Cruising anchored ships

offshoreFort Worth angler Tom Pennington doesn’t like to run many miles offshore in his 26-foot Mako when the weather isn’t perfect.

Because of his smaller boat, Pennington feels he is limited by the conditions on where he can fish. When the weather is rough and Pennington decides to stay closer to shore, he goes to his plan B — trolling around anchored ships several miles offshore.

“When I can’t run 30-50 miles off of Port Aransas, I end up at the ships,” he said. “It is the best plan B in the Gulf. We target kingfish and most of the ships are within 9 miles of the jetty.

“It really opens it up to a lot of boats.”

Pennington said along with great fishing, targeting ships is an easy way to get people offshore.

“It is a great way to expose people to offshore fishing,” he said. “There is no 2- to 3-hour run to the fishing grounds.”

Pennington trolls with a number of baits, including artificials and live bait.

“We either troll with a variety of baits or freeline cigar minnows, ribbonfish or sardines down the side of the big boat,” he said.

Ships stay anchored off the Texas coast year-round, although there is no set schedule for when various ships will be there or for how long.

“I’ve fished multiple days around the same ship,” Pennington said. “We have been catching kings, ling and every so often there are reports of sailfish. But the sailfish action seems to only happen when an influx of the blue water from Mexico comes close.

“There is just something magical about being offshore.”

A company that keys on ships this time of year is Bill Busters along the midcoast. According to Freda Greene, a longtime first mate and wife of Capt. Reese Greene, the boats key in on anchored ships this time of year for a variety of species, including ling, kingfish and sharks.

“We generally look on our radar and find boats that are either anchored or shrimp boats that are moving,” Greene said. “But a trick is to stick around the boats when they start to cull their catch. That is the best time.

“You can get right on the fish.”

Greene said if a boat has been anchored for a long time, the fishing will be tougher, but kings and ling can still be caught.

“Right now we are targeting kings,” she said.

According to Christina Bujaucius, public relations head for the Galveston Port Authority, there is no law about how close fishing boats can troll next to anchored ships. There is no set schedule for the time ships are anchored offshore, but many ports have ships coming in and out daily, providing angling opportunities.