I saw the sign!
Keen jet-ski angler Kirk Davies stumbles across an unusual situation and cashes in…
It was many years ago that Ace of Base had the hit song ‘I saw the sign’, but it still resounds in my head today whenever my Waverunner’s fish-finder reveals a good patch of fish sign.
I’ve always been an advocate for having the best electronics you can afford: they really are invaluable for finding fish in places you would least expect to find them. Most people know that if you’re looking for kingfish, you’ll find them on reefy structures in all sorts of depths, often schooled up mid-water and showing as big marks or a large school on the sounder. Likewise, snapper also have a tell-tale signature, showing as one-off targets or as schools on the bottom (which can be sandy or reefy and weedy).
However, fish aren’t always where you expect them to be. On a recent trip out to 100m of water, when examining the edge of a bit of foul that came up to 70m, I saw a lot of fish sign at 30m, some 40m off the bottom and extending for over 100m horizontally. To the untrained eye, it looked like a large school of kingfish, barracouta or big baitfish, but I was soon to learn it was none of those.
The conditions were calm with little current, so I decided to target this mystery school of fish with light tackle – a soft-bait on a half-ounce jig head. Using 6kg line in this type of environment can be awesome fun, because there are some big fish lurking in locations like this and you never know what you’re going to get.
After working out the direction of my drift, I cast out the first soft-bait ahead of the ‘ski. Sure enough, as it dropped through the 25m mark, I started getting bites. In situations like this, it pays to stop the ‘bait’s descent and work it at that depth. If you continue to let the lure drop, it will pass through the area where the fish are holding. Consequently, as I had seen the fish on the sounder and the bites had confirmed their presence, it was worth sticking around for a minute to see what happened. I like to work the lure a little, as if it were on the bottom, and if nothing happens in the first 20 seconds or so, drop down another few metres and repeat the process. You will be amazed what can result!
And amazed I was. Some 40m from the bottom, on my first drop, I hooked up – and the initial run was a good one, the little Daiwa Freams 3000 squealing as whatever had grabbed my bait made its way towards the bottom. My initial thought was ‘kingfish’, especially given its location in the water column, but this assessment quickly changed as the fight progressed. After a bit of back and forth, the head shakes were feeling like a reasonable snapper and, sure enough, that is what it was!
Drop after drop I hooked up to nice-sized snapper at least 40 metres off the bottom. Fishing light tackle in this depth really
emphasises the fishing experience, with some of the runs seemingly endless. Interestingly, there were clearly small kingfish in this school as well.
A charter boat came and parked next to me after seeing the action I was experiencing, and dropped some live baits down into the school. They were less than 10 metres from me and hooking up on small kingfish on the live baits, yet the more slowly worked and fluttering soft-bait was ensuring I encountered good quality snapper every time. And when I decided to have a bit of fun with the kingfish, all I had to do was work the soft-bait a little more erratically, or retrieve it to the ‘ski a bit faster, and the little Daiwa reel would soon be screaming in protest.
The great thing about these fish was that most could be easily released. Even though I was fishing in water up to 100 metres deep, because the fish were being caught so near to the surface, their swim bladders weren’t too badly affected, enabling them to swim off strongly.
So, when out and about, keep an eye on your sounder and don’t be afraid to try a bit of prospecting – you never know what you might find in the depths!