South Florida Offshore Fishing

Fishing off the coast of West Palm Beach with Penn reels and Sebile lures.
A soggy day in late September brought together outdoor writers and Penn reels to test tackle off West Palm Beach. Pictured, Penn District Sales Manager Gary Zeidman grabbed the lightest rod on the boat and tossed it below the first pack of birds we spotted.
First fish of the day was a keeper skipjack tuna. Skipjacks are a common species used for canned tuna, but taste great seared, or served raw in sushi and sashimi.
Drew Townes, of Sport Fishing Television, got in on the blitzing action with this skipjack. It was tough to spot the tuna schools all day, but Capt. Butch Constable kept them close with a heavy supply of chum baits.
Match the hatch, right? A comparison between the chum bait and Sebile Fast Cast jig we used to catch skipjack and blackfin tunas.
Soon, Townes hooked up to a larger fish. An even tastier tuna often swims with skipjacks, and we were hoping this might be a blackfin tuna.
Success — a decent blackfin! To catch the tuna, Drew launched his Sebile Fast Cast toward torpedoing tuna and reeled as fast as he could. Sometimes it was a skipjack, other times it was a bonito, but this time it was a blackfin tuna.
Capt. Butch unhooked the single treble hook quickly, and set the fish on ice in the cooler. The tuna were hot around the boat and we didn’t want to miss our opportunity to catch a couple more. That yellow stripe helps differentiate the blackfin tuna from the skipjack.
Capt. Butch Constable with one of the biggest blackfins of the day. Behind him, notice the nasty storms we had to dodge all day — sloppy conditions for sight fishing.
Terminal tackle ready to go. We had to lighten our leaders throughout the day as the tuna started to shy from our offerings.
The bow rod holders on Capt. Constable’s 27-foot cat are custom built. He uses it to target permit over the wrecks in the summer, but on this day we used it to search out tuna and dolphin when the sun allowed.
Constable with one last skipjack catch before the tuna bite tapered off. Consider this quick tip when chumming with live baits. If you plan to leave an area, slowly motor away and look back where your boat was drifting or anchored. Chances are a feeding frenzy may occur on all the baits that were hiding under your stationary boat.
Inside 100 feet, along the drop, Constable filleted a skipjack to see what would show in the chum.
Zeidman used a bottom rig, baited with a goggle-eye, to catch a couple rainbow runners. We were looking for mutton snapper, but none cooperated.
Townes hooked a chunk of tuna to a light wire hook and dropped the bait into the chumline.
And Townes hooks up! Constable mans the net and brings the catch aboard.
So what is it? That’s a filefish, not so different than a triggerfish. They’re hard to catch, even if they’re not considered a gamefish, but incredibly tasty to eat.
Check out those teeth on the filefish.
This king mackerel ate a live goggle-eye while we were drifting. It was an unexpected catch, but Constable and Townes will take it!
When the sharks showed, it was time to move on. We were tired of the cloudy skies and dirty-colored water — we were off to look for blue-green water.
Along the way, we trolled two Sebile baits with single hooks, and picked up a bonito and a dolphin. I’m sure you can guess which fish we kept.
Finally, we found some blue water and current. It was actually inside (or nearshore) of the cloudy waters. We were surprised and excited. Any time there’s sargassum weed, dolphin are never far behind.
Zeidman popped up to the tower to see if he could spot any of those blazing green neons among the blue water.
And the dolphin soon showed. At one point, we had a triple hookup going. Of course, the biggest of the three was the most troublesome and was eventually lost to a shark. Still, we landed enough for dinner back at Sailfish Marina.
Capt. Butch Constable landed this dolphin before we had to run from the storms back to the beaches. This bull was the biggest landed of the day.
Back at the inlet, we met up with Penn Business Manager Mike Rice, Capt. George Gozdz and Field and Stream’s Deputy Editor Colin Kearns. They ran north to Stuart to land two keeper snook while the season was open on the east coast of Florida. The fishing options are plentiful in South Florida, rigged up with Penn gear and the right captains.