When the weather starts to cool down in January, fishing starts to heat up in Stuart, Florida, and the surrounding areas. The state’s Treasure Coast — from West Palm Beach to Sebastian — has a long history of spectacular winter sailfishing. In fact, Stuart just had its 59th-Annual Light Tackle Sailfish Tournament last month. Fishermen in the area have a tradition of trolling dead bait to catch this acrobatic species. Farther south, anglers use kites and live bait. On a good day, it’s not uncommon to catch between 10 and 20 sails.
Professional fishermen have an arsenal of gear that they use to catch-and-release sailfish. One piece of equipment commonly used is a two-speed conventional reel. The second is a dredge. A dredge is a rig that is made to resemble a school of fish. Sailfish see this faux school and come up closer to the boat from the deeper waters. The dredges are fished from a downrigger. Boats usually drag a dredge each side of the boat.
If you don’t own your own offshore boat, there are plenty of options in the area for you to get offshore and go fishing, and a charter boat can be a good idea. The captains know the area well.
If you decide to go this route, make sure to research so you can fish with a reputable boat. It will probably cost between $1,000 and $1,500 for a full day of fishing. But if you have ever been in the center of a school of sailfish balling bait, you will agree that it is well worth it.