Pursuit of Atlantic Sailfish

Most articles on our blog are informative. The goal of such articles is to help our readers gain more understanding about fishing, boating, and the equipment available. This article is a break from that tradition. What you’ll read below is a true story about a recent fishing trip to Stuart, FL; the sailfish capital of the world.

This was not your average fishing trip.  In fact, if the entire trip could be reduced into one word, that word would certainly be an antonym for average.

Imagine having more disposable income than you knew what to do with.  I don’t have to ask you to imagine enjoying fishing.  That’s kind of a given if you’re reading this.  You earned your wealth through the sale of a business you’d worked hard to build.  One started out of your garage.  Here you are now, a bit older and grayer than before, but well before that point in life when your physical state beings to fail you.  You’re young enough to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

What follows is a glimpse into what that life would be like.

Many of us dream of being able to go fishing anytime we want, anywhere we want.  Well, all that takes are two things: time and money.  Some of us dream of having that boat…that expedition Yacht.  It would be big and stout enough, with a 4,000 plus nautical mile range, capable of tackling the world’s oceans. We’d surely plot one course after another.  Venturing back onto land for quick flights to visit family and friends for holidays or other special events.  Yes, we’d be able to keep in touch with everyone.  We’d have our own internet and cable just as if we were on land.  The only exceptions may come in the form of a temporary lost or weak signal due to our position in relation to the necessary satellites.  Besides brief visits to our land loving family and friends, ours would be life involving visits to the most exclusive, highly coveted, tropical locales; known for being the best locations in the world for whatever species we woke up and decided to pursue.   Even for those for which money is not an issue, time on their yacht’s engines and the wear and tear of the trip is a concern.  In those cases, yacht transport ships become an option.  How much does it cost to ship a 60′ Viking from Stuart, FL to…say Costa Rica?  As of December 2017, approximately $48,000.00.  One way.

Yacht Transport Ship

Now, back to the trip that actually did happen.  This fishing expedition involved flying to Stuart, FL on a privately owned plane, staying at one of the most well appointed marina’s along Florida’s Treasure Coast, and fishing aboard a 60′ foot Viking meticulously maintained by a dedicated captain and crew.

There are a number of truly beautiful things about private air travel.  When does your flight leave? When you get there. Baggage check? Nope. Security line? Nada. Flying with a knife? A firearm? Good for you!

I couldn’t tell you what airport we landed at in Stuart, FL. I can tell you the 236 mile trip takes up to 3 and half hours by car.  Our flight consumed less than 50 minutes. Truthfully, I could’ve cared less about where we landed. I was on this trip to catch fish. Not learn about Florida’s private airports.  That doesn’t mean you can’t be impressed by the logistical improvements. FYI, flying privately… it never gets old. Never.

It was a smooth landing. Thermals aren’t really an issue during a winter evening. The fuselage door opened. Stairs lowered. A gentleman stood smiling. His hand out to assist with luggage. I learned he was the Captain.

Standing a hair over six feet, he had a youthful, gregarious way about him. A crew cut revealed blond hair. A color I’ll wager came about through years under the sun. Clear blue eyes, an honest face, and an affable demeanor. All the qualities you want in a Captain. None you don’t. His actions revealed a truly genuine interest in ensuring every detail of our trip was taken care of. Every contingency planned for. Every system on the Yacht he commanded, electrical or mechanical, running perfectly.

Of course, one never knows how skilled a Captain is until the vessel leaves the dock. On the water, there’s no such thing as perception being reality. You can’t possibly “fake it till you make it.” You make it. If not, the cost is often much higher than mere loss of reputation.

Luggage stowed, we piled into a large extended cab pickup truck. The Captain parked conveniently a few feet from the plane. So much for walking down a cramped airline aisle made for runway models with full blown anorexia, piling into a trolley, managing not fall down an escalator, or feeling like a sardine in an airport. All just so you can navigate your way to either curbside pick up, or baggage claim.

A 10-minute ride took us to Pirate’s Cove Marina. More importantly, we arrived to board the vessel Aluminator. The remarkable 60’ Viking Sportfishing yacht. She sparkled though the sun had set long ago.  Even the moon was absent from the night sky.

As if the vessel alone wasn’t impressive enough, a brand new, custom built 16 ft Dragonfly Boatworks, LLC Emerger model flats boat rested on the expansive bow.

Located in Vero Beach, FL, I learned that the iconic recording artist Jimmy Buffett owns a large share of Dragonfly Boatworks.  Given the apparent build quality, I’ll comfortably speculate that Buffet’s involvement is more financial than hands on. I’ll also comfortably speculate that Dragonfly Boatworks has a drug free workplace policy. A potential hurdle of sorts for that certain “son of a sailor.”

Stern livewell aboard the 16′ Emerger Flats Boat.






Now, back to the Viking. I challenge the most jaded yachtsman to pass by this vessel without stealing a glance; if not a prolonged, jaw dropped, stare.  You enter the main saloon is possible by passing through an automatic, push button, sliding door.  The door closes automatically about 10 seconds after you pass through.  Once through, the interior provides no shortage of eye candy.

In Pirate movies, there’s almost always a scene involving a pile of gold, precious gems, and assorted treasures. Usually revealed in some deep dark cave, after much bloodshed and hardship. I didn’t see a pile of gold doubloons, but I doubt my reaction would have been the least bit different. My eyes absorbed what was both an exceptional feat of marine engineering and a true-life representation of the finest in interior yacht design. Counter tops. Granite. Couches and furniture – where do you find leather that soft? Precious hardwoods gleamed throughout. I wondered how many coats of varnish it takes to create such a glamorous sparkle? Nevermind. I don’t want to know.

My first impression of the Captain proved true. A walk through the Aluminator’s spacious kitchen, well-appointed stateroom, spacious master cabin, and twin guest bedroom, revealed food and drink stocked in an over abundance of supply and variety. You couldn’t have found a speck of dust or dirt if you crawled on your hands and knees with an ultra bright headlamp and magnifying glass.  The same could be said for how well kept the engine room was.

The trip to the area where trolling for sailfish consumed about 20 to 30 minutes. Cruising speed was in excess of 30 mph. Trolling speed varied between 6 and 7 knots. We came prepared; trolling 4 hooks, 2 teasers, and two dredges. The hooks were attached to rods equipped with the to hell and back reliable Shimano TLD 25s and 30s. (LThe teasers were controlled by massive electric reels. A control box for the electronic reels could also be found on the second level helm station. Located in the ceiling above the Captain provided him with quick, uncluttered access.

In addition to the Captain was a first mate. This guy ran the show in the stern. He watched every line, every rod, and every school of baitfish; simultaneously.  It was as if he had a fish eye lens for vision. The first mate had a powerful build, dark hair cut short, and a full-grown beard. His attire, from head to toe, spoke volumes. A well-worn trucker’s hat, quintessential Costa Del Mar sunglasses with blue 580G lenses, and the ever popular white rubber boots.  Despite a heavy Scandinavian type build, his reflexes were on par with an Olympic ping pong player.  I’d put him up against the best the Chinese have, any day.

First Mate on deck

Teaser Rig With Mullet secured off one of the Outriggers
A teaser rig consisting of a recently caught mullet hung from an outrigger protruding from each side of the Viking Sportfishing boat.

As soon as one of the rods showed the tell tale bend of a sailfish, the first mate yanked the rod from the rocket launcher, yell to the Captain, and jerk back on the rod to keep the sailfish interested.  Those of us aboard to fish took turns in an organized rotation whenever a fish was caught.  Despite being in the sailfish capital of the world, a bent rod wasn’t a guarantee of catching a sailfish.

Live to Fish Shirt worn while fighting a sailfish
Live to Fish Shirt worn while fighting a sailfish

Each rod had 200 yards of 40 lb test monofilament on.  At http://www.livetofish.com, we sell 104 different kinds of 40 lb test line alone.  Overall, we offer 1,789 options for fishing line and leader material.

Reeling in the 200 yards of line was no easy task.  Though the Captain would back down on the fish, the drag was set to no more than 8 pounds.  This light drag was necessary to avoid a break off.  200 yards of line out, with a game fish on the end, creates a significant amount of stress on the line.  What ensued was an extended period of fast paced reeling to recover all the line and prevent slack in the line.  You wouldn’t know whether you had a sailfish, or a Bonito, until the fish was close enough to the boat.


There were a fair number of Bonito caught.  They’re a smaller relative of the tuna.  When caught, these fish quickly found their way down into one of the ice filled coffin boxes.  They would be used as bait or perhaps to feed a hungry crew member.

We were after sailfish.  To this end, the Captain did not disappoint.  We fished for two days with sailfish being caught each day.  The second day saw three sailfish caught.  Hence, three sailfish flags were raised before returned to our slip.

Atlantic Sailfish Caught by Live to Fish team member
Atlantic Sailfish Caught by Live to Fish team member

The sailfish is indeed an impressive species.  It’s known as the fastest fish in the Ocean; exceeding speeds of 68 MPH.  They are carnivores.  Hence, our bait selection of mullet and rigged ballyhoo.  At Live to Fish, we sell both artificial and frozen ballyhoo.

We’d fish until about 3:00 PM.  With the days starting at 6:00 AM, there were no objections to heading in at this time.  When fishing for the entire day, the question of lunch usually presents itself.  What to bring is most often determined by what’s easiest to transport.  Ready made sandwiches top the list due to the fact that they don’t require any preparation.  Lunch on this trip consisted of sandwiches, but they were far from the ready made versions.  Fresh deli meats of more types and varieties I can recall filled one of the numerous refrigerated food drawers in the beautiful galley.  Fresh deli breads, different types of mustard, and other toppings were all available.

With the setup as it was, all you had to do was sit back on one of the overly comfortable seating areas, waiting for the first mate to shout, “fish on!”  Though everyone agreed that this type of fishing in ultimate luxury is something anyone could get used to, there’s something about inshore fishing that will always be more appealing to me.  Me and Dad on previous flats boat

Winter Fishing Tips

How different is Florida fishing in the winter compared to fishing in the Spring or Summer?  All things considered, more aspects are alike than different.  However, knowing the differences and how to best adjust your tactics can easily make the difference between coming home empty handed, or coming back with your limit.   A few of the biggest differences is that inshore fish change their locations and feeding habits during the winter.  What may be one of your best spots in the summer months can be empty during the winter.  A bait or lure that was one of your favorite for warmer water temps may be entirely ineffective during the winter.  As for the similarities, you still go out and cast your rod in hopes of landing the biggest fish.  You’re likely to use many of the same knots, same rods, and same reels.  You may wear more layers of clothing, but you’ll still appreciate your polarized sunglasses. There are certain species that are more easily caught during the winter than summer.  One of the most popular offshore examples is the sailfish.  They’re the fastest fish in the ocean, capable of speeds up to 68 miles per hour. Their large size and spirited fight make them a favorite among those seeking a trophy fish.  Stay tuned for an article we have coming up from a sailfishing trip I’ll take this upcoming weekend out of Stuart, Florida.  For pursuing sailfish, your gear would be different than what you would use for catching those winter redfish or trout.


As explained above, what changes most are the tactics and the locations. Otherwise, the battle of you versus the fish remains the same.  It’s more or less common knowledge that the earth is farther from the sun during colder winter months.  The increased distance from the sun causes colder temperatures on land, and correspondingly, colder water temperatures.  The colder water temperatures are what create the need for different tactics and different locations.


During winter, we experience the lowest tides of the year.  The lowest tides come about as a result of the pull of the new and full moon phases.  The ultra low tides are referred to as “negative tides,” negative lows,” or “moon tides.”  These referential names come from having a water level that’s lower than the mean low water mark upon which the relevant charts reflect.  You’ll see all the water disappear from a flat that might have been deep enough to support boat traffic no less than 12 hours earlier.  Seagrass blades lay flat, exposed to the air, while seagulls take advantage of shrimp left high and dry. The negative tides can be a good opportunity to gain a better understanding of the topography associated with your favorite spots.


Just because the water up and disappeared from the flat, doesn’t mean your chances of landing anything did too.  Be on the lookout for random troughs, trenches, ditches and depressions.  In other words, look for those deep spots among the otherwise shallow flat.  Especially deep pockets directly next to the flat itself and associated sand bars.  The randomly placed deep water areas form a shallow water winter habitat.  When the negative tides occur, fish occupy these deeper areas.  These deeper areas hold comfortable depths to sustain larger game fish throughout the duration of the negative low tide.  If the deep pocket has a dark bottom, so much the better. Dark colors absorb heat from the sun. The result can be a hole with a sustaining amount of water and a warm bottom to make the space more comfortable.  Temporarily entrapped, some fish will even bite on a slack tide. However, focus on the last half of the outgoing tide and the first of the incoming tide.  Those times tend to be the most dependable.  Hungry game fish await the return of the high tide in these random troughs and potholes, and along the edges of a grassflat.  Casting a Berkley Gulp Bait, like the jerk shad, 3″ shrimp, or mullet , or a live shrimp affixed to a bait hook, into one of these deeper areas, and slowly working the bait, or letting the live shrimp drift across to the edge, is enough to entice a bite.  Flats with large numbers of wading birds such as herons, egrets, wood storks, and roseate spoonbills feeding along the shallow perimeters are indicative of a good spot.  These flats clearly hold an abundance of crustaceans and baitfish. Adjacent deep water is very likely to hold snook, trout and redfish.

Brandgard Sunset

You’ll find similar opportunities at the mouths of coastal arteries. Especially where water is forced under a bridge into a backwater canal area.

Dock light seen from this bridge while fishing during the winter.
Underwater dock light to target during winter fishing.

In the photo below, the docks and boats up on lifts are just past a small bridge.  All the fish that enter this canal area, and all the baitfish that ride the tides in and out of the are, have to use one of a few bridges to make their entrance and exit.  If you can find such bridges around the area you generally Fish, check out the ground structure on a particularly low tide.  More of the sea floor will be exposed.  If you see rocks or an oyster bed near that bridge entrance, the spot is worth trying during a high tide.   Because fish tend to be more lethargic in the winter with the lower water temperatures, focus on baits that either remain affixed to the bottom, or that you can bump slowly along the bottom; with emphasis on the word “slowly.”


If you generally fish from a boat, be prepared to get out of your boat and walk the flats during the winter. When sandbars, or simple lack of water impede your progress, anchor or stake out your boat.  Then proceed on foot.  If access depth allows, tether the boat to your waist towing it along behind you. Doing so will prevent unexpected lengthy returns if you happen to walk farther than you expected.


No doubt, extreme low tides yield opportunities. Yet, there’s always a balance maintained when fishing.  Meaning, though there may be plenty of fish, catching them will be as much of a challenge as catching them during any other time of the year.  The information in this article will help give you an edge; but its actually getting out there and doing it that will teach you the know how you need to be successful.  One thing to keep in mind is the risk that an increase in the water clarity presents.  Winter’s colder water turns gin clear. The clarity occurs because the bacteria that would live in warmer temperatures dies off. Years ago, I remember a guide describing the winter water clarity to me.  He said, “I feel like I’m floating on air…”  Clear water means high visibility – both for you and the fish.

Sarah Dock 2

REMEMBER THIS RULE:  If you can see a fish, he can see you.  In fact, chances are he’s already seen you.  Whether you can put that fish in the boat comes down to a degree of tolerance between you and that fish.  You’re already invading an area as familiar to him as your living room.  How hungry and likely he’ll be to bite is now more of a question than it would’ve been if you’d remained out of sight and avoided making any sounds.  Remember to keep your distance and keep quiet.  Keeping quiet is easier done when you’re walking on the exposed floor of flat than when you’re in a boat.  There are no hatches to close too quickly and loudly.  No deck to drop your rod, smartphone, water bottle, etc., on.  You may have seen flats boats with their decks covered in a type of foam padding. Not only does this enhance your comfort when walking on deck, it also helps to conceal your presence by decreasing the sounds a heavy step makes on the deck.  To make the most of fishing these conditions, you’d do well to use a long rod with braided line to achieve maximum casting distance.  Spinning rods that are 7’6″ and above, rated for 8-17lb test line, and have a fast to extra fast action, work well to make long casts to hungry fish. Long casts are particularly important in the winter because of the increased water clarity. You may also find yourself contending with higher winds during the winter.  The longer rod can add more momentum to your cast; thereby giving you an advantage when you need to cast into the wind.



Jigs in the 1/16- to 1/8-ounce range offer great versatility for experimenting with different body shapes and colors. Grub or shad tails work well, as do soft plastic jerkbaits. Darker colors are typically best for mimicking crustaceans, but a pearl, chartreuse or gold body may do the trick on a bright day. For a weedless presentation – often essential in thick grass – rig soft plastics Texas style on 3/0 to 5/0 worm hooks. Hooks with weighted shanks or pinch weights will increase your casting distance when the fish are nervous.

When searching broad areas, a weedless gold or silver spoon is tough to beat – especially on windy days. In a creek’s tidal eddies, slow-sinking plugs resemble disoriented baitfish and topwater lures are generally productive at daybreak or during cloudy conditions. Mullet expand the surface opportunity because slam species become so accustomed to the noise of the school that they’ll tolerate a splashy surface lure. Smaller mullet sometimes end up on the menu, so expect ferocious strikes.



If you know your fishing trip will involve wading, wear wading boots; or a pair of sneakers that fit securely on your feet.  Whatever you wear, you want to be able to tie it securely around your feet.  Otherwise, the seemingly amazing amount of pressure that starts when you step into a mud flat will suck your shoes right off your feet.  Commit to a handful of lures.  If you’re inclined to fish live bait, you can tie a bait bucket to your waist and let that drift behind you.  As for your terminal tackle, limit yourself to one small tray or resealable plastic bag.  You can carry either a small tray or the resealable plastic bag in a Live to Fish dry bag, chest pack, or stuffed inside a shirt pocket.  The advantage of going with the dry bag is that you can clip it to your belt and let it float along side you; without any worry over whether the contents will get wet.  One rod is usually sufficient.  If you can manage carrying two rods, you’ll have another with a different bait option ready.  Carrying a second rod is usually best accomplished through using a wading belt.  You want to look for a wading belt that has loops along the back edge for holding a spare rod. I’ve heard of some do it yourselfers fashioning their own wading belts from using lumbar support belts.  Because you’re wading through the water, your reel is likely to become submerged at one point or another.  You can avoid any damage to the reel by thoroughly rinsing it in fresh water immediately after use.  Your best bet is to not only rinse it, but use a reel best suited to the saltwater environment.  The Penn Slammer III is one such spinning reel made to survive the harsh saltwater environment.  Some other spinning reels are the Shimano Sustain FI series and the Daiwa Saltist.  These spinning reels tend to be more expensive with others, but the old saying “You get what you pay for,” is indeed true.

If you have any questions about any aspect of fishing or boating, please don’t hesitate to contact us.  You can visit us online at www.livetofish.com call us at 844-934-7446, or visit our showroom at: Live to Fish, 9942 State Road 52, Hudson, FL 34669.  In addition to selling fishing and boating equipment, we offer a wide variety of marine electronics and perform installations and warranty repair / service on SIMRAD, Lowrance, and B&G electronics.

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