In the Fall of 2020, Okaloosa County deployed Fish Attraction Devices (FADs), to help increase sportfishing opportunities for boats leaving from the Destin area, without the need to run to the Louisiana oil rigs. These FADs have proven their worth over the last two years, with catches of billfish, tuna, wahoo, and mahi-mahi being reported regularly throughout the year. That leaves us with one question, how do you fish the FADs?
Our favorite way to attack the FADs is once we have pulled the throttles back, we make a few slow laps around the general area. You will start to notice a pattern of where the fish are holding and you should make a mental note of the depth of water that the majority of the bait is sitting at. If the marks are in 75 feet or less, these fish are more likely to be feeding near the surface. If it is 75 feet or greater, these fish are most likely hanging out in the cooler water and not actively feeding on surface baits. Below we break down several different tactics and what you are most likely to catch using the tactics.
Tactic #1: Live Bait Bombs
When to Use: If you are marking fish shallower than 150 feet, you should be able to get them to come investigate a bait bomb. Instructions listed below:
Species: Yellowfin Tuna, Blackfin Tuna, Mahi, White Marlin, Sailfish
Brief: Stop by the bait boat in Destin on Channel 80 on your way out to the FADs or sabiki up a load of bait into your live well. You will need 200+ baits to effectively use live bait bombs to your advantage for an extended period of time.
Grab two conventional reels and turn the clicker OFF
Uni-to-Uni a 10-15 foot leader of 60# flourocarbon to your top shot and finish it off with a 6/0 mustad 3x circle hook
Take a 5 gallon bucket and fill it up with water and put 6-10 free baits into the bucket
Motor the boat over to where you have been marking fish around 75-100 feet and then put a bait on each of the two hooks
Point the boat down current of the bait marks
Slowly bump the boat into gear and let the hooked baits drift out behind the boat to where they are clear of the engines
Dump the bucket of bait overboard and put the boat into gear, give the boat some gas for 3-5 seconds to pull away from the bait
The anglers will feed the line out from the conventional reels in freespool so that it looks like the hooked bait is a part of the school of freebies
Take the boat out of gear and let the boat drift down current
The anglers will continue to freeline the line out behind the boat and be ready for a bite, continue this for up to 5 minutes
If a bite happens, feed the fish for a few seconds and then slowly tighten the drag
If no bites, reel in and reset your drift to try again
Tactic: Big Live Baits
When to Use: If you have seen a large red mark anywhere near the FAD that is a distinct boomerang shape, this is when to use this tactic.
Species: Blue Marlin, Large Yellowfin Tuna
Brief: If you happen to hook into a bonita, blackfin, or hardtail, then you can put these baits back out and bump troll around the FADs for a chance at a much bigger fish.
Bridle up the live bait with your preferred method of bridling
Put live bait behind the boat and bump boat into gear
Clip the bait into your outrigger clip and let line out 150-200 feet behind the boat
Always have someone on the reel and ready for when the big bite will happen
If a bite happens, let fish take bait for 15-30 seconds, or until you are confident the fish has ate the bait
When to Use: If you are marking many small fish down deeper in 100-200 feet of water.
Species: Small Yellowfin Tuna, Blackfin Tuna, and Wahoo
Brief: If you want to put a few blackfin in the boat, or are trying to catch bait for a big live bait, jigging is the way to go!
Pull up to where you have been marking the bait
Drop the jig past the desired depth
Rip jig through the water column as fast as you can
Rinse and repeat
When to Use: Anytime
Species: All Species
Brief: We like to use a five rod spread of baits, with some kind of teaser or dredge running a school of bait down deeper. Troll around the general vicinity of the FAD as well as making closer passes near it to see what you can entice up with your spread.
Outriggers - Blue/White Islander w/ Horse Ballyhoo
Shotgun - Mylar duster on 80# fluorocarbon w/ small ballyhoo
Flatlines - Big lures for marlin or deep divers for wahoo
Have any other tactics you like to use? Send us a message or comment on this post.