking to the game plan usually pays off.
If you are looking for a fishing charter in Fort Lauderdale contact Capt. Dave Zsak with Top Shot Sportfishing Charters at (954) 439-8106. Our vessel is a 52' Hatteras sportfish fully equipped with all fishing gear and electronics.