Deep Sea off East London (Part 1)

“My boy, we’re going deep sea tomorrow”​

Catch Cook Magazine | Kyle Schmidt
Kyle Schmidt

I have been privileged enough to grow up fishing a number of different facets, with my favourite being deep sea. As far back into my childhood as I can remember, my dad never got over the look I’d give him when he came home on a Friday afternoon and said “my boy, we’re going deep sea tomorrow”. This would be the highlight of my week, every week and remains one of my highlights when the weekend draws near. The area I’m going to focus on is inshore to mid depth deep sea angling, which is fishing on reefs located in a depth of around around 35 – 60 meters. Here you aim to target Kob, Geelbeck and the red fish family of reef fish with the odd Poenskop being caught. My aim is to give you an insight on the ideal sea conditions, the traces to use, the best baits to try, as well as the rod and reel I use.

Tackle Talk

I personally prefer fishing with lighter tackle, therefore this is going to be my focus for this section. 

  • Rod: Shimano BeastMaster Boat Medium
  • Reel: KP 8 inch reel
  • Braid: Suffix 832 8 strand 20lb (9.1kg)

This setup is directly in line with the SADSAA rules which states that you may use a line or braid with a maximum breaking strain of 10kgs as main line. If you are a competitive deep sea angler this will suit you perfectly, as it’ll allow you with ample practice using the breaking strain line/braid that you will be using when participating at bottomfish or gamefish nationals. For social angling there is no need to fish as light as I do, but I am merely stating the set up that I use, although many an angler will go as heavy as possible in case they hook the  “the big one”. I personally enjoy the fight of any size fish on the lighter tackle, it gives the fish a better chance (you aren’t just simply winching the fish) and makes for great practice for the SADSAA rules (ideal for myself as I have represented border at 3 deep sea nationals).

“My boy, we’re going deep sea tomorrow”

Kyle Schmidt

Trace and Bait

I typically use a 3 hook trace, with a small circle hook (size 1/0) at the top and 2 J’s below it. On the top hook (the circle hook) I use a small piece of squid to catch bait fish. The middle hook will normally be around a 5/0 J hook baited up with a squid and pilchard mixture, as I’ve noticed this is the best all round bait for the red fish family, although you often catch big redfish on the little squid bait on your circle hook at the top of your trace. I usually rig up the bottom hook with an 8/0 J. I bait this hook with either a piece of fillet from a smaller red fish or from a bait fish, as this gives you the chance of hooking a poenskop, geelbek or kob while fishing for the red fish. The alternate bait to use on the bottom hook is two sardines with the head and tail cut off, the body sliced down the middle, cottoned up with the blood (gut) side out with 3 generous slices or strips of squid over the top for movement.

The diagram below is a diagram I have drawn of the typical trace I use. The photograph of my trace wasn’t very clear, so I decided to draw it instead (forgive me for my lack of artistic flare). I tend to rig the bottom hook with 140kg mono (not too sure of its diameter), just in case I hook a shark, larger poensie or a red steenbras (just decreases your chances of being bitten off and losing a VMC J hook). I use 0.90mm mono to join the trace section together and on the middle J hook, finally I use 0.60mm mono on the circle.

Sea Conditions 

The sea conditions prevailing on the day will play a large role in your success. You ideally want to aim for a day fishing after a good westerly has been blowing for a few days. In the East London area, a couple days of west brings warmer, cleaner water which is ideal for edibles. If you have a couple days of east prior to your day on the water, set sail for a bearing of 180 and head out to your deeper spots in search of cleaner warmer water, as this won’t be a good day for inshore or mid depth deep sea fishing. You want to fish on a day when the sea is clean or the typical ‘blue’ colour, with a slight swell, as this means there is a slight current and movement under the water which is generally associated with better feeding habits of the fish and finally a water temperature of between 17.5 to 19 degrees (I’ve noticed the fish tend to feed sluggishly when the water temp rises above 19.5 degrees).

I’ve noticed the fish tend to feed sluggishly when the water temp rises above 19.5 degrees

Kyle Schmidt

A final factor to consider is the showing on the echo sounder upon arriving on your mark. If you arrive on your mark and there isn’t much of a showing (it shows reef but not fish) then have a drop to see if you have any decent bites, if its dead just move on to the next spot. If you arrive on the mark and there is a showing in mid water, there are three possibilities:

  1.   You have found a bait ball
  2.   You have hit a shoal of shad
  3.   You have struck gold and found a shoal of geelbek, kob or both together (as they are often found in shoals together).

Have two crew drop on the spot, one with a uzurie (the trace with multiple little hooks with shiny material around the hooks used to catch bait fish such as mackerel) and the other with the three hook trace above mentioned (dropping the trace to roughly the depth of the showing) and the baits I recommended. If the angler with the uzurie goes tight you’ve hit a bait ball, catch some bait fish and send a live bait down on the spot, but if the uzurie comes up with hooks missing you’ve found shad; if the angler with the three hook trace goes tight you’ve struck gold!

The ideal showing to look for is the following: you locate the reef on the echo sounder and on the edges/inclines or rises and drops offs you see showings of fish. This is usually shoals of red fish (Dagaraad, Carpenters, etc.), mark that exact coordinate on your chartplotter and allow the boat to drift without dropping any lines down. This will allow you to calculate your direction and speed of your drift, once you have this information you can estimate where to position your boat for a drift over the showing in order to have your baits drift over the showing without them being wasted by peckers eating them off. When one of the anglers goes tight, you know your showing is decent fish, but if you feel small peckers, you’ve hit a shoal of small bait fish, finally if you drift over and have no inquiries on your baits you have found a small group of reef dwelling sharks that patrol the reefs. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 to see the methods I use for inshore angling and for one of my favourite recipes for cooking a miss lucy (which happens to be a very healthy recipe)! The methods and techniques I have described are the ones that have worked the best for me over the years and are the current methods I follow when going out on a days deep sea. 

I hope this provides you with some helpful tips to help improve your success of your next deep sea outing!

 Yours in angling, 

Kyle Schmidt

Primal Provider #149

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