Deep sea fishing, also called offshore fishing, can bring a whole new meaning to “out of one’s depth”. If you're just starting out and feel like you're a little in over your head, don’t worry – this guide will reel you up to the surface.
In this beginner’s guide to deep sea fishing, we will cover how to prepare for a deep sea fishing trip, equipment and gear you need to go deep sea fishing, and tips and tricks for deep sea fishing.
Preparing for a Deep Sea Fishing Trip
Deep sea fishing is as it sounds, fishing in deep waters typically around depths of 100 feet. To reach these depths, you need to go miles offshore, usually somewhere between 50 and 100 miles out. This is where you’re going to find replica-worthy fish, such as marlin, but also new challenges. These challenges require different preparations before you head offshore, so here’s what you need to do to get ready for a deep sea fishing trip.
Preparing a Boat for Deep Sea Fishing
When you go as far offshore as you need to for deep sea fishing, you absolutely need to have a boat that can handle the waters. For a boat to have the strength and stability it needs to handle open water and big game fish, it should be at least 35 feet long. Center console boats are a common boat for these offshore trips, and many fishermen recommend having two engines for extra safety.
You’ll also want to outfit your deep sea fishing boat with a t-top canopy and extension. It can take hours just to get to an offshore location, so having protection is essential. A t-top provides a shield from UV rays and can offer shelter from the rain. Adding a shade extension is recommended to cover more surface area of your boat. Of course, this equipment doesn’t replace wearing appropriate clothing, so always dress for the occasion.
Safety Requirements for Deep Sea Fishing
First and foremost, you need to make sure that you’re prepared for anything before you head offshore. When you’re fishing over deep waters, you’re far away from getting any help you might need. Your number one priority should be emergency preparedness. If you’re not sure what you will need, check out our comprehensive guide on fishing first aid. Here, you’ll learn what supplies should be in a medical kit, what injuries or emergency situations you might encounter, and how to handle them.
When you go this far offshore, however, there’s only so much you can do to be prepared. If possible, have someone on board that’s received medical training, and always do your research on emergency contacts and protocols for where you’ll be so you’re familiar with them and know what to do should an emergency arise.
Safety Equipment and Gear for Deep Sea Fishing
In addition to a first aid kit, appropriate clothing, and protection from the elements, you’ll want to have these other items on board and at the ready:
- Emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB)
- Fire extinguisher
- GPS and navigation charts
- Personal flotation devices (at least one for each person on board)
- Rain gear
- Shoes with rubber soles
- Signaling devices
- VHF marine radio
This might sound like a lot, especially when you need to add fishing gear to the list, but it’s always better to have something and not need it, than to need it and not have it. You want to keep most of these items in a location that you can access quickly and easily. We recommend the t-top storage bag and electronics box for convenient, water-resistant, and durable storage solutions.
Fishing Gear for Deep Sea Fishing
After you check off all necessary safety items from your packing list, it’s time to turn your attention to the fun part – fishing. There’s a lot we could say about deep sea fishing, and saltwater fishing more generally, but here we’re going to focus on the basics. If you’re looking to delve deeper into saltwater fishing, we recommend checking out our how-to guide to saltwater fishing. Our offshore saltwater fishing guide is also a great resource to take the information we’ve given you here to the next level.
Fishing Rod and Reel for Deep Sea Fishing
When you go deep sea fishing, you’re targeting big game fish species. Some popular species for deep sea fishing include Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Tuna, Snapper, Grouper, and (for the thrill-seekers or occasional unsuspecting fisherman) Sharks. These fish are large, heavy, and strong. Be prepared for long and tiring, but exciting fights, and bring a fishing rod and reel that are up to the task.
You probably already know this if you are a more experienced fisherman, but your rod and reel are largely determined by the fish you’re targeting, and where and how you’re fishing for it. For deep sea fishing, you’ll want to bring a 7-8’ rod with medium/heavy action, and a reel that can hold an 80-lb. test line with a 50-lb. drag. Generally speaking, the larger the fish, the longer the rod, and the stronger the fish, the stronger the line.
Deep Sea Fishing Packing List
In addition to your rod and reel, you’ll need all your standard fishing gear, including line, hooks, and bait. You’ll consider the same things for these as you did for your rod and reel. We have a separate guide for choosing saltwater fishing bait, and a more in-depth guide for saltwater fishing gear than what you’ll see here. For a quick, basic packing list, here’s what you need for deep sea fishing:
- Braid scissors
- Cooler with ice, food, and drinks
- Fishing knives
- Fishing license(s)
- Hook remover
- Landing nets
- Long-nose pliers
- Tool kit
Tips and Tricks for Deep Sea Fishing
Now that we’ve covered the basics, we’ll leave you with three tips and tricks to think about as you prepare for your deep sea fishing trip.
- Know when to go deep sea fishing. Once you have a target fish in mind, go online and find information about it. Where does it eat? What does it eat? When does it eat? Where can you find it? These are crucial questions to ask to help you figure out when you should go fishing.
- Know your fishing techniques. Not only should you know when and where to fish for a target species, but also how. There are many fishing techniques, and some are more effective for certain fish species than others. Part of your online research should include learning what technique has better results.
- Have fun! This one is obvious, but remember that fishing is about enjoying it. We know the disappointment of missing out on a trophy fish, but that’s not really what deep sea fishing is all about. When you’re out there, take a moment to soak it all in and appreciate the experience.