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Fishing Offshore Weedlines

June 29th, 2019

bull dorado Fishing Offshore Weedlines

A well formed weed line is a favorite sight for many offshore fisherman. They are known best for holding Dorado (pictured) but ling, wahoo, sailfish and marlin can be caught here as well.

By Capt. Joe Kent

For the last 20 years or more offshore seaweed, which forms weedlines in the Gulf of Mexico, has been either over abundant or virtually nonexistent.  When abundant, many species of fish follow the sargassum, or seaweed as it is more commonly called, as the patches, clumps and organized lines reflect the basics of the marine food chain.

During lean times, such as offshore Galveston anglers have experienced for several years now, there is a conspicuous absence in the number of pelagic fish in the nearshore waters of the Gulf.  Most notably absent are the Dorado, Dolphin fish or mahi-mahi, as they are called interchangeably.

Dorado of all sizes hover around masses of seaweed and along with them are just about all other fish that roam the Gulf waters.

This year it appears that we may have more seaweed in our near shore waters and if so, look for a banner year of offshore fishing along the upper Texas Coast.

Seaweed attracts and is a refuge for small crustaceans and fin fish.  Watching carefully from close range are larger fish waiting for an opportunity to feast.  Behind those are billfish, huge Dorado, ling, wahoo, sharks and as mentioned earlier almost every species of pelagic fish in the Gulf.

Just about all marine life in the Gulf of Mexico waters can be found in the vicinity of this vegetation.

Now that we know what is offered in the way of fish around the seaweed, how do we take advantage of it and catch some of the fish?

chicken dorado Fishing Offshore Weedlines

Chicken Dorado can provide fast action on weedlines.

Dorado, especially the smaller chicken Dorado, are one of the most common fish hanging around the shade and protection.  Tripletail, small amberjack, king, ling, shark, wahoo and sailfish are others that are commonly found just outside of the masses of weed.

Anglers experienced at fishing the weed lines know that there are two ways to find the fish.  One is to quietly move close to big concentrations of weeds and toss out small pieces of squid or cut bait.  Any chicken Dorado close by likely will come out of hiding to pursue a quick and easy meal.

When this occurs, anglers using light to medium tackle will toss free-lined squid or other bait toward the seaweed and bingo, most of the time a group of small Dorado will inhale it.  While battling the small Dorado many others will follow close by and the key is to keep the fish hooked while others in your party toss similar baits into the water.

On one occasion years ago my group of four landed over 100 while employing this technique.

Once the Dorado have scattered, slowly maneuver your boat along the edges of the weed line and look for either more Dorado or tripletail.

Often at some point large Dorado and ling will appear searching for the same chicken Dorado you are pursuing.  Both ling and Dorado are curious fish and tend to check out noise.  One technique that works in getting their attention is to pound the side of the boat with your hands.

If no fish appear, move on to another clump or line or begin trolling. Trolling is another way to find the fish.  Try trolling the outer edges of the weed concentrations keeping enough distance to prevent the trolling lure for getting tangled in the seaweed.

The most active seaweed lines are going to be found in blue or blue/green waters.  Lines found in off color water are hardly worth the time to check out.

Most of the strikes are going to be near the surface and visible.  Every ling I have caught while working seaweed has come to the surface to check out the bait.  Sometimes they just smell it and take off, other times they take it.

One mistake that newcomers make when larger fish like ling first take the bait is to try to set the hook too quickly.  Free spool enough line that the large fish can take the bait and start swimming away before setting the hook.

For the chicken Dorado and smaller fish, setting the hook immediately is imperative.

One pointer for boats, especially those propelled by outboard engines, is that when working seaweed areas often the props get tangled in the vegetation.  When this occurs put the engine in reverse and it should remove the clutter.

Hopefully we will see a good balance of weed lines in the Gulf this summer and we can enjoy the bounties of seafood they offer.

Texas Weedlines: A Blessing For Offshore Anglers

July 5th, 2016

texas dorado Texas Weedlines: A Blessing For Offshore Anglers

By Capt. Joe Kent

Seaweed or Sargassum Weed as it is called is found mostly in the Atlantic Ocean and comes in concentrations from the Sargasso Sea. Sargassum Weed’s name is a result of Portuguese sailors likening this ocean-dwelling species’ bladder’s appearance to small grapes called salgazo.

Sargassum weed gravitates toward milder, more temperate and tropical oceans and farther toward shallow bodies of water. While some Sargassum weed attaches to the ocean floor, there are two species – the natan and the fluitan – that have become holopelagic, which means that they drift and migrate around the oceans and bodies of water throughout the world, though they are mostly concentrated in the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding bodies of water such as the Gulf of Mexico.

Sargassum weed acts as a mobile transport habitat for a great variety of marine life and as sublime refuge for young fish that may lack mobility. When young fish find a safe haven in Sargassum weed, they are far more protected from the ocean’s predators, thus making it possible to survive to adulthood. These patches of seaweed as we call them provide shelter, food and a place where schools of fish may form, further protecting young fish and other marine life.  Many species of marine life take refuge in the Sargassum weed and travel thousands of miles with this floating habitat, seeking protection and survival. With the presence of all of these young fish in one location, large fish often hover around, awaiting a shot at the young prey. All of this serves as a great advantage for anglers in search of the predator fish.

August is in my opinion the best month for offshore fishing along the upper Texas Coast.  Anglers able to make it 20 miles out should easily locate this fishing phenomena and the variety of fish in and around it.

Chicken Dorado, as the smaller of the species of Dorado are called, attack small bait with a vengeance and fishermen focusing on weed lines and patches mop up on them.

One nice thing about Dorado is that there are no bag or size limits; however, with that being said, good stewardship dictates taking only as many as you, your family and friends will consume.

For table fare, Dorado are among the best fish in the ocean.  Other fish commonly found among seaweed are all of the pelagic fish, tripletail and all sorts of small bait fish.

Offshore anglers fishing off of the Texas Gulf Coast encounter basically two types of seaweed concentrations.  Weedlines and Weed Patches.

Weedlines are, as the term suggests, long lines of seaweed clumped together along a tide line or water color change.  The patches are big clumps ranging in size from a few square yards to several acres.

One of the best ways to fish long weed lines is to troll both sides.  However, often there is so much scattered seaweed along the edges that trolling can be frustrating as the lures keep getting clogged with the weed.  Drift fishing is the other popular method for fishing around seaweed and is the method of choice if trolling is a problem.

Once a strike takes place, it is a good idea to chum the area to keep the schools of fish nearby.  Dorado in particular will continue to feed although others in the school are hooked and fighting for survival.

ling Texas Weedlines: A Blessing For Offshore Anglers

Capt. Joe Kent and Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine Creative Director, Brandon Rowan with a 65-pound ling taken from a weedline.

Some of the largest ling I have caught have come from seaweed concentrations as there is another benefit that comes from the big concentrations and that is shade.  Ling and Dorado love shade during the heat of the day and seaweed definitely offers that benefit.

Just about any bait used otherwise for offshore fishing will be good for fishing the weed lines and patches.  The idea is to keep the bait suspended anywhere from the surface to just a few feet below.

One of the best ways to test an area is to toss some chopped bait into the water.  If fish are nearby, they normally will come check it out and you can actually see your target.

Fishing around seaweed offshore is one of my favorite types of fishing.  If you have not tried it, chances are you will share my enthusiasm once you experience it.