Following the Offshore Signs

Look for these offshore indicators to put more fish in the boat.
David A. Brown
Monitoring  weather, current and sea surface temperatures will help you chose a promising area but once you reach the "ballpark," whether you hit a single, double or a grand slam all depends on the crew's attention to the ocean's dynamics. Text and photos by David A. Brown.
Unless you're planning to pull lures all day, making bait is typically step one. Larger and deeper-holding schools of bait require Sabiki rigs. Look for patches of nervous water with sporadic white-water pops, that's usually blue runners. Note the direction the bait is moving and stay on the outside edge. Run over the runners and they'll be gone.
Around floating or fixed markers, mooring buoys and drilling rigs, runners usually hold on the up-current side of the structure. To hit the right depth factor the current strength to choose the proper weight size for the Sabiki. Go too light and the water sweeps your hooks off target. Too heavy and you're rig zips past the bait too quickly for them to react.
When you find bait schools around structure in ideal water temps, you will also find predatory fish such as tuna and marlin. Monitor the surface for any bait bust ups and use your onboard electronics to spot the game fish below the boat.
When predators drive bait to the surface topside, the frothy explosions are easy to spot. Pulling, drifting or using kites to drop baits through the target zone will bend the rods, but  any tuna, dolphin or kingfish busting bait on the surface will also attack a well-placed popping plug.
Always keep an eye on the sky. If you spot the distinct profile of circling frigates, with their deeply forked tails and broad, angled wings, take note and follow them. These "man-o-war" birds will tail bait schools and predators for miles in hopes of snagging a meal and potentially lead you to the promised land.
Dolphin, tuna, wahoo and billfish patrol weed lines to pick off vulnerable meals. Treat these gilded grass masses as the fish magnets they truly are. Anglers do well by pulling baits close enough to the edges to resemble natural forage without snagging.
There's nothing wrong with noting how other boats are connecting and then replicating their tactics. If you know the other crew, a VHF chat can yield invaluable insight on how the fish are behaving. Maybe they want smaller baits or are clustering on a particular side of a rip or structure. Whatever the case, maintain a respectful distance.
When you're in the right zone, bird schools and busting bait can appear at a moment's notice. Always have multiple rigs rigged and ready to match any situation. Heavy-duty spinning gear is great for tossing a bait or jig into the melee without disrupting the presence of bait.
Watch for fleeing fish. When you see flying fish grab air, they're not doing so for exercise, they're running from snapping jaws hot on their heels. Baitfish in the air equals game fish below.
If you want to catch more tuna, you have to be at the right place at the right time, and you always have to be prepared. Watch for the signs the ocean gives you and you have a much better shot at finding the action.

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