Anchoring Part II: Maximise your Catch
  |  First Published: November 2008

In the old days it was a matter of lining up a building or a mountain to find a spot where you last caught fish, and most secret spots were in the minds of fishers, not on computers.

However, these days with all our technology we have a major advantage in finding fish and learning more about their habits, breeding and feeding. So what concerns us the most now is finding a good hold of fish and being able to anchor to maximise our chances to catch quality fish. This article will tackle simple yet effective ideas in settling in the correct position to maximise your chances of some action.

In general, it is worth noting that there are many factors that can take you away from the correct position so it is necessary to know what to do about them. For instance, wind will throw you from side to side on your anchor rope and a strong current can have a major affect on where you will end up and how much rope you should let out.

You can always offset against a breeze or current (until it changes), but the biggest mistake that is made these days is that angler’s anchor right on the spot where the fish are. That’s great if you are fishing lumpy bottom rigs such as a paternoster and not sending any rigs down the berley trail. Unfortunately it will not work if you are going to float some bait in search of the bigger predators.

Anchoring steps

The first step should be to slow right down about a 100m out from the spot targeted to fish or search and slowly motor towards it. Once you are on the spot, throw the stick into neutral, turn the trail plotter on the GPS and let the boat drift away naturally to determine the line in which you will travel back up to anchor. Normally 40-60m is plenty but some days if there is more wind you may go further and of course if there is less wind you may not go that far. All you need is enough of an idea as to which way you are drifting so that we can determine how to anchor.

The plotter will take care of the line, or another way is to drift off the mark and then reset the waypoint and head directly towards it. This will also give you a line to follow through past the mark and drop the pick. We would sometimes do this procedure a couple of times to ensure that we have the right run. It is far better to take the time and get it right than to drop the anchor and have to pull it up and do it all over again as this action will definitely spook the fish.

To summarise, go up to your spot, drift off to find the line, then motor back up that line over the spot and to the required distance past it and drop the anchor. There are many theories as to how much line to let out in a set depth of water, experience however will tell you that every day is different so take the time to get it right according to the conditions you are in.

If you have a breeze of more than 8-10 knots then the procedure changes slightly. Your approach should be made in to the wind as you near the mark. Once the wind is around 8-10 knots it will become the dominant factor of the anchoring attempt so by heading in to it your line will be determined by its effect on your boat. It will push you more than the current so it will be easier to work out how far you will need to go past the mark before dropping anchor.

So now we have determined our line of drift by testing it on the conditions and we are set to estimate how far we must go past our mark before we drop our anchor. This is the most important part of this whole process because it is better to be short of the mark than right on top of it, and here is why. If you were fishing in 60m of water, normally you would look at going 100-120m past the mark and dropping the anchor (double the distance). This allows time for the anchor to get to the bottom and the extra 40-60m of rope to allow for a comfortable grab and hold on the bottom. In theory then you should pull up 20-40m before the reef (refer to Fig. A).

Fig. B shows what position you would be in if you anchored directly over the mark, which 80% of fishers do. The problem is unless you are using bottom rigs only then any other style of fishing will not work for you because they will not reach the hot spot.

What the fish doing

Normally around a rocky outcrop with some pinnacles, the cod, squire and parrotfish are what you will be catching on your bottom rigs. They are either right on top of the rock formation or hiding in the holes. If you are catching them then you are way too close to the reef and have minimised your chance of catching other species.

The snapper will be schooling and normally holding in the current or an eddy or circling the reef. They will not normally be within the rocky system but out from it on the gravel or sand constantly moving.

Predators like cobia, sharks and amberjack will be all over everything looking for an opportunity to feed. So to ensure that we have a great shot at all the species we should end up about 20-40m before our target to enable our lines to work their way down to the reef system. Again it is important to take in to consideration how fast the current is and other factors. Normally you would be using a floater, a light weighted rig to go down with the berley and a bottom rig.

Covering the reef

Fig. A shows just how to cover the reef with your lines by pulling up short of the target. Remember it does depend on the conditions, so if there is very little current your line may go straight down slowly. If there is a strong current it will take a lot more line before hitting the bottom so you will need to pull up further away from the mark.

If you were in the position of Fig. B then two of your rigs will be totally useless as they would be right out the back of the strike zone. It is easier to let the anchor rope out to get closer to the reef than it is to pull it in.

Sometimes when you are fishing and not too much is happening it is a good idea to let another 10m out and change your position to see what will happen.

Overall it is a matter of experience and listening to other methods and techniques and learning. It’s like everything, the more you do it the easier it becomes. Next time you head out try pulling up before the spot if you are going to use floaters and light weighted baits and your fishing will improve out of sight.

Just a quick correction to last months article where we showed you an easier way to retrieve your anchor. Do not tie the anchor rope off on the boat, because if the anchor grabs in unusual situations it can pull your boat down. The article was set to follow all the steps and speeds to ensure your absolute safety but some little thing can always go wrong so follow the steps but do not tie off on your bimini or anywhere on the boat for maximum safety.

TOP DIAGRAM refer to as Fig. A

BOTTOM DIAGRAM refer to as Fig. B

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