How to catch a sailfish in Panama City Beach – Courtesy of Bob Ernst
What? You say there are sailfish to be caught in Panama City Beach? I don’t say that, but our neighbor Bob Ernst says, “There’s sailfish in them thar waters!”
In fact he said just that to Pat and Jennifer Broderick, neighbors and fellow owners in Hibiscus By The Bay. I just recently met the Brodericks. They are our boat slip neighbors. They purchased the boat slip right next to us and now keep their 20 ft Cobia boat there.
You see they had met Bob who is temporarily not fishing due to getting a hip replaced. Bob is gracious in sharing his fishing knowledge and he recently gave some GREAT fishing tips to Pat and Jennifer. You see Bob loves to catch sailfish. This area is not known for being a super sailfish destination however, you can catch a sailfish here and Bob knows how. He gave Pat and Jennifer tips on how to catch the bait, what to do with it and how to fish for the sailfish. Pat and Jennifer took his advice to heart and went fishing for sailfish!
And guess what? They went out and put Bob’s tips to work, and catch a sailfish! After taking some photos they released the fish alive and swimmin’.
Following is Pat and Jennifer’s fishing story…
We were about 2 miles Northwest of the pass and about ½ mile from shore, in 40 ft of water. We were drifting and freelining a live hardtail and a live herring. The herring were thick and schooling up around us. We were catching them on un-baited gold hooks. I had the hardtail hooked just in front of the dorsal and the herring lip-hooked. We were using 6/0 circle hooks on 80 lb mono leader. The sailfish hit the herring. Jen saw the strike. It was a good fish and a good fight. We got him alongside the boat and said, “now what”.
“Don’t worry, I saw this done once”, says I.
“Oh no”, says Jen. Jen held the pole, I got a glove on, grabbed his bill and pulled him over the gunwale. We freed the hook, that was in the corner of his mouth, took pictures, and put him back in the water. He swam away and we think he was fine.
The hook came right out. I’m happy/surprised he didn’t get off. I believe a King rig would have hurt him more so I’m glad we used a single circle hook for this catch.
For other Hibiscus residents who might learn how to catch a sailfish or might want to give catching a sailfish a try following is what Bob suggests…and we know it works.
Early fall before the water temps start falling, the arrival of large concentrations of bait fish, also brings the sailfish bite into the nearshore waters, making them a target for smaller crafts including kayaks and SUB’s.
Fish just off of the beach in waters ranging from 30 to 70 feet deep. Look for the usual signs of bait – nervous water, visible surface activity and birds diving-now set up a drift pattern in that area.
The set up is simple – a basic free line rig with a 9/0 circle hook attached to a short trace of 31 lb. wire (about 12 in.) tied to 6-8 ft. of 50 lb. fluorocarbon leader (attach with an Albright knot) attached to the main line with a ball bearing swivel. Use tackle of choice – conventional or open face spinning- in 20 to 50 lb class.
Lip hook your live bait and feed out the line to a suitable distance so the boat does not provide any shelter for the bait, otherwise your bait will be constantly swimming back under the boat seeking shelter . Set the rod in a rod holder and adjust the drag so it will feed line easily upon initial strike. Let the fish run, pick up rod and tighten the drag to a “set” level and allow the circle hook do it’s job thereby aiding in a safe release.
Baits of choice include large cigar minnows, herring, hard tails, mullet, even lady fish. The addition of a chum bag hanging from the boat will help in attracting bait and produce that all important bait slick back where your live baits are swimming.
The reason for the short trace of wire is to prevent cut offs by king mackerel, you can leave it off if you prefer.
This technique can work any where up and down the beach. Please handle your sailfish carefully, try to leave him in the water for photos, do not drag him up on the boat for this can cause internal damage to the fish.
Good luck, but remember once the water temps start dropping this bite will be over until next summer.
I think its GREAT that neighbors are sharing their fishing knowledge with others. I know I have learned alot about catching redfish and trout from from my conversations with neighbors like Bill Allen and Bob Ernst. Thanks guys! Now thanks to neighborly tips you know how to catch a sailfish. 🙂
Please feel free to post your comments below!
Light winds, calm seas and good fishing to you!
Mike and Vivian Foate