- Black sea bass have dangerously sharp spines on their dorsal fin that can puncture human skin.
- The all-tackle world record for black sea bass is 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
- When hooked in deep water and brought quickly to the surface, a black sea bass will often regurgitate its stomach contents.
Wrecks, rigs (oil-drilling platforms) and artificial reefs (man made underwater structure) are widely considered sure-bet, offshore saltwater angling locations. A plethora of species is encountered at these sites, and a variety of angling tactics are productive. So it’s no wonder that scores of offshore anglers far and wide are drawn to these fishing hotbeds along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.
Survival in the open seas, for all game fish, is centered on food. A multitude of species is attracted to wrecks, artificial reefs and rigs because of the abundance of baitfish that hold on and around the structures.
Big snapper are often found lurking in the depths near reefs and wrecks.
Wrecks and artificial reefs are prime habitat for large bottom fish, such as grouper and snapper. You’re also likely to find numerous other game-fish species, such as mackerel [Spanish and king], barracuda, dolphin, wahoo, tuna, kingfish and even billfish, on or near wrecks. In the Northeast, add cod, hake and pollock to the list.
Pelagic species are also often found at and around deep-water drilling platforms. Rigs serve as aquatic fast food stops for the fish—fish that are often traveling. Again, congregations of baitfish are the magnets that attract many of the species listed above to the rigs as well as amberjack, pompano, spadefish, tripletail, yellowfin and others.
Wreck, artificial reef and rig fishing is often seasonal in its scope. Because many of the species attracted to these areas of structure are traveling or migrating, the game fish found on them in spring or fall may not be the fish present in the summer or winter months.
Learning about seasonal migrations is important to success. The species present at the angling sites dictate the tactics that are productive at different times of year. So knowing which fish will be in the region at any given time is critical to proper tackle and lure/bait selection and presentation.
Unlike rigs, which are visible, locating submerged wrecks and artificial reefs require knowledge of electronics [GPS, loran, sonar] in conjunction with nautical maps and charts. Although most wreck locations are noted on charts/maps or are available from a wide range of sources such as state marine fisheries divisions and saltwater angling associations, knowledge of how to expeditiously operate electronics or read maps to reach the locations is key.
Heading offshore without these skills is a waste of time at best—and dangerous at worse. Once offshore, visual landmarks aren’t available to guide you from spot to spot or back to port. Safe and productive angling relies upon sound electronics skills.
Successful rig fishing centers on variety. Working baits and lures at different depths and distances from a rig allows you to find patterns, eliminate unproductive tactics and hone your presentation so you can target active fish.
Most wrecks, artificial reefs and rigs are fished hard. As a result, finding prime habitat/structure near these locations can increase angling productivity. Locating these secondary areas takes time and requires a range of electronics and a well-thought-out search plan; but the rewards realized when fishing less-pressured sites are more than adequate pay for a
Breakaway areas are prime locales for impressive grouper.
little bit of work.
What are you looking for? Ledges and patches of hard, coral [live] bottom. Breakaway areas of wrecks or artificial reefs—sections of the wreck or reef that are situated away from the main structure—are also prime locations for bigger fish and increased numbers of fish.
Surface oil slicks are visual indicators of good fishing because they almost always identify feeding fish below. The oily residue of baitfish attacked and consumed by predator fish creates these slicks. Bird feeding activity often identifies slicks and is usually a good sign that active fish won’t be far away.
The angling tactics used at these structured locales are as diverse as the species that inhabit them. There are no absolutes. Trolling, drift fishing, still fishing and sight casting all are employed depending upon the time of year, the species present, the water depth being targeted and the prevailing tides and currents.
In addition, all types of tackle from lightweight to heavy-duty saltwater gear and fly-fishing tackle are employed. Both live bait and artificial lures are also productive. In most cases, however, 30- to 50-pound tackle is the all-around gear of choice due to the versatility it provides. Most wreck, reef and rig species dive or dart for line-breaking cover. Tackle backbone to keep the fish away from the structure is important to success.
For most casual anglers, fishing charters are the best bets for success. However, if you’re planning to hit the offshore waters in your own craft, plan on spending plenty of time researching, reading and talking shop with anglers in the know and studying maps and charts.
The most alluring aspect of wreck, reef and rig fishing, beside their fish-producing dependability, is the fact that you simply never know what you might bring to the gunnels of the boat. From small and quick, to massive and brutish, these saltwater fisheries have it all.