While the temperature charts are updated a couple of times a day, the Terrafin chlorophyll charts are updated only every two days or so, Raguso says.
“So there’s a bit of a disconnect in terms of chronology,” he says. “You have to watch the charts closely to determine movement patterns. You have to try to predict about where they will move.”
And that is where networking can really pay off.
Raguso isn’t on the water every single day, and while he’s monitoring the ocean charts electronically, he’s also networking with fellow fishermen and captains who might have fished that particular day. He culls their information — be it the presence of birds or bait in any given spot, for example — and adds that data into the mix.
“It’s one more piece of the puzzle you use to put things together,” he says.
Finally, when the day comes to actually go fishing, Raguso generally has an excellent idea of where the fish should be. He’s timed his trip accordingly to the weather; he’s identified temperature breaks and where they overlay with good, blue water; and he’s networked with other fishermen. All in all, he’s in pretty good shape.
But still, he warns: “The fish don’t read our articles! These breaks are always a moving target, and sometimes things make sense to us but don’t make sense to the fish. Sometimes, they’re in the warm water; other times, they’re in the cold water. Same goes for the water color.”
And that’s why trolling around the breaks is such a winning formula.
“You cover more ground,” Raguso says. “You get a lot of blind strikes when trolling, and since you’re moving at 7 or 8 knots, you’re also getting to see more water under the boat with the sounder and if there’s bait or structure present. It’s a win-win.”
Raguso cautions, however, that when fishing the breaks, you’ve got to be prepared for anything. “We might start with trolling equipment, but I’ve also got bait for drift-fishing and casting gear. It’s all rigged and ready. It’s crucial to be prepared to employ any tactic at any time. You have to be flexible.”
And to that point, nothing beats good instincts on the water. That means literally relying on your senses as a final measure to pinpoint the fish around the breaks.
Raguso recalls a time he was running offshore into a head wind through an area with favorable temperature and chlorophyll levels. It was extremely foggy out and he couldn’t see a thing, but he immediately pulled the boat off-plane when he “suddenly smelled a distinct odor in the wind,” he says. “It smelled like watermelon. Thirty seconds later, a 100-pound tuna came flying out of the water. We’d stumbled upon a huge school of tuna gorging on halfbeaks at the surface, which we could distinctly smell in the wind. We put lines out and hooked up immediately.”
From electronic charts to your sniffer, when you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, the breaks can often produce the trip of a lifetime.
About the Expert
Capt. John N. Raguso has a 100-ton United States Coast Guard’s master’s license, and runs MarCeeJay Sport Fishing charters out of Elwood, New York. He specializes in offshore and canyon charters, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.