When you first consider reef fishing, the proposition can seem rather daunting. The good news is that reef fishing isn’t much different from any other kind of bottom fishing you may have tried in the past. All the fish you’re after presumably live down in the reef, so it’s not much different from going after bass down in the weeds. If you can catch catfish in the mud, you can catch grouper on a reef. The only noticeable change is the scenery and some of your options.
Materials Required for Beginners Reef Fishing
- A boat, either yours or a charter
- A saltwater rod and reel
- Sinkers or small downrigger weights
- Line and tackle suited to the species you wish to catch
- Possibly, a spear gun
How to Reef Fish
Step One: Get Out
When starting out in reef fishing, it will serve you well to either hire a charter or take someone along with you that has experience. Reefs are tricky things. Boats get damaged or stuck on reefs all the time. Captain Cook spent a week stuck on one once. Don’t let that happen to you. Take along someone who knows the reef, or hire an experienced charter.
Step Two: Gear Up
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to determine what species you should try for by simply gazing down through the crystal-clear water, but if that doesn’t work, you can always try the local Fish and Game website. Either way, you’ll want to put together a few rigs that are essentially bigger versions of the Texas or Carolina rigs you use for freshwater bottom fishing. Hook guards or concealing the hook tip in the live bait is a good idea to avoid snagging.
Step Three: Stay Put
Most folks like to begin reef fishing by casting from a stationary boat and retrieving the bait back in slowly. This works best if the water is moderately shallow, and the fish can see the bait and be drawn out. It’s also nice to get started doing this in clear water, so you can see if you’re making progress in terms of tempting anything towards your bait. Once you get a few hits, you can make informed adjustments regarding bait or reeling speed.
Step Four: Roam a Bit
If casting isn’t working, or you’re just bored with it, give trolling a try. Trolling along a reef with a couple of poles in the water can be a thrilling experience. You truly never know what you might get at the end of your line. Reefs are home to a lot of game fish and several predators that eat smaller fish. You might be trying for grouper and go home with a shark on the deck. You just never know with a reef.
Step Five: Bring Out the Gun
Okay, if you’re bored with casting and bored with trolling, and you can find a shallow hunk of the reef, it might be time to try the spear gun. It’s best to try this for the first time, just wading around and hoping to get a shot at something. But, combining a spear gun and scuba diving is something you should only try after you have a heck of a lot of experience with both. While you’re wading around, be constantly mindful of the fact that spear guns are dangerous. A spear gun might not be a firearm, but it’s still a gun and can poke a big hole in you in the blink of an eye. It’s also important to remember that spear guns don’t kill big prey all that quickly. If you poke something out of your weight class, be prepared to deal with the consequences.
A Few Final Thoughts
Fishing on a reef of any kind is one of the most fulfilling and exciting experiences an angler can have, but there are a few things that you need to keep in mind when you’re doing it. First, reefs are some of the most beautiful natural wonders on earth, and some of the most delicate. Don’t do anything in the general area of a reef that might compromise the wildlife or fish that call it home. Second, reefs can be dangerous to goof around with. Don’t end up high and dry in your boat at low tide, and be especially careful wading a reef. Just about anything your leg brushes up against is likely to be poisonous in some way. Finally, take it easy and only take home what you can gulp down for dinner. Everybody wants to fish a beautiful reef, so leave some for the next guy.