Last issue we covered the irresistible offshore delicacies known throughout the angling community as speedos. In this issue we continue our quest for the one with South Florida’s favorite blue water bait—goggle eye. You’ve probably heard about the hype and high price that goes along with these incredible offerings…and for good reason. While game fish go bonkers over a lively gog, these primo baits are notorious for leading anglers down long, sleepless roads—sometimes with nothing to show for their nocturnal endeavors.
Frisky gogs are hardy swimmers that fare well in captivity.
Aptly named due to their disproportionately large eyes, the bigeye scad that we call goggle eye are actually more attainable than most anglers think. In fact, weather permitting, commercial bait fishermen catch these valuable enticements during all 12-months of the year. It is only through their experience, dedication and time on the water that they’ve been able to develop noticeable patterns in regards to moon phase, season, depth, water clarity and catch rate.
Before you hit the water in search of your prized catch you need to have the appropriate tools at your disposal. While you can certainly catch goggle eye on traditional spinning or casting outfits, serious gog hunters prefer 10-foot conventional rods with a fast tip. The soft tip offers a bit of shock absorption when reeling in a loaded stringer of hard-fighting scad. The reason for the extra length is because anglers often double up their quill rigs to maximize on the opportunities at hand.
Next, you must be outfitted with the appropriate quill rigs. While the model number varies by manufacturer, quill rigs designed for larger offerings like goggle eye often feature 25lb. main line and 20lb. branches with #14 or #15 hooks. It’s also important that you don’t forget the de-hooker.
In addition to the required tools of the trade, you will also need a dedicated crew that’s willing to sacrifice some shuteye. Everyone should have a designated job to keep things running smoothly on deck, with a helmsman, two anglers and a dedicated de-hooker.
So you’ve got your gear and crew…now what? You’ve made it out the nearest inlet and have no idea where to look. First things first, your actions will be dictated by the phase of the moon. Most avid gog fishermen know all too well that a full moon offers less than ideal conditions. Some won’t even waste their time during a full moon, but sometimes you have to go when you can go. When this is the case try hitting the water just after sunset and fish hard until about 11 o’clock p.m., as the bite is often better before moonrise. During ideal moon phases with darker evenings, gogs can be found later in the evening as well as during the pre-dawn hours.
No matter what the moon phase, the earlier start you get the deeper you’ll want to fish. If gogs are around you’ll likely mark them on your depth finder as far out as 300 to 500-feet along the southeast coast. Start your search on scratchy readings and have your anglers stagger their quill rigs in 20 to 40-foot intervals. Ideal conditions occur when the moon is darkest and in general, the further south you travel the better. During the summertime you may encounter gogs as far north as Jupiter, while during the winter months Miami and the Upper Keys are go to hot-spots. While deeper depths often produce the motherlode, don’t hesitate to target shallower structures in 40 to 100-feet, as well as channel markers and buoys. When all else fails try slow trolling quill rigs around patch reefs in 20 to 30-feet of water.
Once you’ve located your prized quarry, there are a few techniques you can use to maximize your results. While some species of baitfish respond well to a swift jigging motion, gogs often strike quills that are on the fall or barely wiggling. Once hooked, your quarry will likely swim to the surface. Keep slack out of the line to avoid tangles. While a 6 to 12oz. sinker is often sufficient, depending on conditions experienced anglers sometimes resort to 24oz. of lead. When reeling in a stringer of gogs avoid overpowering the baits to help keep them in prime shape.
When your catch comes to the boat have your angler hold his/her rod tip high in the air. They should then be able to grab the sinker and bring their rod to a nearly horizontal position. This will keep the baits hanging away from the main line where they could lose essential slime coat and scales. Now the dedicated de-hooker can get to work, depositing the baits into your livewell while handling them as little as possible.
If you’re a boatless angler don’t fret; goggle eye can be consistently captured along many of South Florida’s fishing piers. Here a teardrop shaped jig called a gog bug is your ticket to success. You’ll want to use a very light leader (10lb. test) and work your gog bug near the bottom. Now all you have to worry about is keeping your valuable catch fresh. Pompano Pier, Deerfield Pier and Anglins Pier are worth visiting.
You might not catch a single gog under perfect conditions, yet you may deplete the population when you least expect it. That is what’s so troubling about goggle eye. After losing sleep, paying for fuel, terminal tackle, a bait pen and investing time to transport your freshly acquired baits, the next time you call your local bait boat and hear “$80/dozen,” you’ll know why.