Golden Tilefish Fishing in Florida
From the family Malacanthidae comes the bottom-dwelling, deep water fish known as the Golden Tilefish. The entire eastern coastline of the United States, including the Gulf of Mexico and south to Venezuela, is home to these truly phenomenal fish. We find that our fishing charters in Miami tend to be the most succesful at catching these fish, but we certainly see them elsewhere throughout the State. They can be found occupying the soft, sandy, muddy sections of the ocean floor. Anglers travel to Florida for the opportunity to catch some Golden Tilefish. They are incredibly beautiful and unique fish that grow into real monsters of the deep. Their size, color and taste make them very popular among recreational anglers and reeling them in from the depths of the ocean is an enormous challenge indeed.
Golden Tilefish have a noticeable large crest (or adipose flap) on the head that makes them easy to distinguish from other tilefish species. They are an iridescent blue-green on their back with multiple spots of gold and bright yellow. The head is a rosy color while the belly is white and blue features prominently under the eyes. The margin of the anal fin is purple tinged with blue and the pectoral fins are a gorgeous sepia color. These fish grow slowly and live for around forty-five years, reaching lengths of 43in.
Golden Tilefish are very attached to their cone-shaped burrows that range in depth from three to seven feet. They are found in waters between 250ft and 1 500ft deep. They literally bury their heads into their mud homes and only come out to feed. Their common diet consists of other animals living on the ocean floor; crustaceans, snails, clams, worms, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, shrimps, smaller finfish and even small tilefish. They stay within ten feet of the bottom and only feed during daylight hours, usually between 10am and 3pm.
Males are larger than females and these fish prefer to swim in schools. Reproductive maturity occurs when they weigh about 9lbs and measure around 27in in length. From March to September, Golden Tilefish will spawn. Females lay anywhere between two million and eight million eggs, which are left to freely roam the ocean currents. As Golden Tilefish grow, they move into deeper burrows. Schools can be found at various depths depending on their size. The big adults inhabit waters that are 500ft or deeper.
Basically, wherever you find soft mud bottoms in waters from 500ft to 1 500ft, you are going to find Golden Tilefish. The great aspect about these fish is that they do not migrate, move with the currents or disappear with the seasons. They live in the deep canyons and are unaffected by anything occurring near the surface. This means that they are always offshore near the continental shelf. These fish are so delicious and exhilarating to catch that they are becoming an increasingly popular fish to target in Florida. Here is some information to help you catch a Golden Tilefish:
Tackle for Golden Tilefish
Numerous 4/0 to 8/0 circle hooks are necessary. Small plastic glows need to be rigged at or very near the hook to help attract these fish. You will require multiple weights ranging from 3lbs to 5lbs depending on your drift speed. Many lead sinkers or pre-made concrete blocks (molded from coffee cans with eyehooks embedded in the tops of them). Miles of 80lb test braid line or modern super-line (do not use monofilament as it stretches too much and you will not be able to feel if a fish bites, or find the correct soil composition). 30lb or larger high ratio offshore reels of exceptional quality are a pre-requisite. Rods must also be quality and be able to handle at least 30lbs, preferably more. If you are not a pro, the standard is to set everything for 80lbs. If you are jigging, use 12oz to 24oz Butterfly or Williamsons jigs. Remember they must be painted with a glow finish.
Bait for Golden Tilefish
Live bait is the preferred bait to use, although fresh cut bait also works well. Whole squid, sea clams or fish chunks are the most popular. Remember to soak sea clams and squid in salt overnight if they are not alive. This makes them tougher and more durable when the fish nibbles on it. Your bait sinks deep and it can be a real mission to reel them in constantly because it has been eaten off the hook.
Techniques for Golden Tilefish
Catching these awesome creatures means getting your baits into extremely deep waters and keeping them there. This is called deep-dropping and can be tricky if there is a great deal of wind or the current is very strong – among other conditional factors. You also need to be able to feel the surface of the ocean floor to find the ideal mud conditions for these fish. Here are some tips you can use to catch some Golden Tilefish in Florida:
- It is not difficult to locate Golden Tilefish. Travel to the continental shelf or any deep canyon ledge. Drop your bait and drag it along the ocean floor until you find muddy bottom. You can start dragging your bait when you get to a depth of 300ft. You may catch this fish there but it is likely to be smaller than those found deeper and you will probably catch Gray Tilefish instead. At around 600ft, you will find them slightly bigger and be prone to catching more Ling and Flounder. We much prefer to start dragging at a depth of 700ft. This makes it easier to specifically target the Golden Tilefish and catch them in numbers.
- It is important to use a braid line when deep-dropping baits. The reason for this is because the line does not stretch, making it easier to feel what is happening with your baits so far below the ocean surface. In order to find Golden Tilefish, you need to feel for soft muddy bottoms by understanding the bottom composition. These awesome fish prefer green mud which is stickier and more like sludge than loose sand. When the floor is sandy or hard, your bait will just drag along. If you feel like your weights are getting stuck and then popping free a few seconds later; the mud conditions are perfect for Golden Tilefish.
- Be very aware of lobster pots on the ocean floor. Even if you can see the orange buoy warning of them in the distance, with over 1 000ft of line underneath the surface, it is easy to get entangled in them.
- You should have at least four or five baited hooks rigged to your line. This increases your chances of catching these fish because missed strikes will not mean reeling in every time and re-baiting (which is a mammoth, time-consuming task at such depths).
- The stronger the current, the heavier your weights need to be to get down to the bottom as straight as possible. We advise using a lead sinker and rigging it to break away if you do not want to crank all that weight. Using either a 6lb or 8lb line or a rubber band, tie your weight to the bottom of your rig. The light line will usually break early in the struggle once the fish has been hooked, and the weight will fall off. A sharp jerk of the rod will free the weight if you need to reel in and there is no fish on your line.
- Golden Tilefish will never swim upwards to take your bait. This means that once your bait hits the bottom, you need to make sure that it stays there constantly. As you drift into deeper water, be prepared to slack out additional line accordingly. Low winds and low tides make a helpful difference - and manoeuvring your boat will keep it from drifting too quickly and causing your baits to rise from the bottom.
- If using jigs, it will certainly help if you add a strip of squid to the hooks – even though they will bite without it.
- Using modern big-water jigging gear to deep-drop your jigs will make retrieving much easier.
Call us to book your Golden Tilefish Fishing Charter in Florida and catch an exceptionally unique fish.
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