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October 23, 2012

Night Fishing the Gulf of Mexico

Extend your range and your fishing beyond the limits of a day trip with careful planning.

Think Long-Term

An extended trip requires some careful planning; you’ll need more than you are accustomed to packing for a day trip just to cover the extra time you’ll be at sea. You’ll also need to build in some spare supplies to carry you over in the event of delays or trouble that could postpone your return. Here are some things to gather as you prepare.

1. Extra ice for the extended stay.

2. Enough food for the time out and some extra rations that don’t require refrigeration, for emergency use. Pre-prepared sandwiches, cold pizza, fried chicken and things that can go bad should be used up first.

3. Extra water. The amount needed per person varies, but in warm weather, a gallon per person, per day is a good rough guideline. You’ll need more if temperatures are high, and this does not take into account washing, only drinking water.

4. Extra bait, should it be needed.

5. Extra fuel or full reserve tanks just in case. Figure out your fuel requirements for the trip planned. Use the standard guideline of allocating a third of your fuel for going, a third of it for the return trip and a third as reserve. 

Safety Checklist

1. File a float plan with family or friends, and let someone know when to launch a search if you haven’t checked in.

2. Ensure that engines are in top working order.

3. Ensure that all electronics are in good working order.

4. Pack foul-weather gear and a set of dry clothes — these can make or break a trip. 

5. Take extra illumination and spare batteries.

6. Bring a satellite phone.

7. Keep a spare handheld GPS in case of a major malfunction.

8. Pack charts in case of an electronics failure.

9. Maintain a well-stocked first-aid kit.

10. Bring any required medications (blood pressure meds, insulin, etc.) for those who may need them.

Overnighting in the Gulf of Mexico

Because you’ll encounter a variety of species and ways to fish for them, try to choose outfits that are versatile. This keeps the boat from becoming cluttered. Here are some very general recommendations. 

Rods: 30-pound bottomfishing rods suitable for pulling large amberjack and grouper from heavy structure; 50-pound trolling rods for wahoo and kingfish; medium-heavy casting rods for casting lures and jigs to tuna and live baits to cobia; 12- to 16-pound rods for catching bait. 

Reels: Best quality with reliable drags, sized for rods and appropriate line. 

Lines: Braid for bottomfishing and heavy casting; mono and wire leaders for trolling.

Lures: Flutter jigs; assortment of 2-ounce bucktail jigs; 1/4- to 1/2-ounce jigging spoons and sabiki rigs for catching bait.

Other: An assortment of prerigged bottom-drop leaders for grouper and amberjack, and wire leaders for kingfish and wahoo.