Preparing for SA's Offshore Season

By Jamie Crawford

It’s that time of year again when our offshore islands and reef systems here in SA see an annual influx of visiting pelagic species. We get a good annual run of SBT’s along the west coast of South Oz, which traditionally starts in December and extends until around early April. The annual migration of bluefin is a real boon for local fisho’s, with surface feeding SBT’s in the 10 to 20kg size readily accessible for trailer boat fishos.

Trolling is still the number one method of finding and consistently hooking bluefin, but if some surface feeding fish are located it’s possible to switch to surface stickbaits and poppers for visual action. It’s pretty cool watching some lit-up blueys bust through the surface in an attempt to crash-tackle the surface lure. Surface stickbaits such as the 115mm Ocea Pencil in Sardine and Blue Sardine are gun stickbaits on our bluefin tuna.

As well as our annual run of SBT’s, numbers of yellowtail kingfish and Samson fish also increase over the same grounds at the same time, offering another avenue to the offshore session. Our offshore kings and sambos vary in size greatly, from smaller 70cm fish right up to solid fish of 30kg or better.

While most SBTs are taken on or near the surface, the majority of our kings and sambo’s are taken near the bottom and up to around mid-water. That’s not to say you can’t pull some good fish from the surface, but the majority are certainly caught deeper in the column. We get most of our kings and samsons from either jigging with metals, or fishing baits.

When fishing with baits, livies rule. Live squid, mackerel, salmon trout and scad are the choice live baits, but occasionally unweighted dead baits such as fish fillets, whole squid and even whole pilchards catch some surprisingly good fish, if they withstand smaller picking fish for long enough. And that’s the main advantage when fishing larger baits and especially live baits, it’s typically the larger fish which commit to these bigger baits.

When jigging with metals, 120 to 200g jigs are ideal, with the 160g and 200g Ocea Wing with blue and Gold / Silver being a couple of proven performers down our way. 

When you head offshore for a session in SA, you can generally get away with taking two outfits which will cover most of the fishing scenarios you’re likely to encounter. Most people can’t afford four or five different outfits, but by choosing a couple of outfits wisely you can cover all bases.

The first outfit I would choose is a heavy threadline outfit, something that will double as a trolling outfit, jigging outfit and live bait outfit. And on some days we will do all three style of fishing. A jigging style rod in the 5’0” to 6’0” range is ideal for trolling as well as jigging, and although quite short will double as a live baiting rod without too much of a drama. My rod of choice is the T-Curve Deep Jig 400, with a reel capable of fishing 50 to 80lb ideal. I run a Socorro 10,000 on my Deep Jig which is spooled with 65lb Power Pro Depth Hunter braid.

That covers the heavier outfit, and then a second outfit will cover the lighter bases including fishing unweighted baits for mid sized kings and samsons, and casting stick baits to surface feeding SBT’s. Something with a bit more length is ideal, and something that can comfortably fish 30 to 40lb braid. The Revolution Offshore 10 – 15kg rod at 7’6” is a good option for this lighter work, and when matched with a 5000 or 6000 reel creates a really good outfit for casting lures and lightly weighted baits. I use a Saragosa 6000 on mine which creates an affordable yet very versatile lighter offshore combo. Get ready for the offshore season, as it’s almost upon us!