Pelagic Fishing in South Florida

Pelagic fishing is best described by this statement: if you don’t have 1,000 feet of water under your boat, you ain’t fishing! 

While that is not always true, pelagic fishing means deep water.  The species I chase are typically found from the outer reefs out to the Gulfstream.  The only time I’m fishing in shallow water, I’m usually chasing bait.  My father fished for many years using pelagic longlines, and I started going out with him at age 13. We were catching swordfish off South Florida before most fishermen in this area knew this species was out there in large numbers.  Although we made a living by catching these magnificent fish, I quickly learned that we have to protect our resources, and I advocated for caution and more protection for these fish early on.  My fears were realized when the swordfish fishery collapsed by the early 1980′s.  After years of little or no effort, these fish started making a comeback, but increase in pressure has prevented their numbers form coming back to levels seen in the ’70s.  I continue to advocate for sustainable fishing practices, and I’m always the first to practice what I preach.  I was releasing fish I considered small before there were size limits.

Photo of my brother with a large swordfish, summer 1976.

Pelagic Fishing for swordfish

In addition to swordfish, I have caught a variety of other fish found in our waters.  Sailfish, Dolphin (aka Mahi Mahi), Wahoo, Blackfin, Skipjack, and Yellowfin Tuna, Kingfish, Bonito, and several species of Grouper and Snapper.  Although rare in our waters, Blue and White Marlin can also be found here in deep water.  Below is one of two kingfish I’ve caught over 70 lbs.  While fish this size are very rare, knowing when and where to fish for them greatly improves your chances.


This sailfish was our first fish of the morning the last time I went out with the brother and dad.  We were slow trolling with live bait looking for kingfish, and instead caught this “bait stealer”, which was promptly released after putting on quite a show close to the boat.  Luckily I captured this shot on one of those jumps.


The beauty and power of billfish is beyond explanation.  Seeing the way they fight is an awesome sight.  They truly earn the right to be released.  Shame that so many would get killed as trophies, and that so many continue to be taken by indiscriminate fishing practices throughout the world.  This sailfish was released of course, as they all should be.

sail 2


More Pelagic Photos on Flickr

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