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30 Saltwater Fishing Tips [Definitely Catch More Fish]

Everybody wants to catch more fish while saltwater fishing, it isn’t as easy as a lot of freshwater fishing, and there is a lot to know. Here are some tips to help you: Catch More Fish, Enjoy Fishing More, and to be a More Considerate Angler.

1. Tie Better Knots!

If tying knots make you nuts, learn just 3 knots that will get you through almost every situation. You have to learn how to tie two lines of approximately equal diameter, and you have to know how to tie lines of unequal diameter. Lastly, you have to know how to tie on to a hook, lure, swivel, and sinker. These can all be the same knot. Here’s our Knot Tying Page > The first 3 knots you’ll find there are the three you MUST KNOW. Go. Do it. Now. Uhm. Wait. Read the rest of these tips… 🙂

2. Use More Circle Hooks!

With circle hooks, the fish is hooked as it grabs, chews, or swallows the bait. Most of the time the hook is lodged in the mouth, where it should be, not in the stomach or esophagus where it can hurt the fish if you end up releasing it. Circle hooks are a responsible way to conserve fish because there is a high throw-back rate and throwing back a gut-hooked fish can often lead to death of the fish. Use sustainable fishing methods when at all possible. Circle hooks are an easy way to do that.

3. Keep Lures in Top Shape

When I was a teenager, I never gave one thought to maintaining the lures I had in my tacklebox. There were bits of shrimp on treble hooks and most of the time the hooks were rusting and dull. Shiny surfaces were non-reflective, and the whole state of things was a mess. As I got older and took fishing more seriously, I began to maintain my lures to keep them shiny AND functional. File your hooks and make sure they are sharp or you’re just wasting your time out there on the water. You can replace the hooks on many of your lures, and make them new again, so do so! Lures are expensive, keep them in great shape!

4. Change Your Line

When your line is looking dull and feels rough, it’s no longer in perfect shape and it is weaker than you think it is. You’ll break off while landing fish which is less than ideal for at least two reasons. The first being you lost the fish. The second being, the fish is now towing around yards of line that may trap it or other fish in the time it takes to deteriorate (break-down). Keep your line fresh and strong.

5. Wait 2-Seconds to Set the Hook

One thing beginner saltwater anglers do often is set the hook too fast. Most fish in the ocean could use a 2-second rule before setting the hook. Remember not to attempt to set a Circle Hook – it will fly right out of the fish’s mouth!

6. Know the Tides

Besides the bait or lure you’re using, there is little else that is as important as whether there is an incoming or outgoing tide, and how strong it is. This is especially important when you’re fishing inshore. When offshore, the height of the tide matters. Fish feed on moving water most often and fishing a slack tide in the hot sun is not exactly a great way to spend a day. There are worse ways, don’t get me wrong! But, there are also better times to fish.

7. Marine Charts

When fishing from a boat, even a kayak, you’d do well to familiarize yourself with the marine charts for your favorite areas for fishing. Specific types of fish are commonly found in the same types of areas. Snook love mangroves, piers, and docks. Almost every fish likes structure of some kind because smaller fish will hide there. Top predators like Snook can feed on smaller fish regularly.

Marine charts will show you where structure (wrecks) are and also where holes are, and sharp drop-offs. You may find fish there as the temperature changes with depth and if you’re not catching them in the shallower water, try a bit deeper. Sometimes 1-2 feet deeper is all it takes. This is the same for freshwater fish like bass and trout. All fish thermoregulate, and water depth is very important to keep them in a healthy temperature range.

8. Make Some Noise!

The lures you fish with have to match conditions. There’s a reason lures being trolled behind a boat make so many bubbles – they are competing with the bubbles rising from the spin of the prop. They provide a nice trail for a fish to see. Making noise with your lures and bait presentation is a great way to get fish interested. Use a popping cork when fishing for Speckled Trout and see what we’re talking about! Even in calm water, it can help. Now, don’t cast bait or lure right on top of a fish and make noise, make the noise a bit further away and bring it toward the fish. Most fish respond better to this method.

9. Use Braided Line

Braided fishing line has so many advantages. It has very little stretch and a smaller diameter than other lines of the same strength. They are very visible and have good resistance to abrasion, they don’t snap when rubbing against rough objects like pier concrete or wood, and other things. Braided lines are great for Deep Sea Fishing because they sink easier than other lines. Great for fishing 100 feet deep and more. Find a well-advertised brand and stick with it. You won’t go wrong with PowerPro, SpiderWire, and Berkley products. The quality control at a large company is worth using it. Don’t buy cheap line on sale.

10. Stop Using Wire Leaders

Wire leaders are so easily seen by fish that you will not hook as many fish using it as you would with thick monofilament like 50 lb. line. Mono virtually disappears under the water, and though fish eyes are good, they often miss it when they’re hunger kicks into gear. They’re less likely to miss a black wire. I notice a large drop off when using wire leader unless the water is murky and fish can’t see it anyway.

11. Lubricate Your New Reel. Lubricate Your Old Reel.

If you’re serious about fishing, and you go at least once every weekend, and you spend a lot of money (over $100) on gear each year, you need to know what is going on inside your reel. Take it apart slowly and get familiar with it. Take photos with your phone as you do so in order to get it back together. You can find schematic diagrams for top reels by Shimano, Penn, etc. You won’t find them for Chinese-made generic reels, so be very careful pulling those apart!

Lube your reels before putting them away for extended periods (a month+). Some recommend to soak a saltwater fishing reel in a bucket of water after every salt-session to remove salt from spray. Remember, as you reel line in, the saltwater is spraying fine mist off your rod guides and a spool full of wet line has drops of seawater that may drop down into the reel.

12. Water Change in the Baitwell

Change the water your live-bait is swimming in every 2 hours if possible. The best way for anglers on shore is to use the buckets with lots of holes in the lid that you can simply dunk into the water and mix it with fresh. Waste products build up in the water and take the place of oxygen even when using an aerator (bubble machine). Keep your live bait alive and filled with energy by keeping the water fresh.

13. The Juice

My Uncle John Keryeski (video) had a ‘secret juice’ formula for trout fishing that he swore by. As far as I know, he never let anyone know what it was, and he took the secret to the grave. Well, I started soaking my artificial lures in fish oil and other fish juice attractant I could find in the Walmart. I think I got more hook-ups because of it. I’m not positive I did, but at least the mental factor was at work and I believed I caught more fish. I think that’s what matters. Make up some secret sauce of your own. Menhaden oil is a good ingredient to start with.

14. You CAN Catch HUGE Fish with Light Gear

You don’t want to do this as a habit, but it’s possible to land big fish with lightweight gear that is made for freshwater trout fishing. You’ll have to read this fishing story to understand what I’m talking about. My Uncle Jim Rawlinson caught a Snook so big, with so LITTLE, I couldn’t believe what just happened.

15. Chum It!

For chumming to work, you should follow these steps. First, combine water, ground up fish and old shrimp, menhaden oil, and cat food. Put in a garbage bag that is in a garbage bag which is in a garbage bag. Three bags. You do NOT want this stuff seeping out to cover the inside of your freezer and fridge, believe me! Next, freeze it solid and dump it in a cooler. Use chum in moving water. The chum should disperse slowly over time. Put the frozen mess in a bait bucket with a lid with holes. Drop over side of boat, pier, or dock.

Chum lines draw fish in from a distance. Shake the bucket often by pulling on the rope and dropping it to release more chum. Chum brings smaller fish, which in-turn attract bigger fish. All the food in the water creates a feeding zone that can get very productive. Remember, keep the chum bucket at the same height you want to catch fish. For instance, don’t drop it to the bottom to catch Mahi-Mahi, which feed on topwater.

16. Heavier Gear is Better than Lighter Gear

If you’re undecided between 20 lb. test and 30 lb., just spool the 30 lb. If you’re undecided between your medium-light action rod and your medium, choose the medium. Get it? In my mind, it’s always better to have heavier gear than lighter. The chance of catching a bigger fish than what I expected gets me excited, and because I can’t stand when a fish breaks off, I always go a bit heavier on tackle. You probably should too.

Big tuna fish caught on hook and line on fishing charter out of South Florida.
Big gear for Big fish.

17. Wet Your Hands Before Touching Fish

I see this so much, even with the “fishing pros.” I catch venomous snakes for a living during my other life, and we’re super-cautious about introducing something to the snake’s habitat or skin that could have a negative effect. For instance, bug spray. Mosquitos can eat us alive, but we cannot have any bug spray residue on our hands when handling snakes or we could adversely affect the animal. At the very least WET YOUR HANDS with seawater before touching the fish. You’ll do less harm if letting the fish go to hopefully live another day.

18. More Natural Presentation of Lures

Using a simple Loop Knot with all your lures will allow the lure to move in a more natural way, less inhibited/affected by the knot holding it rigidly in place. Use Loop Knots whenever possible. Here’s our Knot Page.

19. Hook Live Bait in the Top Half

Ideally when you catch a fish, you want the hook to be lodged in the top half of the mouth/jaw. It’s better for pulling against that part. It’s less likely to come out. The reason most pros hook their bait in the top half of the fish with the hook point facing up, is because when the hook is set, it is set in the top jaw/mouth. I have seen a lot of anglers put the hook in upside down under the anus or in the tail. This is less than ideal and will result in fewer hook-ups.

20. Use Long Leaders

A long leader for live bait (or artificials often times) allows the fish to swim more naturally. A 1-foot long leader attached to a swivel will inhibit fish from swimming and acting naturally. I always use 5-foot-long leaders or longer for a better, more natural presentation.

21. Live Bait, Live Bait, and More Live Bait

There’s nothing better than live bait for fishing. Artificial lures can fool fish some of the time, but you can’t fool all the fish all of the time. Or something like that. Use live bait whenever possible. Learn to Throw a Net to catch live bait like pinfish, greenbacks, shad, menhaden, and mullet and increase the number of fish you catch dramatically. Mullet are also great cut-bait, so when they die don’t throw them to the pelicans, use as chum or in cut-bait. Ladyfish are also good for cut-bait and you should use them, they’re plentiful (and annoying!).

22. Live Bait Fish are Better than Shrimp

Better not because fish like them better, but better because you have less fish competing for them. Bait-stealers like pinfish can drive an angler stark-raving mad. Pinfish will pick a hook clean of shrimp in seconds, like little piranha. Avoid them by using small bait fish for your target species instead.

23. Fish Near Streams and Rivers

When fishing a place you’re not familiar with, check Google Maps for rivers and streams that empty into the ocean close to where you are. Brackish water combines fish and other sea-critters from two different ecosystems and it is often a great place to fish.

24. Know the 13 Sure-Fire Ways to Ruin Your Fishing Trip

I wrote this a little while back. These are good ways to ruin a fishing trip. Keep from doing that, it’s no fun.

25. Go Night Fishing (During the Week)

You probably have the time to fish at night, you just need to reprioritize fishing. If you can’t fish at night for a few hours, think about sleeping when you get home from work for 2-3 hours, waking up, and going fishing at a nearby dock or pier. I’ve brought my work clothes in my SUV and fished a pier until midnight or later, slept in the car, woke up to my mobile phone alarm, and got dressed and drove to work. If fishing is a priority, there’s a way to get it done! Get out there and fish, you do have the time.

26. Cast Sideways?

When fishing from the shore, cast sideways and parallel to the beach in most cases. Your bait or lure will be put in front of more fish which are in the shallows or along the edge where the water drops off a bit.

27. Don’t Give Up, Speed Up

I’ve had this happen so many times, that I want to share it with you here as one of my best tips I’ve never told anyone. We all have a pre-progammed speed of retrieve in mind for different lures we have. We throw it out, let it sink, and start a two-twitch let it fall, then retrieve presentation. We try over and over. Eventually we give up and say the fish aren’t biting.

BEFORE you give up, do this. Try the retrieve at the same depth, just do it faster. Then try shallower than you were at the speed you were, then try it shallower and faster. Then try it deeper and slow like you were, then deeper and faster. I know what this sounds like, but I assure you I’m talking about FISHING. Sometimes varying the retrieve to make it faster entices the fish and pushes the feed button and it’s FISH-ON!

28. Take the Pressure Off

If you hook a fish that has wrapped around structure, or went into a crevasse or something and you know you’re going to risk snapping the line if you force it out, take the opposite approach and let the line go limp. When hooked, fish will go into places they don’t really want to go, just to try to get away from the threat of being hooked. When they feel all pressure on the line release, they may feel it’s OK to go back out into the open in five or ten minutes. Yes, this takes some patience, but I’ve caught fish this way instead of breaking the line. Try it sometime with Snook or Grouper, you have nothing to lose!

29. Match Water and Presentation

Think about the water you’re fishing in. Is it warm or cool? If cold, the fish move slower. They don’t want to move as much. You may need to cast more and in more places to entice a fish to bite. If warm water, you can increase the speed of your retrieve.

If the water is murky, you can use brightly contrasting colors. If the water is clear, use clear and glow colored artificials. If sunny outside, you can use flashy silver or gold spoons or Gotcha Lure to attract fish attention. Start with your lures like this, and then if you don’t get any bites or enough bites, switch to something more or less colorful.

30. Stealth!

Many of you are hunters. You understand the need for absolute stealth as you hunt, sit and wait, even bringing the rifle to your eye to find your animal in the sights. This is what is necessary for fishing too, but few people pay this any attention all. If you’re Wade-Fishing or fishing from a boat, especially inshore, you’ll need to keep movements slow, talking to a minimum, and choruses of 99-Beers-on-the-wall to only the bare essentials. Don’t bang your kayak. Don’t talk loud on the phone or across the water to your friend in another boat. Don’t throw an anchor, drop it down gently to the bottom. Do everything slower and quieter and treat fishing almost like hunting to catch more fish.

Family fishing from shore in South Florida.
TIGHT LINES! Get out there and catch some fish. Bring the family. Bring your neighbor’s family.
©Mr_Cherez at Unsplash.

Florida Saltwater Fishing Guides

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