Typically when people think of sailfish season in South Florida they think of the winter months were a nice cool north wind and sloppy conditions will normally produce a strong Sailfish bite. Although this is a great time to target Sailfish, unfortunately the rough and unsafe conditions forces the kayak angler to watch from the beach. What many fishermen forget is the summer months are as good as any when it comes to catching Sailfish. So for the kayak fishermen, this is when our Sailfish season starts! As kayak fishermen, we are very limited on when we can get offshore in the winter months, and typically when we are able to get out, the calm and flat conditions in those months are not ideal for sailfish. When the seas and winds finally start to die down in the spring and summer, this is our best time to successfully target Sailfish off the kayak,
How to Target Summertime Sails
In the summer months, Sailfish can be caught in all types of conditions. Flat, rough, strong current, no current, it doesn’t seem to matter. The depth you want to target is anywhere between 90ft – 180ft. That always seems to produce the most sailfish strikes. The obvious bait chooses are Goggle Eyes or Blue Runners. What isn’t as obvious is the rig you should be using. Almost all kayak anglers will go offshore and only bring one type of live bait rig and that would be a Stinger Rig. A 3/0 – 5/0 J hook to a #2 or #4 Treble on # 5 or #6 wire is the standard offshore setup. While this can get the job done, I believe you will lose more sailfish than you will land with this rig. I use a simple setup that helps me land more sailfish as well as those toothy critters.
Start off by using a 7/0 VMC Tournament Circle Hook to about 18"-24" of number #6 wire to 15' of 50lb fluorocarbon leader. Anglers may argue that the wire leader will hurt your bite but I’ve caught plenty of sails on this setup as well as my biggest Blackfin Tuna. The truth of the matter is, a wire leader on your live bait will not affect your bite despite what you may hear. The reason I’ve switched to circle hooks offshore instead of the stinger rig is I want to give myself the best chance to hook and land a Sailfish when I'm out there. I may miss a few short strike kings once in a while but I’ve also missed them on stinger rigs so nothing is a sure thing. When rigging your bait, it’s important to take the extra time and bridle your bait. You want the entire circle hook exposed to insure the hook gets set in the corner of the mouth. If you're slow trolling, you can bridle your bait through the front of the nose. If you’re drifting, you can bridle more towards the dorsal fin, either way is effective.
On a kayak we don’t have the luxury of having a spread of baits displayed so we need to simplify. Two live bait rods are all a kayak can handle. Anymore, and it can turn into a nightmare fast. Your first bait should be on the surface so let out plenty of line so the bait is far away from your kayak. Take your second bait and deploy it down in the water column using an egg weight and rubber band, this is known as a breakaway. Make sure the weight is above your fluorocarbon knot. The egg weight can vary in size 3oz – 7oz depending on bait size. This technique is best used while drifting. If you try to do this while paddling your egg weight will swing up in the water column and may tangle with your flat line. If you do need to paddle make sure go extremely slow so your egg weight stays deep.
After the Fight
Catching a Sailfish from a kayak is a work out, not only for the angler but for the Sailfish as well. A typical boat can over power a Sailfish and leader it in a few minutes but on a kayak the last thing you want is an energetic Sailfish near your kayak. So it's okay to fight the fish longer so it's easier to control once next to your kayak, but this does mean you need to give the Sailfish some extra time to revive itself before you release it. I've had Sailfish that took only a couple minutes to revive and others that took more then 15 minutes. The Sailfish will let you know when its ready to be released, it will be kicking, swimming strongly and ready to fight another day!