While nearly every pelagic game fish will attack a live goggle eye, these highly regarded baitfish are notorious for leading anglers down long, sleepless roads—often times with nothing to show for their efforts. Though these super scad can be captured year-round from Jupiter to Key West, lunar phase is perhaps the most significant factor affecting their disorderly behavioral patterns.
Perhaps the most secret and lucrative fishery in the entire state, catching goggle eye isn’t challenging once your target has been located. However, success may come anywhere from 10 feet of water along coastal jetties and piers, to open water as deep as 500 feet. Hunting for scratches on your sonar near anchored container ships waiting to enter port has also proven to be a successful approach. In addition to enjoying a wide range of favorable habitat, goggle eye are temperamental and turn on and off like a light switch. When the bite is on it’s essential you catch as many as you can as quickly as possible.
Appropriately named due to their disproportionately large eyes, bigeye scad are actually more attainable than most anglers think. It’s a lot of work for sure, but if you put in the time you will be well rewarded. With that being said, consistent success requires you develop patterns relating successful outings to moon phase, season, depth and water clarity.
While you can certainly catch goggle eye on traditional spinning or casting outfits, serious baitfishermen arm themselves with 10-foot conventional rods with a fast tip. The soft tip section offers a bit of shock absorption when reeling in a loaded stringer of scad and the lengthy rod enables anglers to attach two sabiki rigs together for upwards of 20 hooks per set. Speaking of quill rigs, the model number might vary by manufacturer, but you’ll want a sabiki built with 25 lb. mainline and 20 lb. branches with #14 or #15 hooks.
Even with the right equipment, it’s unlikely you will load the livewell on your own. You most definitely need a crew that’s willing to sacrifice some shut-eye. A smooth operation with max yield necessitates a helmsman and two anglers.
Most avid gog fishermen know that a full moon offers less than ideal conditions. Some won’t even waste their time during bright nights, but sometimes you have to go when you can. When this is the case try hitting the water just after sunset and fish hard until about 11 p.m., as the bite is often best before the moonrise. During ideal moon phases with darker evenings, bigeye scad can be found later in the night as well as during pre-dawn hours.
No matter the moon phase, the earlier start you get the deeper you’ll want to fish. If gogs are around, then you’ll likely mark them on your depth finder as far out as 500 feet. While deeper depths often produce big, don’t hesitate to target shallower structures in 40- to 50-feet of water, 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.
Though captured nearly every day of the year, during the summertime you may encounter gogs as far north as Jupiter. During the winter months Miami and the Florida Keys are go to hot-spots.
Some species of baitfish respond well to a swift jigging motion, but gogs often strike quills that are on the fall. Once hooked, your quarry will likely swim to the surface and you need to keep slack out of the line to avoid tangles. Though a 12 oz. sinker is often sufficient, depending on conditions experienced anglers sometimes resort to 24 oz. of lead.
When a full stringer comes to the boat, have your angler point the rod tip high in the air. They should then be able to grab the sinker and bring the rod to a nearly horizontal position. This will keep the baits hanging away from the mainline. Now you can get to work depositing baits into the livewell with a de-hooker while handling them as gently as possible.
If you’re a boatless angler don’t fret, because goggle eye can be captured along many of South Florida’s fishing piers and inlet jetties. Here, a teardrop shaped jig called a gog bug is the ticket. You’ll want to use a very light leader and work the jig near the bottom. Now all you have to worry about is keeping your valuable catch fresh.
You might not catch a single gog under perfect conditions, yet you may deplete the population when least expected. That is what’s so troubling about goggle eye fishing. After losing sleep, paying for fuel, terminal tackle and a bait pen, it’s easy to see why some people nonchalantly shell out $80 for a dozen.