Fishing the deep — Electric reels get baits down, fish up quickly

IMG 6707San Antonio angler Jason Downs loves the feel of a big fish caught while trolling offshore.

The fight is the attraction for Downs when a big wahoo or billfish hammers a trolling bait.

But sometimes anglers like Downs want to fill a cooler and “meat fish.” That was the situation in August when Downs and several friends headed out of Freeport for several days offshore.

The trip started slow, but early on the second day the cooler began to fill up with several deep-water species such as golden tilefish caught on electric reels in 1,200-feet of water.

“I like fishing with the electric reels because it gives you the ability to catch deep-water, awesome-tasting fish,” Downs said. “The golden tilefish has an excellent, rich and buttery meat, like a lot of those really cold-water fish.”

Downs said he likes using the electric reels to get fish in the boat, but it does lack for the traditional fun of fighting a fish.

“I don’t like the lack of effort and participation required,” he said. ‘But I also understand it is not feasible to reel up a fish, or multiple fish, from past 1,000 feet.”

The setup for golden tilefish was fairly straightforward — an electric reel with braided line, a big weight to keep the line and bait on the bottom, barrel swivels for multiple hooks and cut squid for bait.

The biggest trick is finding the fishing grounds off the coast. Golden tilefish live in deep water with a muddy bottom that they burrow into to escape danger.

Capt. Lee Weidner likes to put the line in his hand to feel for the fish to bite. He usually waits for several fish to hook themselves before flipping the switch for the reel to haul the fish up from the bottom.

“Sometimes I get greedy and end up missing one,” Weidner said. “It’s a lot like handlining, but when the fish hits, just press the button.”

Corpus Christi angler Blaine Huey recently traveled offshore to deep-drop for bottom fish.

“It was great to put some fish in the cooler,” Huey said. “But I enjoyed some of the other stuff we did more because you actually felt like you were fighting the fish. If the entire trip had revolved around the electric reels, I’m not sure it would have felt like real fishing.

“But I got over it when we started eating those deep-water fish. They taste great.”