The Admiral’s Log – Reefs of Steel

by Capt. Joe Kent

August, in my opinion, is by far the best month of the year to fish offshore.  The weather is usually the most stable of any month (except for occasional “events” in the Gulf) and all of the pelagic fish have arrived in the offshore waters of Texas.

Newcomers to offshore fishing are finding easy ways to head out in smaller, seaworthy boats and locate prime fishing grounds by sight and not GPS systems and sophisticated sonar. They are focusing on the “steel reefs” also known as oil and gas production platforms and wells.  The steel reefs are numerous and can be found from five to 200 miles offshore and spotted from miles away. Each offers some kind of fishing whether it is surface action, bottom feeders or both.

Smaller boats can easily make it eight to 10 miles out with their limited fuel capacity and the larger boats head even farther out to the deeper “rigs”, as fishermen call the steel reefs.

Steel reefs are my favorite places to fish offshore because of the wide variety of fish that appear around them and the ease of hooking up.

Either anchoring or hooking up to the rig itself offers two types of fishing.  Bottom lines can be used for the reef fish and surface lines (baits) for the pelagic group.

For bottom feeding fish such as grouper, snapper, triggerfish and others, use a multi-hooked rig with circle hooks, allowing you to drop baits to where the fish are concentrated.

At the same time, drift lines can be tossed out to attract the pelagic fish, such as king and ling, thereby adding to your odds of filling the ice chest.

Drift fishing the rigs is a good way to work them if you are not interested in catching the bottom dwellers such as red snapper, grouper and other reef fish.

For baits, live finfish are hard to beat. Medium-sized piggy perch, mullet, shad, croaker and sand trout all are inviting to the larger offshore fish.  Frozen Spanish sardines, ice fish, cigar minnows and ribbonfish are all outstanding.  Squid and cut bonito are good for bottom fishing, as they tend to be more difficult for the fish to jerk off the line.

For those new to drift lines, this method tends to be hard to accept.  Drift lines should present the bait near the surface.  Often, with a good current, the bait will float on the surface. Yes, the pelagic fish will come to the surface to strike the baits.

Dorado, also known as mahi-mahi, are common around offshore weed lines and make great sport on light tackle. Locate these fish by chumming along the edge of the line and prepare yourself for some potentially non-stop action once a school is found.

Often, there is little or no current offshore and the baited drift line will drop to the bottom or far below the surface.  When that occurs, place a cork or other float on the line to keep the bait from dropping more than three feet below the surface.

Drifting with baits on the surface or just below is a good way to fish any spot offshore, including well-organized weed lines.  Shark and most of the other surface feeders will attack the baits while your rod is sitting in the rod holder on your boat.

In all cases, be sure the drag on your reel is not set too tight, as a ferocious strike will either pop the line or start the reel to singing and, for all of us offshore guys, singing reels are music to our ears.

Watch the weather and enjoy your offshore fishing.  Keep in mind that there are more complicated regulations governing fish in federal waters; therefore brush up on the federal regulations before heading out.

We urge you to visit www.gulfcouncil.org for a complete list of federal and state fishing regulations before heading out on any offshore excursion. 


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