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Galveston Bay: 2018 Past and Present

November 1st, 2018

dillman1 Galveston Bay: 2018 Past and Present

Joe Harris and David Hagemeyer

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

The Holiday season is here. Another year has come and gone and folks will begin making their plans for the holidays. If you enjoy the outdoors, fishing or hunting, this is prime time! Hunting begins in earnest and fishing can be the best of the year!

This past January and February, we experienced true winter weather along the Upper Coast. Wind, rain, and freezing precipitation greeted us throughout these two months. Some fish kills were reported, but nothing substantial along the Upper Coast.

During March and April, we did experience some late season fronts. As the weather stabilized, spring-like weather arose, as did the water temperatures. Good catches of trout came from Lower and East Galveston bay. Everything was shaping up for an excellent year of fishing.

May and June arrived and the weather took a turn for the best. Fishing in East Bay got even better, with excellent catches of speckled trout coming from the reefs. During the latter part of May, trout made their move to the middle areas of the bay. The trout catches increased around Eagle Point. In June, the wells located off of Eagle Point produced excellent catches of trout and redfish.

July and August blew in along with inconsistent winds. On any given day, the wind would blow from two or three different directions and velocity. This curtailed what was excellent trout fishing. Those who concentrated their effort on other species, were rewarded. I myself went after redfish and the action was outstanding! Winds finally settled in late August, and the trout catches rebounded, along with great catches of sand/gulf trout and drum.

This bring us to September and October. In my last article, I stated these two months were the “transition period” for Galveston Bay. Indeed it was! During the first week of September, everything was good and fish were falling into their seasonal change. Then, the Galveston area experienced rain, almost, if not every day in September. We did not have a major flush of freshwater into our bay, but in some locations, 100 year old rainfall totals were broken for the month.

dillman2 Galveston Bay: 2018 Past and Present

Maco Fowlkes, Gage Fowlkes and Mike Bishop.

In October, Florida was hit with a catastrophic hurricane, which caused our tide levels to rise 2 feet above normal. The high tides have curtailed catches. Look for tide levels and fishing to return to a normal fall pattern as more cold fronts occur.

Finally, this bring us to November and December; what I refer to as the “Holiday Season.” There is no better time for a true sportsman in Texas. Fishing between the fronts can produce some of the best catches of the year, and hunting season is wide open. On the fishing scene, the annual flounder run will be in full swing. These fish will be making their migration to the Gulf, and lots of anglers will target just these fish for their well known table fare! Trout and redfish will be plentiful in the upper end of our bay system. I will be fishing between the fronts and preparing for the annual Houston Boat Show starting Jan. 4, 2019.

Eagle Point Fishing Camp will continue to hold live bait. They can be reached at 281-339-1131 for updates on bait and fishing. Until next year, may God Bless all of you during this great time of year.

2018 Seabrook Saltwater Derby Results

November 1st, 2018

sbrook2 2018 Seabrook Saltwater Derby Results

The 9th Annual Seabrook Saltwater Derby took place on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. Many nice fish made it to the scales, despite challenging conditions. Participants enjoyed cold beer, tacos and giveaways a-plenty at the weigh-in at CABO Clear Lake.

Heaviest Redfish

1. Brandon Perez: 9.19

2. Tyler Cervenka: 8.76

3. Daniel Marshall: 8.27

Heaviest Trout

1. Daniel Marshall: 4.07

2. Michael Fesco: 3.83

3. Troy Albright: 3.52

Heaviest Flounder

1. Gerald McDermott: 3.08

2. Michael Fesco: 2.14

3. Kyle Cervenka: 2.14

Heaviest Redfish Stringer

1. Waterloo: 23.7

2. Pullin’ 3 G’s: 21.14

3. Degens from up Country: 20.71

Heaviest Trout Stringer

1. Muy Loco: 14.31

2. Three Amigos: 11.81

3. Gig Em: 11.2

The Keys to Shallow Redfish Success

September 1st, 2018

soule2 The Keys to Shallow Redfish Success

Captain Clay Sheward with a healthy marsh redfish.

By Capt. Steve Soule

“Everything happens for a reason.”

We’ve all heard this expression, maybe not so often when we talk about fishing, but it definitely applies. As we learn an area or just learn to fish, things happen throughout the course of our days on the water. When we are novices, or less experienced, most of these things seem random or happen by chance. Whether it’s catching a fish or finding a new spot, it isn’t easy to see how the pieces of the fishing puzzle fall into place. Over time, the pieces come together, and details of how and why become much more clear.

For advanced or professional level anglers, fishing isn’t left to chance. It simply cannot be if you want to find shallow redfish success and find it regularly. I’ve learned lessons over many years and watched similar scenarios play out time and time again. The perspective of a guide, especially one who isn’t actively fishing, but more teaching and directing customers to fish is a very different one. Years of pushing a small skiff around the shallows teaches you many things. You get to watch fishing moments play out from a totally different point of view. It’s like having a grand stand seat on the front row, watching the entire scene play out in front of you, successful or not.

There is a ton to be learned both visually and with the end of the push pole about contours and bay bottom variations. My early years as an avid wader taught me many lessons that simply could not be learned from a standing in a boat. Contours, tapers and bottom composition are some of the most important factors in determining fish location and feeding pathways. These things, like so many that have led to fishing success for me are often quite subtle and the type of things that go totally unnoticed by the majority of people on the bay.

Sharpen Your Sight

I had a day several years ago fishing with a customer new to shallow water. I had met him around 5:45 am for a mid summer sight casting trip. As per my usual, the morning was spent trying to acclimate the customer to the world of shallow water fishing. Trying to teach him to see fish, even when they aren’t visible, and understand the signs. This particular day, I became much more aware of just how many signs and subtleties I look for and try to relate to customers. It was somewhere around 11 a.m. when I mentioned a small mullet jumping. This was a little more obvious than many of the things I had pointed out that morning. The customer responded that this was the first thing they were able to notice, despite me talking and pointing things out all morning. I found this rather interesting, mostly because it made me realize that the level of scrutiny I look at my surroundings, goes far beyond what most people would see.

For those new to the sport, I’m sure that it’s tough to keep up with someone like me who is constantly pointing out things of interest and trying to describe their significance. Moreover, it probably generates some concern when they can’t or simply don’t see even half of what I tell them I’m looking for. I talk about all manner of things from “mud boils” and swirls, to wakes and pushes. Not the average language for most, and among the thousands of jumping mullet, flying birds and general commotion on the water, these things aren’t easy to distinguish.

reds918 The Keys to Shallow Redfish Success

Kristen Soule’ with a shallow water redfish and a shirt borrowed from dad.

Now, when we start to take this to an even more intense level of things like seeing a two-inch white shrimp jumping 50 feet away from you, it becomes easy to understand how this can be challenging when its all so new.

In my nearly 40 years of shallow water fishing, I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with hundreds of anglers, from complete novices to those who have fished this coast much longer than I have. I’ve always made a point of trying to learn something from every situation, and there have been many days when lessons have come from people with considerably less experience. Perspectives can be so different as we progress in fishing and gain knowledge and experience.

I have a great friend and fellow angler that I have known for many years and have gotten to spend more days on the water recently. We just had a day on the water where he asked me about boat positioning. This is all important in sight fishing, especially fly fishing, and a topic that all of my friends seem to expect me to have an exact answer to. This particular day, I gave a response that had become something that I’ve come to take as fairly obvious. “Follow the contour line;” a fairly subtle depth change that runs along this particular shallow flat. Something that in my mind had become a standard practice and to me was quite visible. It took some time, zig zagging back and forth across this contour before he began to realize what I meant. Just one of the many things that has led me to greater success in finding fish.

For many years, I have made a point to take careful notice about where I see fish and as much as possible what they are doing and the direction that they are moving. When you fish shallow, you get to see so much more and the opportunities to learn are everywhere around you. If you make a practice of little things like this,  over time you can start to see patterns form that will only lead to future success. Sometimes these patterns apply within the course of a day, other times they are the type that would get logged into the memory banks as seasonal.

One of my favorites has always been trying to note what depth the fish are at. Given that most of the water I fish is shallower than most people would fish, it’s much easier to take note of. You probably wouldn’t think that the moving between 7 and 10 inches deep would make much difference, but there are many days when it really does.

roseate spoonbill

The Other Birds

Birds on the bay can be some of the best indicators around. I always tell people they are way better at finding fish than we are. We fish for fun, mostly. Birds find fish, and things that fish eat, to survive. Knowing various birds that we see around the bay and understanding what their various behaviors indicate is another invaluable tool. We all know the value of seagulls in leading us to hungry packs of trout or redfish. How many of us pay attention to a snowy egret or an ibis? If you saw three roseate spoonbills walking a shoreline, would you pay them any attention? Do you ever pay attention to pelicans? Could you even identify a loon? Every one of these birds can and will lead you to fish, along with many others. But without having seen them in action and having the experience of knowing what they mean, they just become a part of the coastal scenery.

The keys to success aren’t always obvious. I’ve told people for years that you can’t always go look for the fish. Some days you have to look for the signs of the fish. The movements visible on the waters surface; a shrimp flipping out of the water, being able to distinguish a different type of baitfish, or recognizing the difference in the way mullet jump. Being “tuned in” to your surroundings and constantly making the effort to learn and understand the “why” can only make you a better angler and one who finds success more consistently over time.

Columbia Fishing Gear

April 30th, 2018

Outfit your next fishing adventure with state-of-the-art gear from Columbia.

mega vent2 Columbia Fishing Gear

Megavent™ II PFG Shoe

It dries quickly, drains water easily, and laces up fast. The latest Megavent™ hybrid shoe is made for the professional angler who needs an outsole that grips when wet, an upper that resists stains, and an overall design that performs when the excitement hits.

columbia pant Columbia Fishing Gear

PFG Blood and Guts III Convertible Pant

With a quick zipper pull, these pants convert into an 8.5″ inseam short that lets you adapt to changing conditions. They’re crafted from a lightweight yet durable nylon ripstop fabric that repels angling stains, resists harsh UV rays, and dries fast so you won’t get soggy.

Flycaster LS Hoodie

New from Columbia, this long sleeve shirt with Omni-Wick and Omni-Shade UPF 30 technology has a built-in hood that will keep you cool and protected.

PFG Mesh Snap Back Ball Cap

Built with a cool-wearing mesh back and moxie fish flag graphic, this hard-working PFG ball cap keeps the sun off your face as you reel ’em in—or run errands around town. A classic adjustable snap-back closure lets you dial in the perfect fit.

Gear Up For Spring

February 28th, 2018

pfg board short Gear Up For Spring

Columbia PFG Offshore Camo Fade Boardshort

Combining good looks and high-performance, these Columbia boardshorts cover all the bases. The Omni-Wick and Omni-Shade UPF 50 fabric protects from the sun and dries quickly. Stash your keys or extra tackle in a zippered cargo pocket. These boardshorts even have a bottle opener for those celebrations on the dock or beach. Available in five digital fade colors. Shown in Cedar Redfish Digi Fade Print.

www.columbia.com

salty crew hat Gear Up For Spring

Salty Crew Mahi Trucker Hat

Choose to keep it salty with this Salty Crew trucker hat. Features a mesh back and nylon ‘dorado’ patch sewn to the front.

www.salty-crew.com

Columbia Men’s Dorado CVO PFG Shoe

This versatile shoe combines a comfortable wear-anywhere design and high-performance pedigree. Super-plush and quick-drying, the Dorado CVO PFG is built for the life aquatic with a breathable mesh upper, superior midsole cushioning, and wet grip traction. Plus, advanced water and stain repellency helps ensure a clean look whether you’re dockside or downtown. Shown in Zour/Emerald Sea

www.columbia.com

Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Twitchbait

This slow sinking lipless hard bait by Yo-Zuri exhibits an erratic darting action during a twitch and pause retrieve. Use the smaller 2 3/4” size in Ghost Shad to imitate an injured glass minnow when fishing the lights at night this spring.

www.yo-zuri.com

Yo-Zuri 3DR Minnow

Small Yo-Zuri jerkbaits have long been a secret weapon for targeting redfish and trout around nighttime light sources. New for 2018, the 2 3/4 3DR Minnow in Real Glass Minnow is a perfect forage imitation to use around causeway or canal lights.

www.yo-zuri.com

Strike King Redfish Magic Spinnerbait

Spring means high winds, high tides and murky water in the marsh. Search out hungry redfish with the extra vibration and flash from this proven Strike King spinnerbait. Shown in Black Neon Chartreuse. Available in 1/8 or 1/4 oz sizes.

www.strikeking.com

FishStix “Kitchen Sink”

The FishStix “Kitchen Sink,”  7’ Medium bait cast rod is built for throwing a little bit of everything. It has enough backbone and power to throw heavier baits such as topwaters, popping corks, live bait and crankbaits but still has a fast enough tip to be able to throw tails. It’s the perfect rod for beginners, everyday anglers, and guides because of its great versatility and dependability.

“Kitchen Sink”

Length/Action: 7’ Medium

Line: 10 – 20 LBS

Lure: 3/8 -1 Oz.

Micro guides

Fuji SK2 Split Reel Seat

www.gotfishstix.com

13 Fishing Concept Z Baitcasting Reel

13 Fishing is exploring the future of fishing reels with the first high performance baitcasting reel that uses zero ball bearings. The result is a quiet and far-reaching cast that won’t suffer performance loss from debris, corrosion or environmental wear. A ridiculous 22 pounds of max drag keeps even the biggest fish in check.

Weight: 6.4 oz., Line Capacity: 12/135, Ratio: 6.6:1, 7.3:1 or 8.1:1

www.13fishing.com

Wilderness Systems Ride 135

What you can see is what you catch when sight fishing for marsh redfish. This time-tested Wilderness Systems yak is stable enough for any angler to stand up in and gain a better vantage point. The 13”6’ length will keep you paddling happy vs. shorter kayaks. Shown in Mango.

www.wildernesssystems.com

 

Down South Lures’ Mike Bosse

January 1st, 2018

mike bosse dsl Down South Lures Mike Bosse

Mike Bosse with a big trout caught on a Down South Lure in red shad.

Interview by Brandon Rowan

Where are you from?

I was born is Cypress, Texas. We moved to Chappell Hill when I was four years old. I grew up there and went to Brenham High School. We grew up fishing ponds, the New Year’s Creek and the Brazos River. Eventually, we graduated to fishing Lake Conroe, Fayette, and Gibbons Creek before I got bit by the “saltwater bug.”

DSLkickin Down South Lures Mike Bosse

Down South Lure in Kickin’ Chicken.

Tell me about the journey that led up to the design and success of Down South Lures.

Like many people, I had an extreme love for fishing. Since I pond hopped all the time, I loved to fish for bass. This inspired me to make my first lure when I was 12 years old. I cut about 3 inches off my mom’s wooden broom handle and carved a cup out of one end to make a “popper lure.” Then I grabbed an old Heddon Torpedo, took the screw-in eyelet off the nose and screwed it into the nose of my bait. The hooks were removed from the old Torpedo, and I screwed those into the bottom of my lure. I did not paint the plug; I just tied it on and went fishing. A two-pound bass was caught that afternoon on it.

Since we bass fished big lakes like Conroe, we threw a lot of Carolina rigged sickle tailed baits in deep water. We loved the way the bait swam down off the ledges when we dragged them over humps and creek beds. We were firm believers that fish ate the bait when it was falling, more often than not. Well, fast forward about 15 years and I found a love for saltwater fishing. I noticed that most of the paddle tails and tout tails did not swim on the fall like our bass worms did. After that, I began to tinker with other plastic baits, modifying them to have action while falling. It just grew from there. More and more friends were asking me to make them baits. After that I cut my own mold design. It has grown into the Down South Lure that you see today.

Were there any unforeseen challenges or surprises have you encountered while developing Down South?

One of the biggest challenges in the lure industry is that you have to prove that your bait is different and has a place in peoples’ tackle boxes. The only way you can do that is by fishing with it, and getting it into the hands of reputable fishermen. Once they see that the bait has merit, they will begin to purchase your lure. It’s very hard to get fisherman to switch from something they have been throwing successfully for years.

Another surprise to me was that it was extremely hard to get shelf space. Going into it, I figured that if I had a good product with professional packaging, I would be granted pegs. That’s not the case at all. People have to ask for your products over and over. Then you can get a spot on the wall in a tackle shop.

Michael Naymik with a 23.3″ Galveston flounder caught on Down South Lures.

What is your personal favorite DSL lure/rigging?

I’m pretty simple. I like a 1/4 oz. or 1/8 oz. 3/0 jighead rigged with either the original Southern Shad or the Super Model XL. I throw various colors, depending on the water clarity. If I had to pick one color for all clarity it would be Chicken of the C.

What colors and riggings are best for the super DSL for big trout in the winter?

I like to go with as light a jighead as possible considering the conditions. If it is windy, or the current is moving pretty good you may have to use a little heavier jighead.  If you notice that your lure is not getting down to the bottom, and there is a big bow in your slack line, you need to go heavier. My personal favorite “big fish” colors are Red Shad, True Plum, Key Lime, and Howell’s Strawberry Wine.

What kind of retrieve do you recommend when fishing DSLs?

Retrieves can vary with the conditions as well. My personal all-around favorite is to let the bait sink to the bottom and then retrieve with a twitch, twitch, pause cadence. I think fish are more reactionary feeders, and that they do not over think when feeding. That’s how they have survived this long. The twitch, twitch, pause resembles a classic “two hop” shrimp escape. Though my bait more resembles a fish swimming, or an eel escaping to the bottom, I always think that the most natural movements get the most strikes. You will notice that most of your bites will be when this bait is falling.

Do you have a favorite fishing moment? Could be a big fish or trophy but also a special fish or situation.

I have a bunch that stick out, but probably my favorite was when I was when I located some big trout while prefishing for a redfish tournament in Galveston. I was throwing my baits against a stretch of rocky shoreline. There was a lot of bait activity on that particular rock line point, so I fired my Chicken of the C in there and caught a 5 pounder. The next cast was another solid 5 pounder. I just eased away and told myself, “I’m bringing my girlfriend here first thing in the morning.”

We got up early, and I told her I was not going to fish, just run the trolling motor. We eased up to the point and she caught 3 fish very quickly to 4 pounds on a pink MirrOlure She Dog (She loves topwater and the conditions were perfect for it.) As we approached to honey hole, I told her to cast right by that one larger rock that had a wash out behind it. She gave it a perfect cast, and within 6 twitches she had a major explosion. It ended up being her largest trout ever measuring 28.5 inches. She said, let’s quit on that cast, but I wanted a flounder for lunch. We agreed to try for 15 minutes pitching around some rocks in a spot where I have caught them before. It was only 50 yards away from the trout spot. Within 5 minutes I had the solid thump of a flounder right by the boat on my Chicken of the C lure. I set the hook, and all hell broke loose. It was a big red! I told my girlfriend to get the net because I saw how many spots it had on its side. It was absolutely covered. I told her whatever you do, do not miss this fish! I’ll never hook one like this again. She got it on the first swipe. It measured 31.5 inches and had 144 spots on it. I took close up photos of both sides of the fish, and released the beauty for someone else to catch.  We never made another cast that morning. I racked the trolling motor up and we headed back to the dock. The moral of the story is, I’ve had better days with numbers of fish, but we both broke personal records that day.

This big trout was caught on a Key Lime Super Model in Mansfield with Capt. Daniel Land.

What’s your favorite place you have fished?

If I had to pick one bay system in Texas, it would be Port Mansfield. The vast grass flats are just too appealing. The deep reefs and rocks of Galveston are a close second in the state. Poling for permit in the Florida Keys is my favorite out of state adventure.

Aside from fishing, what else are you passionate about?

When I’m not fishing, I like to hang out with friends, watch football, and BBQ while enjoying a cold beverage. We enjoy going deer hunting when we get a chance as well. Recently, I have become more intrigued with deer hunting, so my tournament partner and I have secured a deer lease in south Texas for next year.

Is there any Down South Lure news or upcoming events you’d like to let our readers know about?

Yes, always be on the lookout for new and innovating products and colors that we are working on releasing. Give us a follow on Facebook and Instagram to see all the updates. We post everything up there, and feature exceptional catches on our page. As always, we will have a booth at the Houston Boat Show in January, The All Valley Boat Show in McAllen in February, and The Houston Fishing Show in March. We always have our lures and apparel on special at these shows, so come by and get a deal. In addition, we will be doing some raffles and drawings for people that stop by at these shows. As always, you can shop all of our products at www.downsouthlures.com. See you guys soon and tight lines.

Your First Offshore Fishing Trip

July 17th, 2013

by Capt. Joe Kent

doradofish Your First Offshore Fishing Trip

July and August are the top months for offshore fishing off of the Texas Coast and each year when calm conditions set in during the Dog Days of Summer, the urge hits to try offshore fishing.

With the numerous days with high pressure settling in resulting in light winds and low probabilities of severe weather, small boaters give-in to the urge to venture beyond the jetties.

This time of year varieties of pelagic fish are roaming the waters of the Gulf of Mexico within easy reach of the “Mosquito Fleet” of smaller sea-worthy boats.  If you are one of the many newcomers to offshore fishing in this manner, let’s discuss some of the most common mistakes made by those new to the scene.

While this might not be one of the common mistakes, the Cardinal Rule for all captains is to check the weather forecast before departing and to keep monitoring it.

A book easily could be written on all of this; however, for purposes of our discussion, we will divide this topic into two segments, the boat and the fishing and address some of the key mistakes.

snapper1 300x200 Your First Offshore Fishing TripPreparing Your Boat

Fuel: Fuel use for an offshore trip is going to be much greater than for most bay and other inshore trips.  Carry at least 30% more fuel than you estimate you will use.

Float Plan: Before leaving dock have a float plan, meaning a compass course from the jetties, an estimate of how far you will travel, the estimated time of return to dock and leave it with someone who will be the first to realize you are late returning.  Most of all stick with your plan.

Communication: Carry your cell phone fully charged with the number of the marina or bait camp you departed from, the coast guard and sheriff’s offices. If possible have a VHF or Citizens Band Radio with you.

Navigation equipment: A good quality compass is a must.  A GPS system, either hand held or permanently mounted, is close behind in the pecking order.

Shade: Shade is important on the open water.  The length of the trips is usually much longer which means longer exposure to the overhead sun.  Any shade will be welcomed after a few hours of the sun beating down upon you.

Extra provisions: Take along much more water than you estimate you will drink.  If mechanical problems crop up, it likely will take a good length of time before help arrives.  Often disabled boats float overnight before being located and towed to shore.  For the same reason, a more complete first aid kit is needed.

Flares: Flares are not required for many inshore boats; however, for running offshore they not only are necessary, but required by the regulations.

Life jackets: Life jackets called PFD’s (personal flotation devices) are required.  While lesser grade PFD’s are allowed by law, offshore boats should carry type I PFD’s.  They are the best and keep an unconscious person’s head above water.  Along with the life jackets should be some light rope to use in the event the boat capsizes and several people are afloat in PFD’s.  Tying each together with several feet of rope will prevent the group from separating.  One of the rules in rescue is “bigger is better” meaning a cluster of life jackets are easier to spot than just one.

Fishing Offshore

(equipment and techniques)

The Penn 309 and Shimano TLD25 are both sturdy, affordable reel options for first timers offshore.

The Penn 309 and Shimano TLD25 are both sturdy, affordable reel options for first timers offshore.

The biggest mistakes made by newcomers offshore are in the size of equipment, the lack of proper accessories and poor knowledge of Federal Fishing Regulations.

Too light and too heavy describe most of the problems with rod and reels.  The equipment should be designed for the type of fish you are after.

Medium weight tackle is normally plenty for the pelagic fish, which are king mackerel, ling, Dorado, shark, barracuda and others.  Heavier tackle is needed for bottom fishing for reef fish such as snapper, grouper, triggerfish and others.  Normally when fishing bottom, it is necessary to bring the fish to surface quickly and heavier tackle is required.

For surface fish, the drag on your reel is a key element to a successful landing.  Twenty- pound test line and a little heavier are all that is normally needed for runs up to 40 miles out.

Wire and coated wire leaders are necessary for the pelagic fish while heavy monofilament is suitable for bottom rigs. Circle hooks are required while fishing for reef fish.

A gaff and club are vital equipment.  Most pelagic fish are gaffed and then clubbed (hit hard on the head) before bringing them into the boat.  Landing nets are fine for smaller fish; however, for the really large ones, a gaff is required. Recently added to the list of required items in a boat fishing offshore are venting and hook-releasing devices.

Larger hooks and weights are required offshore.  Trout tackle (except for possibly the rod and reel with heavier line) will not be enough.

The preference of size of hook varies among fisherman however for the conventional J-hooks, the size is usually within the 5/0 to 8/0 range for drifting and trolling and  circle hooks in the 6/0 to 12/0 range for reef and bottom fishing.

The size of weights are determined by the strength of the current.  The idea is to use the smallest weight necessary to get the bait to the bottom quickly.  A ¾ ounce weight might work one day while the next it could take six ounces or greater.  All of this will develop with experience.

Techniques differ from inshore fishing when fishing for pelagic fish.  Drifting baits along the surface or just below and trolling both artificials and natural baits are the two main techniques for the pelagics.  Watch the setting on your drag, as most newcomers set it too strong and the sudden strike is more than the line strength can handle.

The Federal Fishing Rules are more complex and confusing than state rules.  Know the bag and size limits for the fish you are after and also if the season is open or closed.  If you catch a fish you cannot identify or you are not familiar with the rules governing it, best to release it.

Have fun on your first voyage offshore and be safe.