Just a few short years ago when ambitious bottom fishermen wanted to search unfamiliar waters for potential honey holes beyond the 100-fathom line, the investigation would typically start by rolling out a detailed nautical chart. Once the corners were secured, one could begin the search for depressions, ledges, caves, pinnacles and seamounts. Along an otherwise barren seafloor hundreds of feet below, these bottom structures are key to attracting and holding various species of highly desirable deepwater fish including snapper, grouper, tilefish, barrelfish and more. The same logic applies to daytime deep dropping for broadbill swordfish where complex currents deflect off submerged hills and humps, confusing forage and attracting large pelagic game fish.
Although paper charts often include contour lines and color shading to help identify depth and relief, pinpointing potential hot spots on a two-dimensional paper chart is challenging to the untrained eye. Many simply can’t grasp the concept of envisioning what the three-dimensional ocean floor really looks like by referencing a flat image. Even after identifying potentially productive areas likely holding fish, being able to translate this valuable information into precise GPS coordinates and transfering the data to an onboard plotter presents an entirely different challenge. Furthermore, even the most detailed bathymetric charts won’t reveal every facet of the seafloor.
You have to properly present offerings directly at the fish’s front door or you’re wasting both time and fuel.
Fortunately, today’s sophisticated, three-dimensional capable chartplotting units have made these treasure hunts much more intuitive. Modern plotters, like Furuno’s NavNet 3D, provide the helmsman unmatched capability with pan, tilt and zoom features, making it extremely easy to identify and target precise drops offs, hills and depressions long before leaving the dock. The real magic here is that you can also access and utilize these same features while on the water, essentially opening your eyes to an entirely new world.
When searching for deepwater demersals, I know the steeper the ledge, the higher the relief, or the deeper the depression the more likely I am to hit pay dirt. Sure, it’s a game of trial and error and not every promising deep drop spot yields the expected results. You just can’t stop the boat anywhere and hope something worthwhile eats your bait. You have to properly present offerings directly at the fish’s front door or you’re wasting both time and fuel.
Many prized deepwater species dig burrows or reside in caves and caverns under overhanging structure. These fish seldom roam more than a short distance from the security of their lair. Even in the pitch black depths so far below it’s a fish eat fish world. If your baits aren’t on the bottom you’re not in the strike zone!
If your vessel is currently outfitted with three-dimensional chartplotting capability, then you are in luck. Now the only concern is making sure you are utilizing the technology to the best of its abilities and reaping all of the rewards this state of the art equipment offers. Start by turning on your plotter in standard 2D mode and placing your cursor in the approximate area of your intended search. Methodically study the surrounding waters for contour lines spaced close together in depths ranging from 600- to 1,200-feet. The closer the contour lines the steeper the drop off. From here position your cursor directly on top of the area you intend on investigating and engage 3D mode. At this stage, by adjusting pan and tilt, you can customize the screen to appear as realistic as you’d like, providing a picture perfect three-dimensional view of the extreme depths below.
Shift the cursor to the leading edge of the precise ledge or depression you intend on fishing. Save the waypoint and designate it with the appropriate symbol. Now that the potential honey hole is locked and loaded, you are ready to whack some serious fish! Once on scene you’ll want to observe how the current and wind influence your drift before dropping to the bottom.
I highly recommend investing the necessary time to do this for a number of different spots in various depths ranging from 500 feet to over 1,000 feet. Certain species of bottom fish thrive in specific depths and bottom charachteristics and by having a variety of potential hot spots plugged in you will always have new areas to explore. Once on scene, be sure to record the precise coordinates where you are catching fish. Over time a clear picture will appear on your screen of the exact stretch of water that holds the greatest amount of life. With a little practice you will be well versed in bringing unfamiliar species to the surface. With impressive 3D technology, it’s deep dropping made easy!
See for Yourself
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