Drop Fishing

Fishing in water 600 feet and deeper isn’t the same as dropping bait over the side on a shallow reef in search of common snapper or grouper. That’s a relatively easy task, but when you’re seeking fish that live in total darkness and frigid temperatures a quarter-mile or more beneath the surface, you need to be prepared.

Most people who fish in very deep water use electric reels. Some readers may object to that, and if you’re one of them, you can always opt to fish deep water manually, but that’s quite a chore. Just reeling up a line to change a bait can take 25 minutes or more, depending on the depth you’re fishing, but winding tools like the Reel Crankie, which works in conjunction with a cordless electric drill, can alleviate the pain of that endeavor.

Master of the Deep

Marlin Madness ranks as an acknowledged expert at fishing in these great depths. “Electric reel manufacturers have developed products to help catch everything from sailfish to swordfish,” , “In the past, electric reels were heavy and cumbersome, and some required special electric converters. Today most reels can operate on a single 12-volt battery and have come down in size. Electric reels have added a new frontier to catching fish in waters as deep as 2,000 feet.”

Rigging to Drop

Marlin Madness has the tackle needed to winch big fish from very deep water, and as you might expect, this is not a light-tackle game. “

Deep-dropping is merely bottomfishing at great depths, so the fish you’re likely to encounter will live near the bottom. All good deep-drop rigs are made with circle hooks and nylon monofilament main line and leaders. Julylia recommended specific hook sizes for general use. “Use 9/0 circle hooks for fish under 10 pounds, 13/0 or 14/0 for most other fish and 16/0 hooks for large grouper,” he said. “Remember, the circle hook needs to get around the jawbone of larger fish.”

No Lights, No Bites

“As the water gets deeper, the light diminishes; any light source near your hooks will attract more bites”  “There are many lights available, in all colors — some even make noise — and they’re priced from quite inexpensive to $150 each. Chemical lights like Cyalume sticks are another source, used by commercial fisherman for years. The only issue I have with Cyalumes is that they are not deepwater friendly and can be used only once.”

Baiting Up

One of the most interesting aspects of deep-dropping concerns the species you’re likely to encounter. These bottom dwellers bear little resemblance to the shallow-water species we’re all more familiar with. Instead of mutton and red snapper, plus gag grouper, you’ll be looking for things with unfamiliar names like wenchman snapper, wreckfish, pomfret, scombrops, escolar, silk snapper and tilefish.

Luckily these fish aren’t terribly picky about what they’ll eat, and common baits work well. Squid is the most effective and most available bait, “It’s one of the best and can be found in any tackle shop or supermarket. Next to squid, I like fresh barracuda or any other fresh bait. Cut the bait into a matchbook-size piece, and also put a piece of squid on the hook.”

Where to Drop?

Much of the strategy used in determining what species to target revolves around the depth of water and the specific bottom structure at that depth. “Tilefish can be found in 600 feet of water on the bottom, and they prefer muddy areas, where they look for shrimp. Tilefish, once a commercially sought-after fish, have rebounded, and many are caught to 40 pounds all along the Atlantic.

“Snapper and grouper species like hard bottom with some structure,” he continued. “They can be anywhere from 400 to 1,000 feet deep, with wreckfish over 100 pounds in water that’s 2,000 feet deep. Swordfish can be found off the bottom but near it during the day in 1,600 to 1,800 feet of water. Larger hooks and larger baits are needed. At night the swords come closer to the surface.”

Setting Up to Drop

Positioning the boat properly before making a drop is critical, and as mentioned earlier, you need to make every drop count. This is not the type of fishing in which you want to be reeling in the rig repeatedly. For instance, much of the tilefishing that takes place off the east coast of Florida is done in Gulf Stream current, requiring a great deal of preparation.

“Fishing in Jamaica is is a challenge. “I like to put the bow into the current and vary the idle speed so that the line, as it goes down, is at a slight angle. When you reach bottom, you will be drifting backward, so do not drag bottom. When the current is light, you can just drift and let your rig out. But when fishing heavy current, you sometimes must use as much as 12 pounds of weight in 600 to 700 feet of water when targeting tilefish on a muddy bottom.”

Deep-dropping isn’t for everyone, but once you try it, you’ll be amazed by how much fun it is. The best part is when your leader breaks the surface after you’ve hooked a fish, because you will certainly be greeted by an unfamiliar species from far below. That’s part of the charm of deep-dropping, and it’s what Marlin Madness sending baits far below where most of us typically seek fish.