Catch Saltwater Fish


Saltwater fish go with salt water life afloat. Many liveaboard cruising folk say that they do not catch many fish, but it is generally because they do not target the fish type and use the correct rigs.

Catching your own fish is often a great way to balance the cruising budget, and nothing quite tastes so good as fresh fish.

Simply throwing a line off the stern and hoping for the best is not going to keep you that well fed. The most common salt-water fish caught off the stern are those generally termed as pelagic fish such as the Spanish Mackerel, the School and Spotted Mackerel, Bonito and Tuna, or sometimes a Dorado (Dolphin Fish). These are migratory ocean going fish that surface feed on smaller bait fish.

Many top anglers will also tell you that saltwater fish bite better on the full moon, or the periods each side of it, so give it a try. This applies to ocean, reef and estuary fishing.

There are even some clever digital watches will work out optimum fishing periods, everything helps. I game fishing boat captain friend of mine swears by these watches, and what's more they are quite cheap to buy.

Which surface fish is which?

Don’t know which fish it is! well then here is a quick guide. Invest in a saltwater identification chart and laminate it for quick reference.

Mackerels generally have triangular, sharp teeth and rigid, crescent shaped tails.

Barracuda have long needle looking teeth prominent on the top jaw and a soft tail similar to bream,

Tuna and bonito have a cigar shaped body with dark blue or green backs and silver bellies, Bonito generally have horizontal stripes.

The ocean is often a rather barren place for fish, those large trawlers and long-liners don't help the situation much either, but it can simply be a question of fishing where the saltwater fish will be feeding. These areas include the following, so it pays to keep a close eye on your chart depth contours, sometimes a minor course deviation can pay culinary dividends.

Reef systems - These are natural locations for saltwater fish to concentrate

Sub sea mountains, plateaus, and pinnacles - A rise in the seabed of only 50 feet can produce results on the surface 300 feet above particularly where currents rise off that feature and cause eddies on the surface

Current lines - Fish are often seen foraging along these lines

Temperature occlusions - This is generally on the continental shelf where deep and colder waters meet inshore warmer shelf waters. A series of tacks across the line is often very useful

Weed Rafts - The fish often travel with the raft using it as protection, and as a source of food. (if you are ever unfortunate enough to end up in a life raft, try and secure yourself to a weed raft if you drift into one, as it has abundant life saving life).

Visual signs of saltwater fish - Flocks of seabirds wheeling and diving. Generally they are feeding on surface schools. Signs of surface fish schools jumping as predators chase them. Often schools are chased by sharks, dolphins and other larger predatory fish


Trolled lures are the general method of fishing for pelagic fish. There are a few basic recommendations to follow. If using lines, braided lines are generally a lot better as it tends to kink a lot less. My personal choice on my boat is braided line with at least a 200lb breaking strain leader. Use stainless or black swivels to join the trace. The cord is attached to the boat using a rubber toilet pipe sealing ring to cushion the strike shock. If using a reel then one with a variable clutch is essential. Most fish are lost (the ones that get away!) as they break the line on the initial strike and run. Set the tension so that it pays out under medium pressure. When a fish strikes, round up and take way off the boat, then just wind in hard, do not tighten up the clutch. Wear the sailing gloves when you haul them in, as line can cause nasty lacerations when a saltwater fish does a run.

The best catches of fish are always taken along reef edges and close to deep passages, around islands. The best boat speeds are around 3-6 knots, with around 100 feet (30 meters) of line paid out astern. Gaff the fish before lifting aboard, as many a good saltwater fish is lost at this stage as the hooks straighten out, lines break or the traces are severed. You lose a good and expensive lure as well.


When you land your catch, use a net, as so many fish lost when hauling straight on board, then promptly dispatch the victim between the eyes with something heavy and blunt, I use a winch handle, and then bleed the fish straight away. This is done by cutting either under or behind the gills. Stand and have your picture taken with the fish for the album and then bleed, fillet and put straight on ice or in the frig. Failure to do this will mean rapid softening and discoloration of the flesh, which is a waste after all the effort and expense.


For every saltwater fish there are several lures. There are many brands of lures, some prefer spoons and similar or more lifelike lures that imitate saltwater fish movement and colors. The best lures to use varies, I use squid types, with lots of color and bubble creation, also I use either as a leader or as the lure, a flying fish. The flying fish skips across the water like the real prey that many tropical pelagic saltwater fish subsist on, as a leader I place one about 6-8 feet up from another smaller different lure. The fish are attracted to the skipping flying fish, and then hone in on the smaller lure. The flying fish is also successful on it’s own. All about fishing tips.  Catch More Saltwater Fish